Harrow County – Countless Haints, Review by Case Wright


Happy Horrorthon!!! We are in the thick of it folks.  October is happening! We’re all eating things with pumpkin flavor, baseball’s in full swing (pun intended), and we all get into trying something scary.

There are few things that truly scare me as much as clowns do, but I’d rather sit on Bozo’s lap than live one solitary moment in Harrow County.  Harrow County is a comic series by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook published by Dark Horse.  Saying this comic is scary is like writing that Charles Lindbergh dabbled in flying planes.  After the first few pages, I was thoroughly creeped out and turned on all the lights in my home.

The story revolves around Emmy, a nearly adult woman, who is discovering that she is not an ordinary farmer’s daughter, but terrifyingly powerful witch.   Years earlier, Emma’s “mother” Hester was an evil witch with the powers of Satan.  The townsfolk weren’t too fond of all of her child sacrifices and dark arts so they decide to shoot, stab, hang, and burn Emma’s “mother”.

*Slight Spoiler*—- Emma learns that she is the born again version of Hester and not an actual daughter.  Emma was born from murder and vengeance and Harrow County is about to reap the whirlwind.

The art of this story is so off-putting and chill-inducing.  Their eyes pull you in as if you are one of the townsfolk being judged and co-opted by good or evil.  The story has a wide streak of ambiguity; it never allows you to fully see the true good or evil of any the characters after the first five pages.  In essence, the characters are real.  They are you neighbor, your brother, your sister: imperfect and conflicted.  This duality is exemplified by Emma’s only a friend a ghost or “Haint” who is actually bifurcated.  One half of the friend acts as Emma’s bodyguard: pure rage that is only muscle akin to the Human Body figures from biology class and the other half of her friend is a kind and scared bag of skin who acts as a guide for Emma.  The bifurcated friend is a great visual example of our rage that hides just under the surface of all people.

This story is scary as Hell.  Go Buy It!

hc skin friend

Horror On TV: One Step Beyond 2.1 “Delusion” (dir by John Newland)

On tonight’s episode of One Step Beyond.

A young woman (Suzanne Pleshette) desperately needs a blood transfusion.  Fortunately, the police have managed to track down one of the only people to share her blood type, an accountant named Harold Stern (Norman Lloyd).  Harold seems like a nice, rather mild-mannered guy and he has a long history of donating blood.  However, when the police approach him, Harold refuses to donate.

“What type of crumb are you!?” the police demand.

Harold explains that, whenever he gives someone blood, he develops a psychic connection with that person.  He can see their future.  And that’s simply a burden that he can no longer shoulder….

This episode of One Step Beyond originally aired on September 15th, 1959.  Norman Lloyd, who plays Harold, got his start as a member of Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater and he also played the villain in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur.  (Speaking of Hitchcock, Suzanne Pleshette played the doomed school teacher in The Birds.)  When Lloyd appeared in this episode of One Step Beyond, he was 44 years old.

Today, Norman Lloyd is 103 years old and guess what?  He’s still acting!  He had a role in Trainwreck and still occasionally appears on television.


The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Bait (dir by Kimble Rendall)

What happens when you take The Mist and combine it with Jaws?

Well, you’d probably end up with a movie that’s a lot more interesting than 2012’s Bait.

Bait opens in an Australian supermarket and it’s nice to see that supermarkets in other countries are just as bad as supermarkets in America.  Two teenagers make out in the underground parking garage.  A former lifeguard stocks the shelves.  (The lifeguard, incidentally, was previously traumatized when he saw a friend of his eaten by a shark.)  The sister of that friend who got eaten by a shark shops with her new boyfriend.  The store manager gives people orders.  Two masked men try to rob the place, which leads to shoot out with the police.  It’s just a typical day!

Until, of course, the tsunami hits!

Now, on the one hand, the tsunami hit at the perfect time because it kept the masked men from shooting anyone else.  On the other hand, the tsunami hit at absolutely the worst time because apparently, sharks can survive anything.  Not only is the supermarket flooded but now, there is now a giant shark swimming through the aisles!

Our survivors all scramble to the top of the aisles, where they find themselves stranded.  Not only is the water shark-infested but there is also the risk of being electrocuted by broken wires!  The survivors are going to have to set aside their differences and work together if they’re going to escape the deluge of sharks and bad feelings!

Of course, if you know anything about these type of movies, you know that a group of people can never set aside their differences and work together until at least a handful of them have been eaten.  At one point, our survivors attempt to escape by building a makeshift shark cage out of grocery carts.  That actually might not a bad idea but it just looks so silly!

Anyway, the main problem with Bait is that the film, much like the characters, has no place to go.  The idea of a shark invading a supermarket has potential but once everyone’s stranded on top of their aisles, the action slows down to a crawl and we spend way too much time listening to thinly drawn characters shout insults at each other.  The characters are trapped but, unfortunately, so is the audience.

I was actually far more interested in the couple that was stuck in the flooded parking garage.  Those scenes, of the two of them trying to figure out how to escape from their car, had a claustrophobic intensity that the scenes in the supermarket lacked.  Lincoln Lewis and Cariba Heine were fun to watch as they bickered with each other and debated who was more to blame for their predicament.  Perhaps because they were separated from all of the noisy drama in supermarket, Lewis and Heine actually seemed to be having fun with their roles.

Anyway, Bait is one of those films that tends to show up fairly regularly on the SyFy network.  It’s not a particularly good movie but it is a reminder that the cinematic legacy of Jaws will outlast us all.  To be honest, if the sharks ever get together and form some sort of anti-defamation league, the film industry is screwed.

Stay Out Of The Woods: Ticks (1993, directed by Tony Randel)

Don’t go in the wood alone, kids!  There are giant ticks out there that can attach themselves to you, lay their eggs under your skin, and then cause your face to explode when the eggs hatch!  It’s all because of the steroids that local farmer Jarvis Tanner (Clint Howard) has been using to enhance his marijuana crop.  The end result may be good weed but you will  be dead from a tick bite before you get to enjoy it.  That’s bad news for Jarvis, who keeps stepping in bear traps and who, at one point, has a dozen tick eggs drop on him.  It’s even worse news for the group of juvenile delinquents who have been sentenced to spend a weekend camping in the woods.

Mostly because the film featured the beautiful Ami Dolenz as one of the delinquents, Ticks used to be a mainstay on late night HBO.  It combines the basic features of a 50s monster movie with the gore-filled style of a 90s splatter film.  What Ticks may have lacked in originality, it made up for in scenes of people’s faces exploding.  Make no mistake about it.  This one is for splatter fans.

Ticks has an interesting cast.  If you have ever wanted to see Alfonso “Carlton” Ribiero play a gangbanger, this is the movie for you.  The nerdiest juvenile delinquent is played by Seth Green while TV regular Peter Scolari plays an idealistic social worker and Rance Howard (father of Ron and Clint) plays the local sheriff who loses his legs.  And finally, there’s Clint Howard, giving it his all in yet another straight-to-video horror film.  Clint suffers even more indignities than usual in Ticks but he never gives up hope.  Clint’s scenes were directed by the film’s executive producer, Brian Yuzna, and added after the first cut of the film was judged to be missing something.  That was a good decision on Yuzna’s part because Clint Howard is easily the best part of the film.

Today, the appeal of Ticks is mostly one of nostalgia.  This is the type of mind-warping stuff that we used to watch when we were growing up.  This is what we used to rent at Blockbuster while our parents were looking for the latest Oscar nominees.  This is what late night cable used to be all about.

Halloween Havoc!: THE INVISIBLE MAN (Universal 1933)

cracked rear viewer

James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN set the bar high for horror, and his follow-up THE OLD DARK HOUSE is one of the blackest comedies ever made. But with THE INVISIBLE MAN, Whale raises that bar by combining gruesome terror with his macabre sense of humor. THE INVISIBLE MAN doesn’t get the respect of other icons in the First Horror Cycle (Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, Imhotep), but Claude Rains’s outstanding performance as the mad scientist Jack Griffin, driven to insanity by the chemicals he’s pumped into his veins, is as sick and deranged as any you’ll find in the genre… and the fact Rains does much of his acting using only his voice is an amazing feat, and a testament to the man’s acting genius.

Whale’s opening shot sets the eerie tone, as a solitary figure, his face swaddled in bandages, trudges through a snowstorm and enters the Lion’s Head Inn seeking solitude. The…

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Scenes That I Love: Danny Meets The Grady Girls in The Shining

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is unique in that it’s a horror film that freaks me out every time that I see it.  Even though I’ve sat through the film so many times that I now practically have it memorized, The Shining still scares me.

And, to be honest, a lot of that has to do with the daughters of Charles (or was that Delbert) Grady.  Early on, we’re told that the previous caretaker, Grady, went crazy from the isolation and ended up killing his daughters with an axe.  And yet, if his daughters are dead, what are they doing in the hallway of the Overlook Hotel, inviting poor little Danny Torrance to come play with them!?


Seriously, this scene freaks me out every time that I see it.

Horror Trailer: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Just in time for the month of October we have the first official trailer for Netflix’s series reboot titled Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Following the darker-edged comic book series of the same name, this Sabrina the Teenage Witch will not be similar to the more family-friendly iteration that aired on ABC during the 1990’s.

No, this looks particular version looks to be embracing the horror and occultism of the recent comic book about the character. From the look of this trailer alone it looks like horror will be quite up front and center.

Lisa will definitely be glad that Salem the cat will still be in the series.

Book Review: The Zero Factor by William Oscar Johnson

Consider this.

William Henry Harrison was elected President in 1840.  A few months later, he became the first President to die in office, the result of giving a rambling inauguration speech in the rain.

Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860.  He was assassinated by an actor in 1865.

James A. Garfield was elected in 1880.  He was shot and subsequently died of medical malpractice in 1881.

William McKinley was reelected in 1900.  He was assassinated by a leftist in 1901.

Warren Harding was elected in 1920 and was murdered by his wife in 1923.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was reelected in 1940.  He died of natural causes in 1945.

John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960.  He was assassinated by a lone gunman in 1963.

The second President to die in office, Zachary Taylor, was elected in 1848 but died in 1850!  (In his case, he was either poisoned or died of natural causes.  It depends on which book you read.)

That is the Zero Curse.  For a period of 120 years, any president was elected in a zero year died before the end of his term.  Some people thought it was a coincidence.  Some people thought it was a supernatural occurrence.  Whatever it was, it was a strange piece of American history.

In fact, it even inspired a novel!  The Zero Factor was published in 1980, presumably to capitalize on that year’s presidential election.  The Zero Factor tells the story of Augustus “Gus” York, a Republican governor who is nominated for President after the convention deadlocks.  Gus is honest, homespun, and naive.  To everyone’s shock, Gus narrowly wins the election.

Gus is an ethical President whose moderate political stances manage to alienate every powerful person in the world.  Not surprisingly, a group of evil rich people hire an assassin to take out President York.  Will Gus be able to survive the zero factor!?

So, this may seem like a strange book to review for October and I’ll be the first to admit that I nearly scheduled this review for November.  However, the book does feature three rather odd scenes where Gus is haunted by the ghosts of the zero year presidents.  Those scenes are actually a lot of fun.  I especially liked the description of Franklin Roosevelt’s ghost rolling around the Presidential bedroom while his eyes glow a ghostly yellow.  Best of all, Gus gets advice from the ghost of my favorite scandalous president, Warren G. Harding!  Thanks to President Harding and the gang, The Zero Factor can be classified as a book for October.

As for the rest of the book, it’s a well-written political thriller.  At times, the book’s politics can be rather heavy-handed (why write about a Republican President if you’re just going to make him act like a Democrat?) and the portrayal of the gay assassin is dated and a bit cringe-inducing.  But Gus is a likable character and I appreciate any book that takes the time to rehabilitate Warren Harding.

As for the Zero Curse, it was broken by the President who actually was elected in 1980, Ronald Reagan.  George W. Bush continued to break it in 2000.  (That said, both Bush and Reagan were targeted by potential assassins during their presidencies.)  The next zero year election will be 2020, an election that looks like it’s going to involve a record number of elderly candidates.

Italian Horror Spotlight: The Last Shark (dir by Enzo G. Castellari)

Chances are this is going to sound familiar to you.

The 1981 film, The Last Shark (a.k.a. Great White), takes place in a small seaside community.  A teenager goes out in the water, doesn’t pay enough attention to the surroundings, and ends up getting eaten.  Local civic leader named Peter Benton (James Franciscus) wants to shut down the beach.  A crusty old shark hunter named Ron Hammer (Vic Morrow) says that he can take care of the problem.  However, Mayor William Wells (Joshua Sinclair) refuses to even admit that there’s a shark in the water.  After all, sharks are not only bad for business but also could potentially keep him from being President someday!

However, the shark attacks continue.  After his son is nearly eaten by a shark — a great white, to be exact — even the mayor is forced to admit that something must be done….

If you think that the plot of The Last Shark sounds like it has a lot in common with Jaws …. well, you’re right.  And you’re not alone!  Universal Pictures though that The Last Shark borrowed a bit too much from Steven Spielberg’s seminal film as well.  In 1982, Universal filed a lawsuit to block the film’s distribution in the United States.  Though the film played for a month (and grossed 18 million dollars) while the case worked its way through the legal system, a federal judge eventually ruled that The Last Shark was too similar to Jaws and, as a result, The Last Shark was not only yanked from theaters but it also didn’t even get a proper video release until 2013!  Because of all this, The Last Shark has developed a cult following.  It’s literally the film that the major studios didn’t want people to see.  Of course, The Last Shark was neither the first nor the lat film to rip-off Jaws.  It was, however, one of the few to make a good deal of money and I imagine that was the main motivation behind Universal’s lawsuit.

Interestingly enough, The Last Shark actually has more in common with Jaws 2 than with Jaws.  Just as in Jaws 2, a bunch of stupid teenagers make the mistake of going after the shark themselves.  Also, much as in Jaws 2, the shark manages to bite down on a helicopter and pull it under the water.  A quality shark movie always features at least one helicopter getting destroyed.  That the original Jaws become a classic despite not featuring any helicopter destruction is a testament to Steven Spielberg’s ability as a director.

As for The Last Shark, it’s a thoroughly shameless and undeniably entertaining film.  Director Enzo G. Castellari (who directed several Franco Nero films and might be best-known to American audiences for directing the original Inglorious Bastards) keeps the action moving at steady pace and even manages to give us a few striking images of shark mayhem.  (The scene where a man gets bitten in half manages to be both shocking and ludicrous at the same time.)  James Franciscus appears to be taking himself far too seriously in the role of Peter Benton but Vic Morrow seems to be having a good time as the ill-tempered shark hunter.

A few other thoughts on The Last Shark:

Mayor Wells, who has presidential ambitions, also has a mustache and a haircut that makes him look like a 70s porn actor.  (In fact, with the exception of James Franciscus, nearly every adult male in this movie has a mustache.)  Whenever Mayor Wells walked through a scene, I found myself expecting to hear a lot of bass and plenty of wah wah on the soundtrack.

Secondly, it would appear that the best way to track down a shark is to drop a steak in the water.  At least, that’s the lesson I learned from watching The Last Shark.  There are actually a handful of scenes of shark hunters announcing that they’re about to go hunt for the shark and then holing up a steak.  Forget about using blood or noise to attract your prey!  Instead, just toss some spare ribs in the ocean and wait for the shark to show up!

Anyway, Italian filmmakers were always fairly shameless when it came to ripping off successful movies.  In fact, one reason why I love Italian cinema is because of that very lack of shame.  Whatever its flaws, The Last Shark is a film totally without shame and, for that reason, it’s more than worth viewing.

4 Shots From 4 Nature-Run-Amok Films: Frogs, Grizzly, The Day of the Animals, Empire of the Ants

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 lets the visuals do the talking.

Nature takes it revenge in these 4 shots from 4 films!

4 Shots From 4 Nature-Run-Amok Films

Frogs (1972, dir by George McGowan)

Grizzly (1976, dir by William Girdler)

Day of the Animals (1977, dir by William Girdler)

Empire of the Ants (1977, dir by Bert I. Gordon)