Horror On TV: Tales From The Crypt 5.7 “House of Horror” (dir by Bob Gale)

Tonight’s excursion into televised horror is the 7th episode of the 5th season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!  

House of Horrors has everything that you could possibly want from a Tales From The Crypt episode!  A dumbass idiot frat boy (played by Kevin Dillon) forces three pledges to enter  a supposedly haunted house.  Mayhem ensues.  This episode is full of atmosphere, dark humor, plot twists, and unexpected turns and it features two wonderfully over-the-top performances, one from Dillon and one from Meredith Salenger as a Southern-accented sorority president who may have a secret of her own.

This episode originally aired on October 27th, 1993.



The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Mountaintop Motel Massacre (dir by Jim McCullough)


AGCK!  What a scary woman!  Seriously, the poster for the 1986 slasher film Mountain Top Motel Massacre is pure nightmare fuel!  Unfortunately, the poster above does not feature the film’s tag line, which I happen to love.

You want to know what it was?

“Please do not disturb Evelyn.  She already is!”

BRILLIANT!  Of course, I have to admit that one reason why I love that tagline is because my best friend is named Evelyn and you better believe that, as soon as I came across this film, I called her up and I said, “Please don’t disturb Evelyn.  She already is.”

Evelyn, of course, had no idea what I was talking about because not many people have heard of Mountaintop Motel Massacre.  It’s one of the many low-budget slasher films to be released in the late 80s.  (That said, the film was actually made in 1983 and sat on the shelf for three years before getting a release.)  With a few notable exceptions, these films are pretty much forgotten, except for when they occasionally turn up on TV or when you come across them in the bargain bin.  I found my copy of Mountaintop Motel Massacre at the Movie Trading Company.  It was being sold for $1.99, which is another way of saying, “Nobody in the world cares about this damn movie.”  But I bought it, because I thought the old woman was scary and I love horror movies.

Mountaintop Motel Massacre was filmed in Louisiana and it perfectly captures that whole you’re-going-to-die-as-soon-as-you-turn-off-the-lights atmosphere of the Deep South.  Personally, I was hoping that all the guests at the motel would be obnoxious tourists from up north, the type who would bitch about not being able to get a good philly cheesesteak in Louisiana before being killed and dumped in the bayous.  (Either that or they’d go up to the desk clerk and say, “We refuse to shop at a low class establishment like Walmart.  Where is the closest Wawa?”)

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on how you look at it), there were no Northerners in this film.  Instead, all the guests at the motel were locals.  For instance, there was the alcoholic preacher.  And then there was the newlywed couple, determined to have a wonderful wedding night despite not being able to afford the Holiday Inn.  (Why would you marry a man who couldn’t even afford the Holiday Inn?  Why, God, why!?)  And then there was Al, the traveling salesman.  Al checked into the motel with two hitchhikers, both of whom were under the impression that Al worked for a record company.  Al’s kinda sleazy but he was also the film’s designated hero.

Needless to say, not many guests survived the night.  Some were killed by snakes.  Some were killed by sickles to the face.  All were killed by a crazy old woman named Evelyn.  Evelyn owned the motel but she had previously spent three years in a mental hospital.  Before she killed all of her guests, she apparently murdered her daughter as well.  Except, for the fact, that her daughter was later seen walking through the woods.  Was her daughter a zombie or was this just a set-up for a sequel that would never be made?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, Mountaintop Motel Massacre doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Like many slasher films, the film’s plot is pretty much dependent on everyone acting like a total moron.  Usually, I defend the slasher genre by pointing out that, realistically speaking, most people do act like morons in the face of danger.  But, compared to some of the people in Mountaintop Motel Massacre, the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake look like freaking geniuses.

However, with all that in mind, Mountaintop Motel Massacre is still an effectively creepy movie.  It’s drenched in atmosphere and, as played by Ann Chappell, Evelyn is more frightening than your average anonymous 80s slasher.  She spends most of the film running through a series of underground tunnels that are underneath the hotel and the sight of that murderous old woman burrowing from room to room will stick with you long after the movie ends.

So, if you happen to come across it this October, feel free to give Mountaintop Motel Massacre a shot.  If you’re a fan of the slasher genre, you might enjoy it.

And … please.

Don’t disturb Evelyn.


Horror Scenes I Love: In the Mouth of Madness


John Carpenter’s contribution and influence in horror and genre filmmaking could never be disputed. This man’s films, especially his work from the 70’s and early 80’s have made him one of the undisputed masters of horror (joined by such contemporaries as Wes Craven and George A. Romero). While his worked had become so-so at the tail-end of the 1990’s and quite sparse during the 2000’s his name still evokes excitement whenever something new comes out where he’s intimately involved in it’s creation (these days a series of synth-electronic albums).

It was during the mid-1990’s that we saw a John Carpenter already tiring of constantly fighting the Hollywood system, yet still game enough to come up with some very underrated and underappreciated horror and genre films. One such film was 1995’s In the Mouth of Madness. This was a film that didn’t so well in the box office yet has become a cult horror classic since. Part of his unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (The Thing and Prince of Darkness the other two), In the Mouth of Madness combined Lovecraftian eldritch horror with the horror of the mundane that made Stephen King so popular with the masses.

This scene early in the film just showcases not just Carpenter’s masterful camera and editing work, but was ahead of its time in exploring the toxic nature of fandoms and groupthink. In 1995 such a concept might have been relegated to B-movie horror, but in 2016 it’s become synonymous with such everyday occurrences and topics as Gamergate, Tea Party and Trump supporters to SJW crusaders, Marvel vs. DC and Democrats and Republicans. Everyone believes their group to be the only righteous in whatever argument they happen to be part of and everyone else must be silenced (and in the scene below silenced equates to death).

John Carpenter might have turned into that old and cantankerous, albeit cool, dude who couldn’t care less what you thought of him, but it seems that he saw what was happening today as far back as the 1990’s.

Horror Film Review: The Possession of Joel Delaney (dir by Waris Hussein)


The Possession of Joel Delaney is a film that I watched a few years ago and it totally freaked me out.  It’s a film about possession that has never gotten as much attention as The Exorcist but seriously, this is one frightening movie.

This 1972 film takes place in New York City.  Norah Benson (Shirley MacClaine) is a rich and spoiled socialite, a snob who might brag about how nice she is to her maid but who would never dream of being caught dead visiting the neighborhood where she lives.  On the other hand, her younger brother — Joel Delaney (Perry King) — is a self-styled bohemian.  He’s just as rich as his sister and, in many ways, he’s just as much of a snob.  However, he disguises that fact by living in the “bad” part of town and hanging out with (and both idealizing and condescending to) the poor.  (When people talk about the “bad” part of the town in this film, they’re euphemistically referring to any part of the city where the majority of the residents are not white.)  If The Possession of Joel Delaney were made today, Norah would be Sasha Stone and Joel would be Devin Faraci.

Norah is extremely protective of Joel.  In fact, the film suggests that there might be something more to their relationship than just a sibling bond.  Norah worries about Joel living in a bad neighborhood.  She worries about his friends.  She reacts jealously when she meets his girlfriend, Sherry (Barbara Trentham).

So, you can imagine that Norah is rather upset when Joel is suddenly arrested for trying to kill his landlord.  Judged to be insane, Joel is sent to Bellevue.  Joel claims that he has no memory of attacking anyone.  In order to get out of the mental hospital, Joel lies and says that he was on drugs.

Moving in with Norah and her two kids, Joel starts to act strangely.  He starts to quiz Norah about her sex life.  He plays too rough with the children.  He tries to set Sherry’s hair on fire.  And he starts to speak in Spanish!

Could it be that Joel has been possessed by the spirit of his friend, Tonio?  Tonio, it turns out, was the landlord’s son.  It also appears that Tonio was the main suspect in a series of decapitation murders.  Could Tonio have moved his spirit into Joel’s body?  That’s what Norah’s Puerto Rican maid, Veronica (Miriam Colon), thinks!  Veronica quits her job, rather than have to deal with possessed Joel.

Norah decides to go to Veronica’s home and ask what’s happening with Joel.  What follows is a mix of horror and social satire.  Despite being a total stranger in Veronica’s neighborhood, Norah seems to be shocked when Veronica doesn’t exactly act overjoyed to see Norah standing in front of her small apartment.  As Norah demands to know what’s happening with her brother and Veronica explains that Joel may be possessed, you can’t help but get the feeling that Norah is more upset by the fact that Joel has been possessed by someone poor than by anything else.  In these scenes, Norah becomes the ultimate symbol of wealthy white privilege.

Meanwhile, Joel is going more and more crazy.  It all leads to one of the most horrifying sequences that I’ve ever seen, in which a possessed Joel torments Norah’s two children.  It’s an amazingly disturbing scene, one that is all the more upsetting because, in the title role, Perry King had previously done such a good job portraying Joel as being irresponsible but likable.  I don’t want to give too much away, beyond saying that the scene gave me nightmares and if you’re triggered by scenes of child abuse, you should not watch The Possession of Joel Delaney.

As I said, The Possession of Joel Delaney has never really gotten the credit that it deserves.  It’s always overshadowed by The Exorcist.  But if you want to see a truly scary film and if you like a little social satire mixed in with your horror, The Possession of Joel Delaney is one to track down.

Halloween Havoc!: Lon Chaney in THE UNHOLY THREE (MGM 1930)

cracked rear viewer


Hollywood’s first true horror star was the inimitable Lon Chaney Sr, ‘The Man of a Thousand Faces’. Chaney’s superb pantomime skills, having been brought up by deaf parents, served him well in silent cinema, and his grotesque makeups in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME sent shivers down 1920’s audience’s spines. Most notable were his ten bizarre collaborations with director Tod Browning,  including THE UNKNOWN (with young Joan Crawford ), LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (Chaney as an ersatz vampire, now a lost film), and WEST OF ZANZIBAR (remade as the Pre-Code shocker KONGO).   Chaney and Browning scored a big hit with 1925’s THE UNHOLY  THREE, which Chaney remade in 1930 as his only talkie before succumbing to throat cancer later that year. While THE UNHOLY THREE isn’t an out-and-out horror film, it’s got enough weird elements in it and, since it’s you’re only chance to see the great Lon Chaney talk…

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Art Profile: Spirit Photography

Spirit photography was all the rage in the 19th century.  Long before Photoshop, photographers would use double exposures as a way to add ghosts to their pictures.  Some of these photographers were honest about their technique and David Brewster even wrote a book about how to add a ghost to a picture.  Others, like William Hope and William H. Mumler, made a fortune by conning the bereaved and promising to prove that the spirits of their loved ones were still with them.

Here are some spirit photographs from the 19th century:

David Brewster

David Brewster

Haunted Lane by Melander and Brother

Haunted Lane by Melander and Brother

Mary and Abraham Lincoln by William H. Mumler

Mary and Abraham Lincoln by William H. Mumler

William H, Mumler

William H, Mumler

William H. Mumler

William H. Mumler

William Hope

William Hope

William Hope

William Hope

By William Hope

By William Hope

by William Hope

by William Hope

By Edward Wylie

By Edward Wylie



4 Shots From Horror History: Even The Wind Is Scared, Witchfinder General, Rosemary’s Baby, The Nude Vampire

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we finish off the 1960s!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Even The Wind is Scared (1967, dir by Carlos Enrique Taboada)

Even The Wind is Scared (1967, dir by Carlos Enrique Taboada)

The Witchfinder General (1968, dir by Michael Reeves)

Witchfinder General (1968, dir by Michael Reeves)

Rosemary's Baby (1968, dir by Roman Polanski)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968, dir by Roman Polanski)

The Nude Vampire (1969, dir by Jean Rollin)

The Nude Vampire (1969, dir by Jean Rollin)4 

Horror on the Lens: House of Evil (dir by Gus Trikonis)

Today’s horror on the lens in 1978’s House of Evil!

When Richard Crenna buys a new house, he recruits a few friends to help him fix it up.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the house is haunted by the devil himself.  House of Evil — which is also known as The Evil — is an entertaining little time waster.  If the idea of being in a house with the devil doesn’t scare you, just check out some of those the 1970s fashion choices!

Music Video of the Day: Holy Diver by Dio (1983, dir. Arthur Ellis)

Yeah, that certainly is Ronnie James Dio showing us why he was a fantastic singer, but had a bit of a rough start in music videos. As much as I still love this one, it is largely to see him trying to look like someone who is taking their job seriously, but coming across as stiff as Alan Bagh in Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010).

I never really thought about this song or music video much until recently. To me it’s Dio once again drawing on his upbringing that famously turned the Italian evil-eye hand gesture into the favorite of faux-Christians as something Satanic. I thought of it as Ronnie going in to vanquish the Devil that has taken seat in the Church. Maybe that’s the thought process that was going on in Clear Channel’s mind when they included this song on their list of songs they sent to the stations they owned as songs they might not want to play shortly after 9/11. It wasn’t a blacklist, but just a suggestion. I understand that. You wouldn’t want to be playing It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by R.E.M. in the days immediately following the attacks. But I find it hilarious that while AC/DC has the most songs on the list–Thunderstruck is not one of them (there are numerous military montages set to that song on YouTube). Yet, Peace Train by Cat Stevens is on the list.

This time Quora came to my rescue as to an interpretation of the song and music video. Basically, it’s about Jesus Christ–the Holy Diver–coming to Earth, delivering the New Testament, being crucified, and then rising back to Heaven having fooled the Devil and redeemed humanity. It fits with the music video. Dio takes the sword that represents the Word of God as the ultimate weapon to deal with the Devil that had taken foot in humanity between the Old and New Testaments as represented by the decaying church. I would say that in the music video, when he gets the newly forged sword, he is tossing aside the Old Testament for the New Testament. The analysis on Quora is more detailed if you are interested.

One of the best things about the music video for Holy Diver is that someone took Pat Boone’s cover version and combined it with the music video. I know this kind of thing bothers some people, but I find it priceless to hear Pat Boone essentially cheering on Ronnie’s character as he goes on his mission.

I have a feeling that director/editor Arthur Ellis would probably approve seeing as he did make the short film Stanley Kubrick Goes Shopping (2001) where you see Kubrick buy the same item 193 times to make sure he has shopped perfectly. He seems to have only done a few music videos, and primarily worked on TV Shows.

Adam Whittaker was the producer of this music video. He and Ellis teamed up to also do Rainbow in the Dark for Dio. He only has a few credits in music videos, but like producers and video commissioners, I’m sure there are plenty more that are undocumented.