Halloween On Hulu 2016 : “The Crying Dead”


Trash Film Guru

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Maybe I’m just beaten down.

Like a stone weathered away to nothing by a constantly-running stream over time, I’ve absorbed so many third-rate “found footage” horror flicks in recent years — particularly in the past few weeks thanks to Hulu’s “horror and suspense” offerings — that anything even slightly more competent than the usual drivel starts to look like a work of comparative cinematic genius.

All of which, I suppose, is my way of saying that I know that writer/director Hunter G. Williams’ 2011 indie offering The Crying Dead (or, as it was known during production, The Whispering Dead — don’t ask me what prompted the last-minute, and frankly rather stupid, title change) really isn’t all that great — but damn, coming after to a lot of the absolute shit I’ve subjected myself to lately, it might as well be Citizen Kane.

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Sure, every done-to-death cliche is present and…

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Halloween On Hulu 2016 : “Dead Genesis”


Trash Film Guru

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One of the more interesting-sounding flicks I stumbled across in the “horror and suspense” section on Hulu right now, at least by my admittedly off-kilter standards, was the ultra-low-budget 2010 Canadian production Dead Genesis, a Romero-esque (minus most of the Master’s skill) socio-/politically- conscious zombie flick shot for 15,000 of those rather funny-looking dollars they use north of the border in and around Barrie, Ontario that admittedly was pre-destined to reek of amateurism but nevertheless seemed to promise more by way of thematic ambition than most essentially homemade numbers of this sort typically have the stones to even attempt, much less actively offer. I was also reliably informed by a handful of sources I trust that the opening scene was a real motherfucker, so what the heck — earlier today I decided to give it a shot.

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The first thing worth mentioning, I suppose, is that, yeah —…

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Channel Zero: Candle Cove Episode 2, ALT Title: Choosy Tooth Monsters Choose Teeth


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Cold Open: There’s an Old Man walking around who sees corpses of kids on the ground and in a tree and doesn’t seem to care.  Frankly, this is kind of how I felt about this episode.  It wasn’t great.  It had popping moments, but an overdose of sighs, pauses, and stares. I mean Twilight levels of stares.  The pilot and episode 2 were written by Don Mancini of Child’s Play and Halloween Wars Season 6.  I was really surprised that Don wrote episode 2.  The pilot was creepy and popped, but episode 2 fizzled.  This was a missed opportunity for a good show.  Here we go.

Katie is back home and watching Candle Cove on the tv and then stabs her brother with a hook.  Then, the show slows down to a crawl again.

Mike’s mom investigates the show and we get a lot of exposition about how the show was pirated onto RF signals and such.  Honestly, this was the nadir of the show, but it still has promise, if the writers decide to stop feeding the story shots of nyquil and turkey sandwiches with gravy.  

Hospital: Katie is under observation and their son Dane is in surgery.  This will be an awkward Hallmark Card! Jessica (Katie’s mom) asks Mike to come back and talk to Katie. The Cop kinda doesn’t like this, but doesn’t put up much of a fight either.  This is the theme of the whole episode…build up…fizzle…light random pop…fizzle.  Mike goes to talk to Katie and sees a crayon picture on the wall depicting Candle Cove. He shows Katie the drawing, which….doesn’t achieve much.  However, out of nowhere, Mike breaks the touch barrier with the kid, sending the dad into WTF-mode?!   The action happens through a screen: once Mike leaves- the tooth monster snuggles Katie.  This is creepy and gross, but not connected to the scene before it.  Therefore, the discourse between Mike and Katie didn’t need to happen and was a time waster!

Mike goes back home and shows his mom the drawing.  She believes it’s an “abandoned” cement plant.  Mike and Mike’s Mom (MM) go to cleanest and still seemingly operational cement plant- No graffiti, no beer bottles, no trash, nothing to indicate that the cement plant is not kept up and will be turned back on in 30 minutes.  In fact, it’s clinically clean. The art department really dropped the ball on this one.  Mike goes into the spooooooky cement factory and finds his brother’s corpse.  Then, Mike flashes back to stabbing his brother with a hook and burying him.

Mike goes to bed and sees the One-Character from Candle Cove who looks a lot like the lobster-thing from Futurama – upon research, it’s called Zoidberg and that’s what I’m calling this One-Eyed thing- Hi, Zoidberg.  Zoidberg causes Mike to flash again to his mom talking to her beat up son.  She says that when she told the bully’s parents, the bully’s mom laughed at her. This was not my upbringing.  My mother, a 12 Generation Tarheel, is perpetually armed. If someone laughed at her after they had just ganged up and beat me up,  I’d be visiting my badass Mom in Prison.  

Mike goes to the kitchen and tells his mom, ‘BTDubs, I killed my brother.’ [paraphrased] She tells him to leave, he won’t, she cuts him with a big knife. Then, Mike takes a nap. I’m starting to wonder if any of these writers grew up with human families.  The Cop shows up purportedly to arrest Mike, but not really.  It’s very vague as to what he plans on doing besides putting him in the backseat of his car.

They make a big deal out of this backseat thing; therefore, I will address the stupidity.  A cop needs to maintain control of a suspect for his safety and the safety of suspect.  The car did not have a partition, therefore, having Mike in the back is stupid and dangerous. Furthermore, Mike is not restrained in any way.  In this instance, the cop has a confessed murderer in custody and just has him in the back, with no cuffs, a clear shot taking out the cop, and relieving him of his service weapon!  This show really needs to think sometimes with a bit of commonsense.

Cop doesn’t take Mike to the station; instead, Cop just keeps driving … for some reason. It’s not spooky, it’s just kinda dumb.

The show ends with Mike’s former English teacher feeding the tooth monster teeth. GROSS!  Maybe, it’s Steve Martin under all of those teeth?!!  HA HA!

The episode has some good creepy parts, but it seems to lack a strong reality through story to contrast the weirdo elements of the story.  Channel Zero really needs to keep the real elements of the story real or this show will turn into a steaming pile very soon.  I have a lot of faith that this was just a bad second episode, which is not uncommon if your pilot had so much meat that second episode seemed like leftovers.  It would’ve benefitted from some sort of side-quest for Mike to accomplish.

Happy Halloween- it’s just around the corner!

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Horror on TV: Dark Realm 1.9 “Johnny’s Guitar” (dir by Eric Summer)


For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, we have the ninth episode of Dark Realm!

Of what?

Dark Realm was a horror anthology series that aired in syndication back in 2001.  Thirteen episodes were produced.  Each episode was introduced by Eric Roberts, which alone is worth the price of admission!

Anyway, the only episode of Dark Realm that is available on YouTube is Johnny’s Guitar.  Johnny (Corey Feldman) is an aspiring rock star who comes to possess the guitar of recently deceased rock star, Leon (Joe Elliott).

OR … does the guitar come to possess him?

Watch and find out!

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Amityville II: The Possession (dir by Damiano Damiani)


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Agck!

The 1982 “prequel” Amityville II: The Possession is a film that is so grimy and icky and yucky and disgusting that you’ll want to take a shower right after you watch it.  And then you’ll probably end up taking two more showers, just to be sure that you’ve washed the film away.

Seriously, this is an amazingly disturbing film.

Claiming to show how that infamous house in Amityville, New York came to be haunted in the first place, this film opens with The Montelli Family moves into a big house with quarter moon windows.  The family patriarch is Anthony (Burt Young), a former cop who walks with a cane.  Anthony is an angry monster, an abusive husband, and a terrible father.  His wife, Dolores (Rutanya Alda), lives her life in denial, insisting that a new house means a new beginning and continually praying that her family will find peace.  Anthony and Dolores have four children.  The two youngest are at the mercy of their angry father.  Teenagers Patricia (Diane Franklin) and Sonny (Jack Magner) are both looking forward to the day that they can escape their family.

As soon as the Montellis move in, strange things start to happen.  It turns out that there’s a strange tunnel in the basement, one that appears to lead to nowhere.  When obscene messages appear on the walls of the house, Anthony starts to beat the youngest children but, fortunately, Sonny grabs a rifle and points it at his father’s head.  When the local priest, Father Adamsky (James Olson), shows up to bless the house, he ends up getting so disgusted at Anthony that he leaves without finishing.

In fact, Father Adamsy is a remarkable ineffectual priest.  When he attempts to talk to Sonny, he simply assumes that Sonny isn’t talking because he’s rude.  What Adamsky doesn’t suspect is that Sonny’s being rude because he’s been possessed by a demon for the basement!  When Patricia confesses that she and Sonny have been having sex, Adamsky doesn’t do anything about it.  When Patricia tries to call him to let him know that her brother appears to be possessed, Adamsky refuses to answer the phone and instead goes skiing for the weekend.

And, of course, while Adamsky is gone, Sonny grabs that rifle and, in a nightmare-inducing series of scenes, kills everyone in the house…

Of course, when Father Adamsky returns, he feels guilty and he decides to perform an exorcism.  MAYBE HE SHOULD HAVE DONE THAT EARLIER!  But no … he had to go skiing…

Anyway, Amityville II: The Possession is a deeply icky film.  It’s undeniably effective and has a lot of scary moments but it’s not an easy film to sit through.  Between Anthony beating his family and Sonny walking into Patricia’s room and asking her to “play a game,” this is a film that really gets under your skin.  You’ll never forget it but, at the same time, you’ll also never want to watch it again.

Interestingly enough, Amityville II was directed by Damiano Damiani, an Italian director who is probably best known for movies like A Bullet For The General and Confessions of a Police Captain, genre films that often featured a subversive political subtext.  Though Amityvile II is not overly political, the film’s portrait of the suburban Montelli family as a ticking time bomb does definitely fit in with Damiani’s other work.  Damiani reportedly set out to make the most disturbing film that he possibly could and he succeeded.

Halloween Havoc!: THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (Amicus 1971)


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Hammer Films wasn’t the only British company cranking out the horrors back in the 60’s and 70’s. American ex-pats producers Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg formed Amicus Films in 1962 and after a couple of films aimed at the teen audience (with American rockers like Chubby Checker, Del Shannon, Freddy Cannon, and Gene Vincent) began concentrating on horror. The team specialized in the anthology genre, or “portmanteau” as the intelligentsia call them. I’ll stick with anthologies!

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD was a 1971 effort written by Robert Bloch, forever known as “The Guy Who Wrote PSYCHO”. The nail to hang Bloch’s four tales on concerns the disappearance of famous horror actor Paul Henderson, who was last seen at the old house in the countryside. Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) of Scotland Yard (where else?) arrives on the scene and speaks with the local constable, who warns Holloway about mysterious doings past:

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In “Method for Murder”…

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Horror Film Review: Targets (dir by Peter Bogdanovich)


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The year was 1968 and legendary producer Roger Corman had aging horror star Boris Karloff under contract.  Karloff still owed Corman two days of work and Corman was never one to let an opportunity pass him by.  Corman approached film critic Peter Bogdanovich and made him an offer.  Corman would finance any film that Bogdanovich wanted to make, on the condition that he stayed under budget, used Boris Karloff, and included some scenes from The Terror.  Bogdanovich agreed and the end result was one of the best films of Karloff’s long career.

Karloff plays Byron Orlok.  Orlok (named, of course, after the vampire in Nosferatu) is a veteran horror star who now finds himself working almost exclusively in B-movies.  When the film starts, he’s just announced his retirement.  Orlok is bitter that Hollywood never fully appreciated his talents but, beyond that, he’s come to believe that horror movies can never hope to compete with the horrors of the real world.  People have become so desensitized to horror that it’s impossible to scare them, he believes.  Orlok plans on making one final promotional appearance at a drive-in that will be showing his final film.  (His final film, of course, is The Terror.)

Meanwhile, there’s a man named Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly) and he’s about to shock the world.  Bobby has just recently returned from Vietnam.  He works as an insurance agent and his cheerfully bland countenance hides the fact that Bobby is going insane.  He is struggling to pay the bills and he resents the fact that his wife is now working and that they have to live with his parents.  His strict and taciturn father continues to criticize him, especially after Bobby points a rifle at him during target practice.  Bobby, incidentally, loves his guns.  After he murders both his wife and his mother, Bobby uses that gun to start shooting at strangers.

Bobby starts his rampage by shooting at cars on the freeway but eventually, he ends up at the drive-in.  While The Terror plays out on the big screen, Bobby shoots at the men, women, and children who have gathered to watch the movie, proving Orlok’s point that cinematic horror cannot hope to match the horror of everyday life…

Even though it was made 48 years ago, Targets is a film that feels extremely relevant today.  As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but think about not only James Holmes’s 2012 rampage in Aurora, Colorado but also the more recent sniper attacks in my hometown of Dallas.  For me, it was interesting to see that apparently this stuff was going on even in 1968.  (We tend to think of mass shooting as being a recent phenomena.)  Targets is an open plea for gun control (which, again, is something that we tend to think of as being a relatively new thing).  I’ll leave the political debate for others to consider and instead just say that Targets is a chilling portrait of both madness and violence.

However, Targets also works brilliantly as a tribute to Boris Karloff.  Though he may have never been as bitter as Orlok, Karloff is basically playing himself in Targets.  He’s portrayed as a cultured and kindly man who just happened to be very good at playing scary characters and Karloff gives perhaps his best performance in the role. Some of the best scenes in Targets are the scenes where Orlok (and, by extension, Karloff) discusses his career with his friend, Sammy Michaels (played by Bogdanovich).  You find yourself really wishing that you could have hung out on the set of Targets just to hear the stories that were told while the cameras weren’t rolling.

(Incidentally, Sammy Michaels was named after famed director Sam Fuller, who helped to write the film’s screenplay and provided a good deal of free advice to Bogdanovich.)

Targets works as both a horror film and a tribute to a great actor.  If for no other reason, watch it for Boris.