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Preview: Fantasmo Cult Cinema Explosion

Fantasmo Cult Cinema Explosion

The official blog based on the award-winning Chesapeake Public Library program.

Updated: 2017-12-21T07:20:56.592-05:00


Movie Review: Killdozer (1974)


One of the great things about growing up in the 70's were all the truly bizarre T.V. movies that were produced and unleashed on unsuspecting audiences.  The horror genre in particular was well-represented with the likes of The Night Stalker, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, and Trilogy of Terror to name but a few.  Another standout, remembered for its title alone if nothing else, is the 1974 ABC production Killdozer.  I don't care what one may think of the finished product, you have to admire any team of individuals that would greenlight and participate in the making of a piece of cinematic art called Killdozer.  The ad pictured above pretty much captures everything you need to know going into Killdozer.  Six men in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a killer bulldozer.  Period.  End of story.  Recently through their video on demand vault series, Universal has released Killdozer almost 40 years after it aired, providing a chance for modern audiences to bear witness.  Revisitng this relic from my childhood, I was curious to see if it would live up to my fond memories and the positive cult classic repurtation it has developed over the years.  I'm happy to say the answer is an enthusiastic yes!In a nutshell, Killdozer involves a group of construction workers on a Pacific island who unearth a long-buried meteor.  When the aforementioned dozer comes into contact with the meteor, a malevolent entity is transferred into the machine, and begins to dispatch the workers one by one.  That's really all there is to it.  This sort of thing is old hat now thanks to the likes of The Car, Christine, Maximum Overdrive, etc., but seeing a killer vehicle back then was something special.  Even crazier is that they chose a vehicle that doesn't move quickly, lending an air of additional absurdity to the proceedings.  Honestly this could have been an unmitigated disaster, but what makes it work are the performances from a credible cast and great production values.  Killdozer boasts a surprisingly capable roster of familiar faces including Clint Walker (The Night of the Grizzly), James A. Watson Jr. (Airplane II), Neville Brand (Eaten Alive), and a pre-S.W.A.T. Robert Urich - and let me tell you these guys sell this premise with everything they've got!  Walker plays the foreman for whom the job represents a last chance to overcome alcoholism, and he is deadly serious and straight-faced for the duration.  The always reliable Brand is terrific as a crusty mechanic, and Urich shines in a brief role as the first victim who sounds the warning about the possessed machine.  By far though the award for brilliance in committed thespianism goes to James Wainright (Battletruck) who plays Urich's older best buddy.  This guy really lays it on thick about his friendship with Urich and his grief after Urich buys the farm.  It is way over the top for a movie called Killdozer.  The inappropriatene level of attention given to this character's devotion makes for the type of unintentional entertainment value cult movie fans (myself included) absolutely love.In addition to the performances, the concept and production team for Killdozer is also top notch.  The film is based on a story by celebrated sci-fi author Theodore Sturgeon (who also co-wrote the teleplay), it's produced by Herb Solow (the man responsible for the original Star Trek and Mission: Impossible), and the effects are by the legendary Albert Whitlock (Cat People, The Thing, Dune, etc.).  These are talented folks and the movie reaps the benefits of their participation.  There is a cinematic look to the film, the "cat and mouse" action is all well-staged, and when optical effects are called for they look pretty impressive for a 70's televison movie.  One could easily imagine Killdozer on a theatrical double-bill with Speilberg's Duel (it even starts with the Universal opening logo making it feel all the more like a theatrical[...]

Changes @ Fantasmo HQ


Hey Superfans!
For those of you not at our FantaSci event, there are some major changes happening at Fantasmo.  This half of Team Fantasmo will be departing the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Commonwealth of Kentucky to take on a library director position.  It's been an amazing 7+ years and I want you all to know how much I've appreciated the support you've shown the program.  We've watched almost 200 films together, some incredible (Can't Stop the Music), some not so incredible (The Ice Pirates), and some bafflingly awful (The Apple).  Regardless of the entertainment value of whatever was on screen, you made watching them fun and I'll certainly miss it!

Despite my departure, the other half of Team Fantasmo is committed to keeping things going!  So fear not, there are plenty more movies to be enjoyed or suffered through (depending on your point of view)!  I will also keep up the blog with updates on the shows and reviews of all things Fantasmo.  So keep watching here for the latest and greatest news.

On a related note my partner on 1 Great Movie, Original Superfan Tony Mercer, is going to keep that running as well.  Our first outing went really well, so hopefully it can continue.  We had hoped to have one more with both of us on hand this week, but alas the schedule didn't cooperate.  As soon as the next one is set, I will put the details up here on the blog.

So that's all for now.  Again thank you all for a wonderful 7 years, and rest assured I will be back to visit!  My only request is that Gymkata be screened in my honor every time I come to Virginia . . . is that really so much to ask :  )

Movie Review: Monsignor (1982)


In his excellent book Superman Vs. Hollywood, author Jake Rossen recounts an anecdote in which Christopher Reeve cornered Sean Connery at a party and asked him for career advice.  Reeve was concerned that Superman "would make him a star and ruin his career, all at the same time" due to typecasting.  If anyone knew something about managing a career around portraying an iconic character, surely it would be James Bond himself.  After hearing Reeve's concerns about portraying the Man of Steel, Connery gave him the following advice: "If it's a big hit, do something completely different for your next picture.  And if the second one's a big hit, get yourself the best lawyer and agent in the world and stick it to them."  I have no doubt that Sean Connery thought he was giving Reeve sound advice, but upon viewing Monsignor my take is that Connery's formula is not to be applied in a one-size-fits-all type of fashion.1982, now celebrating its 30th anniversary as a numerical notch in the belt of cinematic history, was a time when amazing movies were flowing out of Hollywood.  That summer in particular was a literal treasure trove in which one classic rolled out after another.  It was also a full two years since the previous installment of Superman.  The only other film Reeve had done as a leading man was Somewhere in Time, which came out in the fall of 1980, just a few months after Superman II.  While not a blockbuster, it was generally well-received, and meshed well with Reeve's likeable onscreen persona.  So in the spring of 1982, audiences knew Reeve essentially as Superman and a generally heroic, dashing cinematic figure.  Instead of coming out with another installment of Superman in that legendary summer, or at least another spectacular genre film, Reeve decided to put Connery's advice into effect with a vengeance.  In March of '82 he played Michael Caine's conspiratorial, murderous lover in Sidney Lumet's Deathtrap, and in October he followed that up by playing a corrupt priest in Monsignor.  Two very non-Superman like roles, and two movies not embraced with enthusiasm by the movie-going public. Before getting into a general discussion about Connery's advice and Reeve's career, first let us address the business at hand - Monsignor.  I've got to be honest here, it's hard to know where to start with this movie, it's truly unlike anything I've ever seen.  The plot, such as it is, follows the rise of young priest John Flaherty (Reeve) from battlefield chaplain in World War II to Vatican treasurer.  Things starts out well enough with Flaherty attending the wedding of a close friend before he heads off to war, echoing the beginning of The Godfather.  Immediately following this promising start the film moves right into the thick of battle, where Flaherty heroically takes on a German battalion by himself.  This deed draws the attention of the Church hierarchy, and Flaherty is brought to the Vatican to serve as their treasurer.  This is all takes place in the first 15 minutes, and Monsignor seems to be moving briskly in the right direction.  Unfortunately upon Flaherty's arrival at the Vatican, things spiral downhill quickly and the movie earns its reputation as one of the elite circle of legendary Hollywood bombs.Once Flaherty assumes his role as treasurer, he learns that the Vatican is short on financial resources due to the war.  Flaherty then coincidentally meets up with an old buddy, who is tied in with the Sicilian mafia in trafficking black market goods (e.g. chocolate, tobacco, liquor, etc.).  Flaherty, who up until this point would appear to be a pretty decent fellow, inexplicably decides it would be a good idea to funnel the goods through the Vatican commissary and take a slice of the proceeds to swell the Vatican coffers.  He cuts a deal with the local mob boss Don Appolini (Jason Miller), and receives the tacit approval of his superior Cardinal Santoni[...]

FantaSci X!


Hey Superfans!
Hard as it is to believe, our annual sci-fi/fantasy convention FantaSci is turning 10 years old this summer!  In honor of this amazing milestone, we've lined up one of our best events yet.  Here are the essential details:

When: Saturday, July 7th, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Note: Library closes @ 5:00 p.m. and reopens @ 7:00 p.m. for the evening Fantasmo)

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA  23322

Schedule of Events:

10:30 a.m. - Horror Films of the 1990's - Presented by: John Kenneth Muir

10:30 a.m. - Tarzan's Zip Code: Where Exactly Did the King of the Jungle Live? - Presented by: Deborah Painter

11:00 a.m. - Lightsaber Demonstration - Presented by: Tidewater Alliance

11:30 a.m. - DC's New 52 & the Phenomena of Comic Reboots: Brilliant Ideas or Total Disasters? - Presented by: Justin Cristelli & Ryan Claringbole

11:30 a.m. - Has Everything Been Done Before? How Writers Can Create New Stories to Keep the Reader Engaged - Presented by: Tony Ruggiero, G. R. Holton & Jim Bernheimer

11:30 a.m. - Why We Love/Hate Star Trek - Presented by: Starfleet Atlantic

1:00 p.m. - Fantasy/Paranormal Fiction Cliches to Avoid: Keeping Things Fresh - Presented by: Daniele Lanzarotta, CW Nash, David Niall Wilson, and JM Lee

1:00 p.m. - A Culinary History of Klingon Food - Presented by: Will Aygarn

1:00 p.m. - Food in Ficton Writing: What are Your Characters Eating and Why Does it Matter? - Presented by: Leona Wisoker, Tony Ruggiero, Ashanti Luke & Elizabeth Blue

2:30 p.m. - Paranormal Investigating for the Writer: Myth & Reality - Presented by: Pamela K. Kinney

2:30 p.m. - Puppet Masters: The Wild, Wonderful World of Puppeteering - Presented by: Elizabeth Pasieczny & Craig T. Adams

2:30 p.m. - Lessons From the World of Self-Publishing - Presented by: Jim Bernheimer, David Niall Wilson & JM Lee

3:30 p.m. - Torres Vs. Zombies - Presented by: Alfredo Torres

3:30 p.m. - Klingon Makeup & Forehead Construction - IKV Devastator

Library closes @ 5:00 p.m. and reopens at 7:00 p.m.  Fantasmo begins at 8:00 p.m. featuring cheesy 80's double-feature of Spacehunter & Metalstorm!

That's the basics on one of our best lineups ever!  You can get full details on guests and participants over at our wonderful fan run site at: (BIG thanks to Marie Bridgeforth for her terrific work on the site!!).  See you all at FantaSci on July 7th!

Behold . . . 1 Great Movie!


Hey Superfans!We've been talking about this for a few months now, and the day is almost upon us . . . we're launching a new movie program called 1 Great Movie!  If you haven't heard us discuss it yet, let me fill you in on the pertinent details.  As you well know, at Fantasmo we are dedicated to bringing you the best (and worst) cult cinema has to offer on a monthly basis, with the often added value of delightful commentary, special guests, and related ballyhoo.  Typically we show a lot of horror, some sci-fi, occasional action, and other oddities which cannot be classified.  We recognize however, that there is a whole other world of movies out there that are not mainstream, but don't necessarily fit in with the mission of Fantasmo.  1 Great Movie is thus tailored to seek out THE BEST movies you've either never heard of, or that may have been unjustly dismissed/ignored by the critical community.With that being said, we don't intend to serve you up a carbon copy of Fantasmo, so 1 Great Movie will feature a slightly different format.  One Friday per month, usually the week following Fantasmo, Fantasmo All-Star Tony Mercer (dramatically pictured below) and yours truly will host a screening of a movie we have decided is great. Fantasmo All-Star Tony MercerYour two self-appointed experts will open the screening by presenting our case (i.e. why we feel the movie is great) and then show you the film on the big screen (THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE SEEN).  Following the screening we will then open the floor for discussion, and let you tell us if we were right or wrong.  We hope to encourage a forum for cineastes to delve into a heady exploration of buried celluloid gems, and call us on our missteps (which are sure to be few and far between - you guessed it, we won't be showing Gymkata anytime soon :  )For our inaugural edition, taking place on Friday, June 8 @ 8:00 p.m., we will be screening Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt.  When folks speak about Hitchcock, certain titles always are mentioned such as Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, etc.  However there are a number of outstanding titles that are mentioned far too infrequently for our tastes.  A little while back at Fantasmo we screened Hitchcock's Rope to an enthusiastic response, and were surprised at how many attendees had never seen or heard of it!  With this in mind Tony and I felt that a lesser known Hitchcock outing would be a great way to kick off the program, and hopefully get you in our corner/avoid scorn and contempt from the word go (Tony wisely talked me down from French Connection II for our kickoff session, but rest assured one day it will happen). So without any further ado, here are your full 1 Great Movie: Episode I details:When: Friday, June 8 @ 8:00 p.m.Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322Great Movie:  Shadow of a Doubt (1943)As with Fantasmo the doors will open at 7:00 p.m. for pre-show discussions about all things cinema, and we'll make with the formal proceedings at 8:00 p.m.  We're looking forward to this next fantastic addition to our film offerings here at the library, and hope you'll join us for this historic first edition of 1 Great Movie!  See you there![...]

Want to See a Particle Accelerator?


Here's a little off-topic coolness for your Friday afternoon.  This came up at Fantasmo last week, and sounds like an amazing event!  The Jefferson Lab is having an open house tomorrow in which you can see everything from particle accelerators to powerful lasers in action.  If you get a chance to make it out it should be a one-of-a-kind opportunity . . . sort of like watching Razorback on the big screen June 1st (I'd say they're in roughly the same league right? :  )

Fantasmo Episode 71: Killer Critters


Hey Superfans!

Our summer season is in full swing, and what says summer better than a couple of killer critter movies?!?  Jaws gave you fair warning that it wasn't safe to go in the water, and our two classics will add idyllic coastal islands and the Australian Outback to the list!

The first killer critter movie we'll be featuring is the 1977 film The Pack starring the incomparable Joe Don Baker.  Directed by Robert "Gymkata" Clouse, The Pack finds Baker playing a marine biologist on an island resort battling a horde of wild dogs.  Let's just review that real quick.  The director of Gymkata, Joe Don Baker playing a marine biologist, and a pack of killer dogs.  If that doesn't equal B-movie gold I don't know what in the world does :  )

But that's not all!  The second feature on the bill is the 1984 thriller Razorback, starring television icon Gregory Harrison (Logan's Run).  Razorback was the feature film directorial debut from legendary cult director Russell Mulcahy (Highlander), and chronicles one man's battle against a giant, killer boar.  Mulcahy takes what could have been a run-of-the-mill monster movie, and turns it into one of the most visually interesting movies of the 80's.  If you remember how cool the cinematography and editing was in Highlander, imagine that level of artistry applied to a movie about a giant, killer boar.  Yep, pretty ridiculous, but also amazing.

So without any further ado here are your full Episode 71 details:

When: Friday, June 1 @ 8:00 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322


8:00 p.m.: The Pack (1977)

9:45 p.m.: Razorback (1984)

So there you have it Superfans, two outstanding killer critter movies back on the big screen . . . THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN!  See you there!

Dillzilla Strikes!


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Check this out! Longtime friend of Team Fantasmo and local filmmaker/puppeteer extraordinaire Elizabeth Pasieczny has just posted the official teaser for her upcoming film project Dillzilla: Titan of Terror! If you look closely you will spot Fantasmo All-Stars Craig T. Adams and Debra Burrell, and if you look even closer you'll note this was shot in none other than Smithfield, VA!

Stay tuned to Pickleman Productions for the latest developments, and catch Elizabeth at FantaSci this summer!

Fantasmo Episode 70.5: Team Fantasmo Vs. Dracula's Family


Hey Superfans!

True to our word, your Team Fantasmo has rescheduled the awesome movies we had planned for our delayed March show!  How better to kick off our summer season than with two classic Universal horror sequels: Dracula's Daughter and Son of Dracula!  You've heard this one before, so we'll skip right to the pertinent details :  )

When: Friday, May 11 @ 8:00 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322


8:00 p.m.: Dracula's Daughter (1936)

9:30 p.m.: Son of Dracula (1943)

So there you have it Superfans, two outstanding horror classics to wash away the aftertaste of our Schlock-O-Thon. You dare not miss this rare opportunity to see them back on the big screen . . . THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN! See you there!

Fantasmo 7th Anniversary Schlock-O-Thon Extravaganza


Hey Superfans!

It’s that time again, time to ring in another glorious year of Fantasmo!  Prepare to be astounded when I tell you that April marks seven, count ‘em seven, Fantasmorific years of us bringing you the best cult cinema has to offer!  Now as everyone well knows seven is widely considered to be a lucky number.  That’s terrific news for your Team Fantasmo, because we were a little worried we might not be able to top last year’s Schlock-O-Thon anniversary episode.  You may recall, those of you brave enough to relive the horror, that we screened three amazingly terrible movies: Megaforce, The Green Slime, and Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.  Honestly the task of finding a film as deliriously awful as Megaforce seemed almost impossible.  Thanks to lucky number seven, we believe we’ve pulled off the impossible.  For this very special edition of Fantasmo we’ve dug up three of the most outrageously bad movies of all time for your viewing enjoyment and cinematic education.  Without any further ado, here are your full Schlock-O-Thon details:

When:Friday, April 27, 8:00 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322


#1 Yor: The Hunter From the Future (1983)

#2Enter the Ninja (1981)

#3The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

So there you have it, perhaps our most unbelievable Schlock-O-Thonlineup yet. Come share in the celebration as we ring in year 8, and bear witness to these masterworks of madness on the big screen . . . THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN!

Movie Review: Grave Encounters (2011)


Just after the first of this year I found myself fighting a head cold, and I ended up being home sick for a few days. For the duration I was more or less confined to the couch, which led to a Netflix marathon since I was too sapped of energy to do much of anything else. During those days I discovered an outrageous show called Ghost Adventures which is apparently a continuing series on the Travel Channel. The basic premise is that 3 guys who are paranormal investigators get locked up in a creepy location overnight with special equipment and try to provoke ghosts into appearing. Whether you believe in anything that takes place on the show is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned, because these guys are wildly entertaining. Normally in these documentary style television programs the host tends to be the voice of reason, and often projects a demeanor of professionalism. The GAC crew, particularly the leader Zak Bagans, wanders on the scene like they just drove in from the frat house. It makes for an unusual setup, and the folks they are interviewing often seem taken aback by their fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants modus operandi.In their overnight investigations the trio employs a variety of equipment types, which measure everything from electromagnetic energy spikes to EVP monitors which capture spirit voices amidst white noise. If you allow yourself to go with it, the show is a lot of fun and pretty creepy at times. It only gets really hard to stomach when they push things too far with possible possessions and the like. The best aspect of the whole enterprise, and one which I hadn’t seen tried to the extreme it is in GA, is that Bagans and company actively insult the spirits, calling them cowards, losers, etc. Needless to say this is pretty over-the-top, and much more entertaining than watching a serious scientist monitor instruments. It also helps that they rely almost entirely on their night vision camera viewfinders to navigate their way through the pitch black environments, providing a chuckle or two when they trip over a misplaced piece of furniture now and then.So to bring all of this to the business at hand, I recently discovered a related film that blew me away on a couple of fronts. The film is called Grave Encounters and is both a parody of Ghost Adventures, and an unbelievably scary thrill ride. The plot in a nutshell is that the crew of a Ghost Adventures style television show called Grave Encounters disappears while investigating an abandoned hospital. Their footage has been found by the network and is being revealed for the first time. So it’s your basic found footage setup a la Blair Witch and so many others. If you were scrolling through your Netflix queue and came across it, Grave Encounters would appear unremarkable. The cover image is unimpressive, and the description has the ring of some cheapo DTV title. Worse still it’s directed by a duo calling themselves The Vicious Brothers, which did not sit well with me. Brotherly director teams have a hit and miss track record in my experience, leaning more toward the miss side. Honestly after The Brothers Strause and their Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, if you are any sibling duo other than Joel and Ethan Cohen, you’ll be working at a disadvantage to impress me. Before going any further I’ll say this – if you don’t like found footage movies then Grave Encounters is not likely to change your mind on the subject. For myself, I think the found footage setup has been established as a legitimate category within the horror genre, and when done right I think these films are as scary as anything I’ve ever seen on film. In my mind what makes them so effective is how down-to-earth they are in terms of avoiding showy digital effects or big budget production values. Ho[...]

Fantasmo By the Numbers: Volume 2


Hey Superfans!I just received exciting personal news today that I made the annual Movers & Shakers list in Library Journal. LJ is one of the major publications in the library world, and this annual list highlights folks who are doing interesting things in libraries on various fronts. The Fantasmo site made an appearance in the write up, so I’d like to welcome all newcomers to the House of Fantasmo who may head this way from the article. Breifly put, Fantasmo is a monthly program co-founder Rob Floyd and I started up at Chesapeake Central Library seven years ago. Each month we show a double-feature of mostly outrageous cult movies, frequently accompanied by all manner of ballyhoo, gimmickry, guest speakers, etc. Here on the blog I talk about Fantasmo, related yearly events, and cult movies in general. In order to provide a proper introduction, I think it only appropriate to give new arrivals a sampling of what typically gets written about here beyond our programs and events.With this in mind I have once again taken a hard-hitting look at the site stats to identify the top 10 most viewed articles of all time here on the blog. You longtime readers may recall the last time I did this this, the top ranking item was none other than my review of Smokey and the Bandit 3: Smokey is the Bandit. I know for many readers this revelation shook your faith in humanity to the very core (truly sorry about that : ) The good news, depending on your point of view, is that this year SATB3 has been dethroned! The bad news is that the new champ isn’t exactly Citizen Kane either . . . but then this wouldn’t be Fantasmo if Orson Welles appeared on the list (unless you count the time he lent his vocal talents to Transformers: The Movie). Not to let the cat out of the bag, but (spoiler) the image at the top has something to do with the top spot on the list. You have been warned.So without any further ado, I give you the Fantasmo Top 10 . . . #10: Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze: Rob and I screened this at last year’s Schlock-O-Thon Anniversary special to a delighted crowd. Some call this a dreadful adaptation of a classic pulp hero, but we found it to be an entertaining 1970’s cousin to the much-heralded cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. #9: The Keep: One of the rare critical misfires from celebrated director Michael Mann. The Keep is a surreal adaptation of the F. Paul Wilson novel of the same name, which bears little resemblance to the source material and one of the most questionable rubber suited monsters of the 80’s.#8: The Cinema of Joe Don Baker: After getting a terrific response to a survey of the cinematic works of the incomparable Lee Majors (see #4), I thought I’d take a closer look at the canon of Walking Tall megastar Joe Don Baker. Apparently there are hordes of Baker groupies out there, skyrocketing this article to #8 on the all-time list.#7: The Henriksen Principle of Elevation: Early last summer I participated in author John Kenneth Muir’s blog-a-thon celebrating the release of the official biography of character actor Lance Henriksen. In my contribution I discussed the phenomenon in which Henriksen, by investing himself completely in every role he accepts, elevates otherwise not so fantastic films to a higher level through his mere presence.#6: The Island: I was really happy to see this one still made the list. One of the craziest bombs from the 80’s, and most certainly one of the most fun reviews I’ve posted.#5: Smokey is the Bandit 3: Oh how the mighty have fallen, but at least it still made the list!#4: The Cinema of Lee Majors: I posted this after seeing a Lee Majors Viking film on Netflix. This led me to ask two important questions, which readers also f[...]

Breaking News!


Hey Superfans!
Due to unforeseen circumstances our program for this Friday, March 16th, will have to be rescheduled. Fear not, Team Fantasmo will still take on Dracula's Family in Episode 70, but it will be in May! Stay tuned for further details.

In the meantime, we will see you on March 31st for our special edition of Fantasmo at this year's Freeplay event. Our features will be two of the most recent game-themed epics: Tron Legacy and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World!

Freeplay Returns . . . Again!


Hey Superfans! March is a busy month here at Fantasmo HQ. Not only do we have our Universal horror double-feature on the 16th, but we’ll also be hosting the second annual Freeplay gaming event. The program will take place at Chesapeake Central Library (298 Cedar Road) on Saturday, March 31st. You may remember Freeplay 2 was scheduled back in August, but a pesky hurricane got in the way. Well that old hurricane may have won the battle, but it did not win the war. Freeplay is back stronger than ever!For those who did not make it out to our inaugural event, Freeplay is a full day and evening filled with classic video game consoles, arcade machines, movies, and guest speakers. If you miss the experience of going into the arcades of the 80's, it will be a true trip down memory lane . . . and if you missed it the first time around you can now experience what all the fuss was about! The fine folks of South Eastern Virginia Gaming make this event possible, and this year expect to be bringing even more machines than last time. In particular, due to their popularity at the first Freeplay, they are making a special effort to get more pinball machines!Here is just a sample of the games to expect: Arcades: Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Robotron: 2084, X-Men (4-player), Police Trainer, Fighting Vipers, Cruis’n Exotica, and more!Pinball: Tron Legacy, The Dark Knight, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Hook, and more!Consoles: Pong, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari Jaguar, NES, Super NES, Colecovision, Intellivision, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Playstation, 3D0, NEC, and more!Computers: Commodore 64, Tandy, Atari, Apple II, Texas Instruments, and more!Special video game movie screenings during the day include:11:00 a.m.: Mortal Kombat1:00 p.m.: Final Fantasy: Advent Children3:00 p.m.: Double DragonPanel discussions will include:Arcade & Pinball RepairGaming Comedy and History Competition & High Score Gaming with Dave Hernly of Auric ArcadeThe gaming and programs will run from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., after which there will be a special evening Fantasmo featuring Tron Legacy at 8:00 p.m. and Scott Pilgrim at 10:00 p.m. So come out and join your Team Fantasmo for a full day of free gaming, free game movies, and free game programs . . . you can leave your quarters at home! You can also share your thoughts on the Freeplay 2 Facebook page! See you there!And for those of you attending Galaticon that Saturday, come on over afterward there will still be plenty of action during our second half : )[...]

Fantasmo Episode 70: Team Fantasmo Vs. Dracula's Family


Hey Superfans!
Hard believe though it may be, we are rapidly approaching our 7th year anniversary in April. This of course means we will once again be gathering the most outrageously bad movies we can lay our hands on for our mini-marathon, and let me assure you we have some great stuff lined up! Before we hit you with all that cheese, we thought it only right and proper to give you a really great double-feature to brace you for what's to come. With that in mind for our March show we'll be screening two classic Universal horror sequels to the one and only Dracula (which incidentally we have never shown believe it or not)! A favorite trick for these sequels was having a relation of the monster carry on the legacy, be it a son, daughter, bride, cousin, etc. In the case of Dracula we'll be highlighting the antics of his son and daughter.

Always the gentlemen we believe in ladies first, and as such our first feature is Dracula's Daughter. It's a terrific sequel that carves its own niche apart from the original, as Professor Van Helsing squares off against a Hungarian countess seemingly under the spell of the late Count Dracula. In Son of Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. takes on the title role playing one Count Alucard (wink, wink), brought to America to help make an heiress immortal. Those are the facts, and without any further ado here is your official Episode 70 lineup:

When: Friday, March 16 @ 8:00 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322


8:00 p.m.: Dracula's Daughter (1936)

9:30 p.m.: Son of Dracula (1943)

So there you have it Superfans, two outstanding horror classics to tide you over until our April extravaganza. You dare not miss this rare opportunity to see them back on the big screen . . . THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN! See you there!

Galacticon Returns!


This just in! Galacticon, the sci-fi convention organized by the Tidewater Alliance and Virginia Beach Public Library, is scheduled for Saturday, March 31st from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. A full day of panels and programs, as well as local fan groups and vendors awaits! If you like sci-fi and fantasy, particularly Star Wars and Star Trek, you definitely want to check it out!

Fantasmo Episode 69: Team Fantasmo Vs. The End of the World


Hey Superfans!
The New Year is off and running, and we're not slowing down one bit! Following hot on the heels of a special presentation we just did at MarsCon, your Team Fantasmo will be screening films of the post-apocalypse for our February edition. There's a lot to choose from under this heading, so we've picked out one of the cheesiest films, as well as THE movie which arguably is the highpoint of the genre. Of course I'm talking about Damnation Alley and The Road Warrior! That's right a night that runs the spectrum between Jan-Michael Vincent and Mad Max . . . should be one to remember that's for sure :)

Damnation Alley, for those who may not know, was supposed to be the big movie from 20th Century Fox in the summer of 1977. They poured most of their effort into it, while virtually ignoring another little movie coming out in May called Star Wars. On paper I guess giant scorpions, flesh eating cockroaches, and a wicked battletruck seemed more exciting that droids and Wookies, but we all know how that turned out. The Road Warrior on the other hand really launched the post-apocalyptic craze of the 80's, and made Mel Gibson an international star. His Mad Max character became a full blown icon which would spawn a third film to complete the trilogy, as well as a host of imitators (but few equals). So without further ado, here are your full Episode 69 details:

When: Friday, February 3rd @ 8:00 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322


8:00 p.m.: Damnation Alley (1977)

9:45 p.m.: The Road Warrior (1981)

So there you have it Superfans, the ultimate post-apocalyptic lineup! You dare not miss these cautionary tales back on the big screen . . . THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN! See you there!

You'd Better Watch Out: Volume 3


For the past couple of years I've posted lists of unconventional Christmas films around the holidays, to provide an alternative viewing roster for those inclined toward something off the beaten path. Titles have included such cheery favorites as 12 Monkeys, Brazil, Trancers, Die Hard, etc. This year I ended up watching a great one out of Finland called Rare Exports. The film tells the story of a small group of villagers in present day Finland, whose lives are upended when a mining company discovers the real Santa Claus buried deep within the heart of a local mountain. The problem is that this isn't the Santa we all know and love, but the Santa from myth and legend. This Santa does more than leave a lump of coal for those who are naughty, sees reindeer as a source of protein rather than a useful means of conveyance, and does not arrive with the charming red suit and hat.

Of course once Santa inevitably escapes the restraints the mining company attempts to impose, he runs loose and wreaks havoc in the village. A young boy, his father, and a couple of hapless locals manage to corral him, but intend to make the mining company pay top dollar due to all the reindeer Santa took out along the way. One of the most creative pieces of business is that everyone has to be careful not to swear or do anything naughty, or Santa will focus his radar on them. It's sort of like having to remain motionless to avoid the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, not feed Gremlins after midnight, etc. There a lots of little touches like this that make the film unique and fresh.

I went into this movie pretty much free of any expectations, and have to say it mostly was fantastic. What you have is a combination of the isolation and wintry chill of The Thing, mixed with "magic of childhood" vibe of 80's Spielberg, and a dash of overblown modern action. I could have probably done without the last element, because it somewhat diminished the wonderfully creepy atmosphere established in the first 2/3 of the film. Not a deal breaker though by any means, and when we finally see the true Santa it is truly a jaw dropper.

So if you're looking for an alternative to A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story marathons, check out this daring little gem . . . and we'll see you all at Fantasmo in the coming New Year!

Fantasmo Episode 68: Team Fantasmo Vs. Lovecraft


Hey Superfans!Thanks to everyone who came out for our BIG holiday episode, and especially to Santa Claus himself who was on hand for picture taking and wish list hearing! It was truly a Fantasmo to always remember : ) Never ones to live in the past, we're already looking to the future and our groundbreaking first episode of 2012. For this very special Fantasmo we are paying tribute for the first time in our history to legendary horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Filmically adapted on numerous occasions over the years, Lovecraft's brand of fright involves creatures from another dimension trying to force their way back into our world . . . and in the process driving anyone they come into contact with totally insane. Although Lovecraft was most famously essayed by horror director Stuart Gordon with the likes of Re-Animator and From Beyond, we have chosen to focus on some of the more obscure efforts: Die Monster Die! & The Dunwich Horror. These two come from the horror factory that was American International Pictures during their glory days of the late 60's and early 70's. It's drive-in schlock meets Lovecraftian terror, and the results are pure cinematic gold! Die Monster Die! features Boris Karloff delivering a trademark mad scientist role, squaring off against B-movie legend Nick Adams. Classic. The Dunwich Horror on the other hand is an exercise in pure weirdness, as Dean Stockwell turns in one of the most bizarre performances of his career. It's a really strange movie befitting the source material. So without any further ado, here are your full Episode 68 details:When: Friday, January 6th @ 8:00 p.m.Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322Films:8:00 p.m.: Die Monster Die! (1965)9:30 p.m.: The Dunwich Horror (1970)So there you have it Superfans, another exercise in cinematic perfection to kick off the New Year! You dare not miss these creepy classics back on the big screen . . . THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN! See you there![...]

Movie Review: Endangered Species (1982)


It is a widely held opinion among genre fans that the greatest summer film season ever was the summer of 1982. I've written about it here on the blog, and we've screened several of the films at Fantasmo. To give you some idea of how it has earned this reputation, films from that summer include: Conan the Barbarian, TRON, Blade Runner, Star Trek 2, Cat People, Poltergeist, The Thing, E.T., etc. Without question E.T. was the box office champ among the crowded field, with some of the darker films (e.g. The Thing) falling prey to negative reviews in the shadow of that feelgood crowdpleaser. Even so Blade Runner, The Thing, and Cat People, to name a few examples, were reassessed and eventually obtained the appreciation they deserved. Another genre film released late that summer, also featuring equally dark subject matter, has yet to undergo a hindsight evaluation. Endangered Species came out in early September of '82 and, from my recollection, disappeared quickly. I caught it on a late night cable screening a year or so later, and remembered it being quite creepy. It featured mutilated cattle, strange lights in the sky, intense chases, and Robert Urich making the jump to the big screen. Without question it is a clear forerunner to the X-Files. I've always wanted to catch it again to see if it would hold up, but it has been out of circulation for many years. Now thanks to the Warner Archive on demand program, it is available at last (and thankfully in its theatrical aspect ratio). I could at last find out if Endangered Species was a lost classic, or a dated dud better forgotten lest it blemish the sterling reputation of that storied summer.So what's it about? TV legend Robert Urich (Vega$, S.W.A.T., SOAP, Spenser For Hire) stars as Ruben Castle, a celebrated New York cop who is attempting to overcome a battle with alcoholism. In order to get his head on straight, he pulls his teenage daughter out of school and the two head to rural Colorado to visit his old newspaper friend Joe Hiatt (Paul Dooley). Instead of finding a little peace and relaxation, Castle finds himself in the middle of a mystery involving a series of local cattle mutilations. The newly elected local sheriff (JoBeth Williams), unable to find a trace of evidence, has considered theories ranging from U.F.O. abductions to Satanic cultists. However when Hiatt turns up dead and Castle gets involved, the two discover something far more sinister than they could have ever imagined.I don't know if Chris Carter saw Endangered Species prior to making The X-Files, but I'm guessing it had to be one of his sources of inspiration. Wild card male cop, straight arrow female cop, and extra-terrestrial conspiracy theories. Sounds pretty familiar. If it had no other redeeming features, Endangered Species would certainly qualify as important for being the first out of the gate with the subject matter. Luckily director Alan Rudolph manages to sustain a nice level of suspense, and there are some terrific highlights here and there. In particular he spends a good deal of time up front with some quiet scenes of "something" chasing cattle from an airborne point of view. There's something unsettling about it that's hard to put a finger on, but if forced my finger would land squarely on the deliberate pacing. Rudolph takes his time with these sequences, which are interspersed nicely with the introduction of Castle and his daughter, investigations the crime scenes, and town meetings discussing the phenomenon. The first 15 minutes or so truly prepared me for potential greatness.Unfor[...]

Fantasmo Episode 67: The Holiday Episode


Hey Superfans!

Hard as it is to believe, another year of Fantasmo is coming to a close. Of course this can mean only one thing - it's time for our annual holiday episode! Those of you who have been with us since the beginning know that for years we screened the Village People classic Can't Stop the Music as our December highlight, but we've been taking a break and maybe we'll dust it off next December. For this very special holiday episode we're screening two seasonal classics in the form of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Joe Dante's original Gremlins. But that's not all, we've also arranged for Santa Claus himself to be on hand to kick off the proceedings, hear wish lists, and take pictures with our younger Superfans! Truly an evening filled to the brim with holiday cheer!

Without any further ado, here are your full Episode 67 details:

When: Friday, December 2nd, 8:00 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322

Films & Special Guest:

7:00 p.m.: Pictures with Santa!

8:00 p.m.: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

9:30 p.m.: Gremlins

So there you have it Superfans, another perfect holiday episode to celebrate with your Team Fantasmo! See you there!

Special Fantasmo Halloween Event!


Hey Superfans!
Your Team Fantasmo is doing something a little different this Halloween, having decided that Monster Fest just wasn't enough to last us through October! For the first time ever we are holding a special edition of Fantasmo on Halloween night, and will be showing the original War of the Worlds on the big screen. It may not be Orson Welles, but George Pal's 1953 epic is still terrifically creepy! Of course we'll also have a plethora of candy and refreshments as always, certainly everything you could want for Halloween :) Without any further ado, here are your full Halloween Special Edition details:

When: Monday, October 31, 8:00 p.m. (doors open at 7:00 p.m.)

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322


8:00 p.m.: War of the Worlds

So there you have it Superfans, our first ever Halloween episode! Hope to see you there!

Fantasmo Episode 66: 80's Action Cheese Festival


Hey Superfans!A BIG thank you from your Team Fantasmo to all who came out to support our 8th(!) annual Monster Fest event! It was a blast for us to put on, and we hope you had as much fun as we did :) For November, we thought we'd switch gears from horror and have our first ever 80's action night. For the record we did celebrate Chuck Norris specifically, but this is more of a general, loving tribute to that decade. There are certainly plenty of titles to choose from, and many outstanding ones to be sure, but we thought we'd focus on two films that include every cheesy cliche the 80's had to offer: Commando and Cobra!Everyone is familiar with Schwarzenegger and Stallone, and the many iconic characters they have portrayed over the years (e.g. The Terminator, Conan, Rocky, Rambo, etc.). Along the way they also found themselves in starring vehicles that, while less iconic, weaved their way into the hearts of action fans around the world. Commando was Schwarzenegger's first film in which his very presence (not the character he played) sold the film. It was a movie where Schwarzenegger played Schwarzenegger, and it cemented his as a bankable star. It's also perhaps the most outrageously over-the-top movie in his long career of over-the-top movies! Here is where the one liners became a trademark, and where moviegoers experienced their first brush with The Matrix (John Matrix that is).Where Commando was a certified box office hit, Stallone's Cobra was not quite so successful in its initial run. The Italian Stallion was at the height of his Rambo power, and chose a project in which to work with his significant other Brigitte Nielsen. It was roundly dismissed by critics, and failed to be embraced by audiences. Even so the character of Marion Cobretti has earned a special place in the pantheon of cult cinema, and we feel Cobra is long overdue for reconsideration! Believe us when we tell you there are enough needless explosions, cheesy one-liners, ridiculous villains, and scenery chewing performances to fill several 80's B-grade action films. Crime is the disease, and he's the cure!So without any further ado, here are your full Episode 66 details:When: Friday, November 4, 8:00 p.m.Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322Films: 8:00 p.m.: Commando (1985)9:45 p.m.: Cobra (1986)So there you have it Superfans, our first ever tribute to 80's action. At the risk of overstating the case, this may very well be the greatest episode in the history of Fantasmo! You dare not miss these bigger than life titles on our bigger than life screen . . . THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN![...]

Monster Fest 8: The Trailer!


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Monster Fest 8!


Hey Superfans!It's that time again, time once more for our annual Monster Fest convention, an all-day celebration of horror films and literature! We have what may be our best lineup yet this year, with a full day of programs, a full house of special guests, and a full evening of classic horror films. Best of all, the event is 100% free! The event takes place on Saturday, October 1st, starting at 9:00 a.m. here at Chesapeake Central Library (298 Cedar Road, 23322). Our full schedule for the day is as follows:9:00 a.m.: Classic Horror Movie Trailers10:00 a.m.: Ghostly Apparitions: Seeing Is Believing - Presented by: Lee Anne Ball, Angela Ghataora, and Laura Carr Griffith from Spirited History Radio10:00 a.m.: Can Good, Scary Literature Translate to Film and Television Successfully? - Presented by: Pamela K. Kinney, Elizabeth Blue, Jim Bernheimer, Debbie Painter, and Tony Ruggerio11:00 a.m.: "Hi There, Horror Movie Fans": Documentary Film on The Bowman Body - Presented by: Sean Kotz and The Bowman Body11:00 a.m.: Writing Scary Stuff - Presented by Tony Ruggiero, Jim Bernheimer, Elizabeth Blue, Teresa Bane, and Pamela K. Kinney12:00 p.m.: Torres Vs. Zombies: Tips on Surviving a Zombie Attack - Presented by Alfredo Torres1:00 p.m.: Horror Costume Contest (all ages welcome)2:00 p.m.: Special Preview of Dr. Madblood's Halloween Hijinks Show - Presented by Dr. Madblood2:00 p.m.: The Human in the Monster - Presented by: Tony Ruggiero and Elizabeth Blue3:00 p.m.: Super 8 Horrors: Early Video Horrors of Yesteryear! - Presented by: Craig T. Adams3:00 p.m.: The Lesser Known, But Equally Frightening Films of Bela Lugosi - Presented by Debbie Painter3:00 p.m.: Beyond Godzilla: More Beasts from the East - Presented by: Tony Mercer, Lee Hansen, and Chris Johnson5:00 p.m.: Library Closes7:00 p.m.: Library Reopens for Fantasmo Horrorthon - Movies begin at 8:00 p.m.Movie Schedule:Big Movie #1: House of DraculaBig Movie #2: Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out AttackBig Movie #3: Jeepers CreepersBig Movie #4: Fright Night (The Original!)So there you have it Superfans, another amazing Monster Fest lineup! For even more info be sure to visit the official site at: See you there![...]