Horror Song of the Day: Bad Moon Rising (by Creedence Clearwater Revival)


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The song itself doesn’t sound very much like horror. It’s got the down home country rock, but listening to the lyrics it’s very much belongs with any song full of doom, gloom and horror. It may be down home country with toe-tapping melody, but make no mistake the latest “Song of the Day” is quite horrific when one listens to it carefully.

I’m talking about Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 hit “Bad Moon Rising”.

One of the singles to come out of their classic Green River album, “Bad Moon Rising” is all about the titular bad moon on the rise. A sign of a bad omen or, if one was to take things to the extreme, of an impeding doom. The lyrics to the song speaks of natural disasters, catastrophic events and just about anything bad that would kill you the moment you step out onto the streets.

It’s a song of existential horror as it points out that no matter what we do there’s no preventing the infinite ways that Death can just come in and take one’s life. It’s quite the nihilistic tune and one that fits in well with Through the Shattered Lens horror-themed month.

Bad Moon Rising

I see a bad moon rising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightning.
I see bad times today.

Don’t go around tonight,
Well, it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.

I hear hurricanes a-blowin’.
I know the end is comin’ soon.
I feel rivers overflowin’.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.

Don’t go around tonight,
Well, it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.
Alright!

Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.

Well, don’t go round tonight,
Well, it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.

Don’t come around tonight,
Well, it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.

Hallmark Review: Autumn Dreams (2015, dir. Neill Fearnley)


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When I saw the ads for this I was worried that it was basically going to be Your Love Never Fails 2. While it does share some similarities, it’s just an average romantic comedy, nothing more.

The movie opens up in Iowa with a teenage couple. Annie (Jill Wagner) who is 18 and Ben (Colin Egglesfield) who is 19. In short order they elope. Her father catches them and says the marriage is going to be annulled. He takes her home. Cut to 15 years later and you can guess.

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The marriage was never annulled, both of them are going to be married soon, and they never explain why it wasn’t annulled. They just quickly say there must have been a paperwork mix up and that’s all of that. However, that also assumes that her, at legal age as a judge reminds us later, would have had no part in the annulment process. It just doesn’t make sense.

Anyways, she still lives at home working the farm. He moved to New York City and works on the stock market. She goes to New York City so they can both get a divorce, but there’s a little problem. His wedding date requires a very quick divorce that the judge isn’t willing to supply especially after Annie and Ben have a little spat in the courtroom.

But enough of that, because you know exactly where that plot line goes. You don’t need me to lay it out for you. I want to draw your attention to one of the things that stands out in this film. It’s one of the supporting actors. His name is Matty Finochio who plays the lawyer trying to make the divorce happen for the couple. When they give him the chance he’s very funny. I’m not sure why they felt this already screwball comedy plot setup needed to fall back on so much of the traditional Hallmark romance formula.

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There is this great scene where Ben’s fiancee comes up to him just after he got of court for the first time. From left to right: Annie, Ben, The Lawyer, and the Fiancee. It goes like this:

Fiancee: “I stopped by your office after seeing the architect. Guess what? You weren’t there. So I looked at your calendar. It said “court”. Nothing about a pretty girl.”
As the lawyer points to Annie: “This isn’t a pretty girl.”
Fiancee: “I think she could pass for pretty.”
Lawyer: “No. Annie’s my client…”

Obviously, I can’t do it justice with words alone, but trust me that he has good comedic timing. Every time he shows up he’s delightful.

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I know the other two actors are probably not the most versatile, but they seemed like they could have done this in a more comedic manner. It’s a lost opportunity.

The only other thing to mention is a goof I spotted. The same paragraph appears twice in the same newspaper article back to back.

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The rest of the movie is exactly what you expect. Perfectly average Hallmark romance with somewhat lackluster acting from the leads. Just remember that if you watch it, pay attention to the lawyer. If you want to see Matty Finochio some more afterwards then he is also in the Hallmark film So You Said Yes.

Horror on TV: Buffy The Vampire Slayer 3.13 “The Zeppo”


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OH MY GOD, IT’S BUFFY!

I love Buffy The Vampire Slayer and it’s always bothered me that I haven’t been able to share any episodes on this site. But, fortunately, this Halloween, Hulu has come to the rescue!

The Zeppo is one of my favorite episodes. While Buffy and the Scooby Gang save the world in the background, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) finally gets an adventure of his very own! Actually, there’s a lot of things that Xander finally gets to do in this wonderful episode!

(On a personal note, it breaks my heart whenever I read about Nicholas Brendon getting arrested and I’m reminded that Xander was just a fictional character.)

Seriously, enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

The Daily Horror Grindhouse: Burning Dead (dir by George Demick)


BDMany years ago, a teenager named Jim Reed was one of the few people to survive a fire that burned down the entire town of Maxwell and killed nearly the entire population, including his parents.  As you might guess, even after he grows up, Jim has some issues.  He feels tremendous guilt.  He has nightmares.  He feels he’s responsible for the deaths of thousands.  And even worse, he can’t really remember how the fire started or why.  All he knows is that he keeps seeing terribly burned people and they all keep telling him that it’s all his fault.

After spending years just drifting, an adult Jim (played by D. Vincent Ashby) returns to the town of Maxwell.  It’s been rebuilt and, amazingly enough, there seems to be next to no sign that it was ever the site of a huge apocalyptic fire.  (I suspect this has more to do with the film’s budgetary limitations than anything else.)  He ends up staying with his brother and occasionally, he seems to be possessed by some unseen force.  (For example, there’s the time that he wanders into his nephew’s bedroom while wielding a hammer.)  Jim meets his ex-girlfriend Shelly and an old friend named Bill.  And, through it all, he continues to have visions of horribly burned zombies telling him that everything is all his fault…

It’s always tempting to get snarky when talking about a movie like 2004’s Burning Dead.  This is a microbudget film that was obviously made with a largely amateur cast, the majority of whom are quite stiff as they deliver their overdramatic dialogue.  Yes, it would be easy to make fun of Burning Dead but you know what?  For what it is, it’s not that bad.  It’s a horror film that had a lot of interesting ideas but not the budget to really execute them.  But there are films with huge budgets that have absolutely no interesting ideas.  Ridicule the limitations of Burning Dead if you must but, as far as I’m concerned, the filmmakers deserve some credit for trying to create something more than just your standard low-budget zombie film.

Add to that, I am an admirer of the stoned nonchalance of D. Vincent Ashby’s lead performance.  It may be a the result of a lifetime of trauma but Jim, at times, seems to be one of the most mellow in protagonists in the history of horror cinema.  No matter what he’s confronting or explaining, Jim retains the same casual attitude.

My favorite moment in the film came when Bill asked Jim if his parents lost anything in the fire.

“Their lives,” Jim replies with a slight shrug.

Obviously, Burning Dead is not the easiest of films to find.  It’s included in the Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares Boxset and that’s where I found it.

(One final bit of trivia: according to his imdb page, director George Demick previously played a zombie in George Romero’s Day of the Dead.)

D. Vincent Ashby considers Burning Dead.

D. Vincent Ashby considers Burning Dead.

 

Netflix Halloween 2015 : “Mr. Jones”


Trash Film Guru

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What’s this? Five days (and five movies — not that I can promise that this roughly one-film-per-day pace will prove to be sustainable a whole lot longer thanks to “real life” responsibilities) into our Netflix Halloween round-up, and not one “found footage” horror movie has made its way onto these virtual “pages” yet? Well, let’s rectify that right now, shall we?

Apparently,  writer/director Karl Mueller’s Mr. Jones was something of an audience-splitter when it made its debut at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, with about half the folks who saw it thinking it was superb, the other half hating it with a passion, and not too may people in between — which means it’s in good company with things like White Castle hamburgers, chicken and waffle-flavored potato chips, and other stuff that tends to elicit a love-it-or-hate-it reaction among the populace at large. I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty of other…

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Halloween Havoc!: Joan Crawford in TROG (Warner Brothers, 1970)


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Let’s be honest: TROG is not a very good movie. It’s definitely not Joan Crawford’s best movie. It’s surely not director Freddie Francis’s best movie. Hell, it’s not even producer Herman Cohen’s best, and he’s responsible for some real bombs! TROG isn’t scary, or gruesome, or even so bad it’s good. It’s just kind of dumb, and it’s a sad end to Crawford’s great screen career.

Joan (in a blonde wig) plays anthropologist Dr. Brockton, who helps discover a troglodyte found living in an underground cave. The beast is half-man, half ape, but is really pretty stupid looking. Dr. Brockton thinks Trog is the Missing Link and begins to train him, feeding him fake looking fish and lizards, teaching him to roll a ball and play with a wind-up baby doll. Mommie Dearest, she’s  not!! We also discover Trog likes classical music, but hates rock and roll!!

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Meanwhile, there’s a local developer named Murdock (Michael Gough)…

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Hallmark Review: Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Impossible Dream (2015, dir. Kevin Fair)


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As always with the Signed, Sealed, Delivered movies, if you can, you should go back and start with the Christmas one, then work your way forward to this one. However, if that’s not possible, then you should at least see the one right before this entitled Truth Be Told. I say that because while the series very much builds on each and every episode, this and Truth Be Told are a two part episode. Not in the way you would see a two part episode of say Star Trek: The Next Generation, but more like a crossover between two different shows. Except it’s the same show. By that I mean Truth Be Told can be watched and viewed as a whole, but there is an unresolved element that is then picked up and finished by this film.

The episode opens in Afghanistan where we see Lieutenant Randilynn Amidon (Tammy Gillis) from Truth Be Told is alive. She is trying to help a woman who is in labor. After Amidon is told that she doesn’t have much time left, we see a letter go out. Cue the titular music!

Now we see The Postables going in to meet with a congressional committee. They’re there because they want to plead their case that a rescue mission be sent in to save Lieutenant Randilynn Amidon. She was thought to be missing or to have even gone over to the enemy side in Afghanistan. Of course the committee wants to hear why, so Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius) takes us back to tell the story.

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Turns out they came to Washington for, I kid you not, the Miss Special Delivery pageant that Rita Haywith (Crystal Lowe) is going to be in. As much as that is the lamest excuse for them to end up in Washington, it does serve a purpose beyond just putting them there for the main plot.

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While they are in Washington they also go to visit Shane McInerney’s (Kristin Booth) childhood home, but it’s no longer there. Meanwhile, Rita checks in at the pageant while Shane, Oliver, and Norman (Geoff Gustafson) run into Amidon’s daughter and who I assume is Amidon’s grandfather. They probably said it at some point in this or Truth Be Told, but I missed it. However, the grandfather is played by William B. Davis so it’s probably Amidon’s grandfather given his age. They find out they are trying to get someone in Washington to listen to them about Randilynn. And I have to say, it’s kind of humorous to see this scene because of the character William B. Davis is probably most famous to people for playing. That being the mysterious Smoking Man from The X-Files. It’s funny to see him having trouble getting someone in the government to listen to him.

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This is when the blast from the past shows up, and you know what? One of my wishes was fulfilled with this entry in the series. He’s not there to take up the majority of the film giving us backstory on one of the main characters. Nope. He’s an ex of Shane’s who works in the government. She called him thinking that he might be able to help in getting someone to listen to Amidon’s family. And that he does because he has the letter that we saw go out at the beginning of the film.

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They can’t take the letter with them, but luckily Rita got a quick look at it and has a very good memory so she is able to recall details about it.

What follows is largely the other wish I had about future episodes of Signed, Sealed, Delivered. The rest is mainly them working to decipher the letter and explain to the committee what that means, and where they need to go in order to rescue her in Afghanistan. So, yay for me, and I hope future episodes do this sort of thing more.

There are only two other things I think are worth mentioning.

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The pageant serves a purpose beyond just giving them an excuse to be in Washington. While this movie doesn’t have someone show up to give us a character backstory dump, the pageant and what happens with it does move the Rita and Norman love story forward. Also, we see Oliver inherit the money from his father that we found out about in Truth Be Told and he uses it to buy McInerney’s old lot to build a house for retired postal workers. The first acquisition he plans to use the money for in order to do good things.

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The second thing is that while I’m sure that shot and all the shots in Afghanistan are in California or Canada, they don’t screw it up. They often shoot at night or with dust in the air. They shoot in areas that aren’t obviously not where they claim to be. And most importantly, they don’t linger on anything long enough for you to call BS. Sadly, this is not a usual thing for Hallmark, so kudos to the production crew of this particular one.

I recommend it, but at least see Truth Be Told first. However, you won’t be lost with the short mention about Oliver’s wife and I think you can pick up Rita and Norman’s story anywhere a long the line without any issue.

Horror Film Review: Shock (Directed by Mario Bava)


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Though it seems that he’ll never get the credit that he truly deserves, Italian director Mario Bava was truly one of the most influential and important filmmakers of all time.  While he spent most of his long career making genre films, Bava was also an artist who put his own unique stamp on the horror film and whose influence continues to be felt in film today.  With Blood and Black Lace, Bava helped to launch the entire giallo genre and every slasher film that has ever been made owes a debt to Bava’s Bay of Blood.  While Bava’s final work as a director, 1977′s Shock, may not be as well-known as some of his other films, it’s one of his best works and it’s certainly worthy to be listed with the rest of Bava’s oeuvre.

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Shock is a haunted house film.  Dora (played by the great Daria Nicolodi) is a mentally fragile woman who is still in the process of recovering emotionally from the suicide of her first husband.  When Dora marries Bruno, an apparently well-meaning airline pilot (but he’s played by John Steiner and anyone who loves Italian exploitation knows that it’s always dangerous when Steiner shows up as a sympathetic character), it briefly appears that Dora’s life might be getting back on the right track.

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Except, of course, for the fact that, whenever Bruno leaves the house, Dora gets the feeling that she’s not alone.  Things fall off of shelves.  A razor blade suddenly shows up hidden between the keys of a piano.  Worst of all, her young son Marco (David Collin, Jr.) starts to act differently.  When he’s not sneaking into the master bedroom and using a kitchen knife to chop up Dora’s underwear, Marco is doing things like aggressively wrestling with his mother and cutting Bruno out of all the family pictures.

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Dora quickly becomes convinced that the spirit of her first husband is both haunting the house and possessing young Marco.  Bruno, meanwhile, worries that Dora may be having another nervous breakdown.  As for Marco, he’s busy spying on Bruno and Dora while they’re sleeping and calling them dirty names under his breath…

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The plot of Shock will probably not shock anyone who has seen a haunted house film but one doesn’t really watch a Bava film for its plot.  With a Bava film, the story is never quite as important as the way that Bava tells it.  Working in the years before CGI, Bava was a master at creating special effects that were cheap, simple, and ultimately very effective and that’s what Bava does here.  In perhaps the film’s most effective (and famous) moment, Marco seems to transform into Carlo right before our eyes.  It’s pretty easy to figure out how Bava achieved the effect but that doesn’t make it any less of a frightening moment.

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However, the main reason that this film works is because of Daria Nicolodi.  Bava was never known for being a great director of actors but, for this film, he managed to capture one of the best performances in the history of horror cinema.  In the role of Dora, Nicolodi is like an exposed nerve.  It’s impossible not to sympathize with her, even if you’re never quite sure just how sane or insane that she may actually be.  Watching Nicolodi’s performance in this film, it’s hard not to regret that, in the years to come, her talent would be so overshadowed by both her former boyfriend Dario Argento and their daughter, Asia.

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By all accounts, Mario Bava was in failing health during the making of Shock (and perhaps that’s why he showed so much empathy for the similarly frail Dora) and he was aided, in the making of the film, by his son Lamberto Bava (who would later become a well-known horror director himself).  Sadly, Mario Bava died three years after completing Shock and the film has never quite gotten the amount of attention that it deserves.  Shock is a worthy end to a brilliant career.

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4 Shots From 4 Films: Messiah of Evil, Burial Ground, Happy Birthday To Me, Zombie Lake


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films.  As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Messiah of Evil (1973, directed by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz)

Messiah of Evil (1973, directed by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz)

Burial Ground (1981, directed by Andrea Bianchi)

Burial Ground (1981, directed by Andrea Bianchi)

Happy Birthday To Me (1981, directed by J. Lee Thompson)

Happy Birthday To Me (1981, directed by J. Lee Thompson)

Zombie Lake (1981, directed by Jean Rollin)

Zombie Lake (1981, directed by Jean Rollin)