What The World Needs Now Is “Love And Rockets”


Trash Film Guru

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I probably shouldn’t even try to review this, to be honest.

There’s such a thing, after all, as being too attached to something — and Love And Rockets, arguably the seminal independent comics series of all time,  has been part of my life since I first discovered it at age 12 and allowed brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (heck, third brother Mario was even part of the mix back then) to expand my definition of what comics could both achieve and be well beyond my then-current preconceptions of the medium. And while there have been times when my interest in it has ebbed and flowed, it’s always been there. From its first magazine incarnation to the “solo” series that followed in its wake to its second iteration in standard comic-book format to its most recent version as a series of annual (or thereabouts) graphic novels, I’ve grown up —…

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The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Hell High (dir by Douglas Grossman)


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Don’t go to the swamp tonight, indeed!

Actually, that’s pretty good advice in general.  Swamps are dangerous.  They’re full of malaria-carrying flies and crocodiles and ghosts of angry Cajuns.  Of course, none of those show up in the 1989 slasher film Hell High.  In fact, there’s only one scene set in a swamp and that scene happens during the day.

It involves a little girl who is out in the swamp, playing with her doll and watching two teenage lovers get killed as the result of a macabre motorcycle accident.  It’s a pretty disturbing sight, especially since one of the lovers ends up getting impaled and spitting blood all over the place.  BLEH!

Anyway, that girl grows up to be a high school science teacher named Brooke Storm (Maureen Mooney).  She’s a good teacher but she’s also extremely repressed and haunted by the image of that impaled girl spitting up blood.  Unfortunately, one of her students is a sociopath named Dickens (Christopher Stryker).  Dickens is the type of student who goes to football games just so he can threaten the injured players with a gigantic switchblade.  Oddly, no one seems to notice Dickens standing on the sidelines, holding a gigantic knife over a helpless jock.  At first I thought that this meant that Dickens was meant to be either a ghost or a figment of someone’s imagination but no, Dickens is real.  I guess people are just so used to being threatened by Dickens that no one even notices anymore.

Anyway, Dickens has three friends.  Queenie (Millie Prezioso) is the tough girl who bares her breasts to anyone who stops by her house.  Smiler (Jason Brill) is the fat guy who is always smiling, no matter how upset he is.  Smiler continually says things like, “What’s gotten into that Dickens?” and “My mamma said there’d be days like this.”  And then there’s Jon-Jon (Christopher Cousins).  Jon-Jon is Dickens’s newest friend.  Jon-Jon’s a good kid but a little weak-willed.  He’s got a crush on Queenie and Dickens seems to have a crush on him.

Anyway, Dickens and his friends decide to play a prank on Miss Storm but, in the process of doing so, they cause her to have flashbacks to that day in the swamp.  And soon, Miss Storm is stalking all four of them.  How dangerous is Miss Storm?  Well, she’s dangerous enough that she can kill you with a number two pencil.  You think Liam Neeson was a creative and relentless killing machine in Taken?  He’s got nothing on Brooke Storm!

Anyway, Hell High is kind of an oddity.  On the one hand, it’s pretty much a standard slasher film.  On the other hand, the film has just enough strange moments to distinguish it.  Yes, there’s Dickens with the knife on the football field.  But there’s also Smiler with his nonstop grin.  And Queenie with her relentless mood swings.  And there’s the strangely 0ff-kilter dialogue, which is full of random song lyrics.  And then there’s the film’s twist ending, which makes little sense but it is still satisfying in its own over the top way.  Hell High is a thoroughly odd but undeniably effective 80s horror film.

A lot of the credit has to go to the film’s cast, all of whom give far better performances than the material really deserves.  Maureen Mooney is both scary and sympathetic as poor Miss Storm while Christopher Cousins is likable as the somewhat weak-willed Jon-Jon.  The film, however, is truly dominated by Christopher Stryker.  Stryker goes all out as the crazy Dickens and it’s unfortunate that he died shortly after Hell High was released.  Had he lived, he’d probably now be a Sid Haig-style character actor, popping up in indie horror movies and Quentin Tarantino films.

So, watch Hell High if you get a chance and definitely stay out of the swamp tonight!

Horror on TV: Tales From The Crypt 6.15 “You, Murderer” (dir by Robert Zemeckis)


To be honest, tonight’s episode of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt isn’t really a horror story.  Instead, it’s a somewhat satiric homage to film noir.  But I’m going to share it anyway. Halloween is about more than just ghouls and ghosts and goblins, right?

You, Murderer is an experiment that doesn’t quite work but is interesting all the same.  This episode is basically one long POV shot.  Whenever our protagonist sees his reflection, we see Humphrey Bogart staring back at us.  Actual footage of Bogart was used in the show.  Sometimes it work, sometimes it just looks strange.  But it’s always interesting!

This episode originally aired on January 25th, 1995.  Enjoy!

Horror Film Review: Mortuary (dir by Howard Avedis)


Here!  Watch the trailer for the 1983 slasher film, Mortuary!

(It’s the first trailer shown in the video below.  Be sure to stick around for the Humongous trailer.)

OH MY GOD!  That sure was scary, wasn’t it!?  In case you didn’t recognize him, that was beloved horror character actor Michael Berryman getting dragged into that grave.  No matter how bad the film was (or is), Michael Berryman was one of those actors who was always worth watching.  Based on the trailer, Mortuary has got to be some sort of classic, right?

Well…no.

The trailer’s a classic but, unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the film.  This isn’t just a case of scenes from the film being edited into the trailer in such a way that the audience is misled as to what’s actually going on in the movie.  Almost all trailers do that…

No, the trailer for Mortuary contains literally no scenes from the actual film.  Michael Berryman isn’t even in Mortuary!

But you know who is in the film?

BILL PAXTON!

That’s right … a very young Bill Paxton made his film debut in Mortuary.  Even better, he got to play the killer!  Now, I know you probably think that I just spoiled the film for you but seriously, Paxton is so obviously the murderer that it doesn’t really count as a spoiler.  Paxton plays Paul Andrews, the teenage son of mortician, Hank Andrews (Christopher George).  Everyone agrees that Paul is a little bit weird.  Or, as someone says in the film, “Paul’s been so strange since his mother committed suicide.”  Someone else agrees and then adds that it probably doesn’t help that apparently, Hank used to force Paul to sleep in the mortuary.

In the role of Paul, Paxton gives a very odd performance.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a good performance and, if I ever meet Bill Paxton, I’m not going to bring this movie up.  But seriously, Paxton’s performance is so weird that you can’t stop watching him.  There’s a scene where he literally skips through a cemetery.  He seems to be having fun and good for him!

Paul is a little obsessed with Christie (Mary Beth McDonough).  Christie has been having issues since her father’s mysterious drowning.  Everyone keeps telling Christie that her father just had an accident in the pool but the audience knows — via the first scene in the film — that her father was only in that pool because someone hit him with a baseball bat.  Ever since her father’s death, Christie has been sleep walking and having night terrors.  She demands that her boyfriend, Greg (David Wallace), help her find out what really happened to her father.

Greg, however, is still trying to figure out what happened to his best friend, Josh (Denis Mendel).  Earlier, Greg and Josh broke into the mortuary so that they could steal a tire.  Josh went off on his own and ended up getting stabbed to death with an embalming pipe.  Greg never noticed because he was busy spying on what was apparently a black magic ceremony involving Hank and a coven of witches.

And one of the witches was … Christie’s mother, Eve (Lynda Day George)!

When Eve isn’t busy practicing the dark arts, she’s telling her daughter that she needs to get over her father’s death.  Is Eve trying to drive Christie crazy?  Does Hank know that Paul is homicidal?  Will Greg ever figure out that Josh is dead?

And most importantly — will this film feature any disco roller skating!?

YOU BET IT DOES!

I’m probably making Mortuary sound more fun that it actually is.  It’s actually a fairly slow-moving slasher film and neither Greg nor Christie are particularly interesting or likable.  Still, the film features Bill Paxton skipping in a cemetery and that’s worth something.

If you’re willing to look, you can find Mortuary on YouTube, though I’ve been told that the version that was uploaded was the television version so some things have been cut out.

But you know who hasn’t been cut out?

BILL PAXTON, THAT’S WHO!

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Halloween Havoc!: Joan Fontaine in THE WITCHES (Hammer 1966)


cracked rear viewer

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THE WITCHES (also called THE DEVIL’S OWN) was the last film of Oscar winner Joan Fontaine. This Hammer entry in the “older actress do horror” sweepstakes is a low-key, atmospheric thriller about devil worshippers in the English countryside that holds up right until its (for me) unsatisfying finale. But we’ll get to that later.

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Miss Fontaine plays Gwen Mayfield, a missionary in darkest Africa attacked in the midst of an uprising by a voodoo cult. After suffering a nervous breakdown, Gwen interviews for a job as a teacher at a private school in Heddaby run by siblings Alan and Stephanie Bax. Alan wears a clerical collar, though Gwen soon discovers when she gets the job he’s not a reverend after all. In fact, the local church is in ruins. She receives a note from Ronnie Dorsett, a gifted student in need of tutoring, about Linda Riggs, a girl he’s sweet on. The note…

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4 Shots From Horror History: Dellamorte Dellamore, In The Mouth of Madness, Scream, From Dusk Till Dawn


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 continue the 90s!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)

In the Mouth of Madness (1994, dir by John Carpenter)

In the Mouth of Madness (1994, dir by John Carpenter)

Scream (1996, dir by Wes Craven)

Scream (1996, dir by Wes Craven)

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996. dir by Robert Rodriguez)

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996. dir by Robert Rodriguez)

Horror on the Lens: The Last Man on Earth (dir. by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow)


Hi there and Happy October 25th!  For today’s treat from the ranks of horror films that have fallen into the public domain, I present to you one of the most important films in horror history.  Though it wasn’t appreciated when it was first  released back in 1964, The Last Man On Earth was not only the 1st Italian horror film but George Romero has also acknowledged it as an influence on his own Night of the Living Dead.

It’s easy to be a little bit dismissive of The Last Man On Earth.  After all, the low-budget is obvious in every scene, the dubbing is off even by the standards of Italian horror, and just the name “Vincent Price” in the credits leads one to suspect that this will be another campy, B-movie.  Perhaps that’s why I’m always surprised to rediscover that, taking all things into consideration, this is actually a pretty effective film.  Price does have a few over-the-top moments but, for the most part, he gives one of his better performances here and the black-and-white images have an isolated, desolate starkness to them that go a long way towards making this film’s apocalypse a convincing one.  The mass cremation scene always leaves me feeling rather uneasy.

The film is based on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and no, it’s nowhere as good as the book.  However, it’s a lot better than the Will Smith version.

If you have 87 minutes to kill, please enjoy The Last Man On The Earth.