Horror on TV: One Step Beyond 3.26 “Signal Received” (dir by John Newland)


Starting tomorrow, we’ll be showcasing a new show here on the Shattered Lens so, for tonight, here’s the last episode of One Step Beyond that we’ll be sharing during this year’s horrorthon.

(If you’ve enjoyed these episodes, all three seasons of One Step Beyond have been uploaded to YouTube.)

Tonight’s episode tells the story of three sailors who hear an unexpected message on the radio.  Two of the sailors hear that their ship will soon sink.  The third sailor hears that he will live a long and fulfilling life.

One Step Beyond always claimed that all of its stories were “based on fact.”  This episode actually goes the extra mile by interviewing one of the real-life sailors about the message and about whether or not he believes in the supernatural.

Enjoy!

Beauty In Decay : Ian Sundahl’s “The Social Discipline Reader”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

We’ve all been there — the end of the road. The last stop on the train ride. The bottom of the barrel. How we pick ourselves up again and move forward — that’s up to each of us, I guess. If we even manage to do it at all.

For some folks, however, there’s no way out. What once looked like rock bottom becomes their new reality. Changing things is either impossible, or no longer an attractive option. I humbly submit that, based on the characters whose existences he delineates in his recently-published Domino Books collection The Social Discipline Reader, that cartoonist Ian Sundahl knows these people, and their circumstances, very well indeed.

Which isn’t to say that Sundahl’s work wallows in, or in any way even exploits, the misery or hardships or unfortunate situations of others. Quite the contrary, in fact : he not only respects the motel…

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The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Nocturne (dir by Stephen Shimek)


Have you ever noticed how movies about teenagers always treat the rules of the “Never Have I Ever” game like they’re some sort of legally binding contract?

Seriously, I’ve seen this happen in so many movies.  Someone has a deep, dark secret that they don’t want to reveal.  They know that if they reveal the secret, a lot of bad stuff will happen as a result.  Feelings will be hurt.  Friendships will be crushed.  Lives will be lost.

But then the minute somebody says, “Never have I ever fucked my best friend’s boyfriend,” they always drink up.  Half the time, they’re the only person to take a drink.  And, during all of the drama that unfolds, it never occurs to anyone to say, “Why didn’t you just not take the drink!?  It’s just a game, after all!”

Something like this happens in the 2016 film, Nocturne.  Nocturne takes place at perhaps the saddest high school graduation party of all time.  All of the cool kids have gone to another party, which means that only seven people show up at this party.  From that humble beginning, things quickly go downhill as the graduates hang out in the hot tub, play the Never Have I Ever game, and listen to Gabe (Jake Stormeon) ramble about religion and philosophy and stuff.  Gabe also demonstrates some card tricks so yeah …. that’s definitely the way to end your high school career.

Anyway, bad parties always seem to lead to people trying to contact the dead and that’s what happens here.  Gabe sets up a makeshift séance and the graduates ask the dead a lot of questions that they probably shouldn’t have asked.  (Seriously, I’ve been to a few bad parties in my lifetime and you an always tell that the party is officially dead once people actually try to talk to the …. well, dead.)

Needless to say, this leads to someone getting possessed and just about everyone else dying.  The other party was probably a lot more fun.

So, on the plus side, Nocturne is fairly well-acted and some of the death scenes were clever.  The film’s chronology is a bit jumbled, which is one of those storytelling tricks that can be really annoying but which is justified here by the fact that demon exists beyond our conventional understanding of time and space.

On the negative side, a cat dies about halfway through the film and, as I discussed years ago in my review of Drag Me To Hell, it’s hard for me to endorse any film in which a cat is killed.  I mean, honestly, I would think most supernatural beings would appreciate the fact that a cat can sleep through just about anything.  Whereas a dog would be barking and throwing a fit over all the murders being committed, a cat would probably just relax in a corner and play with a toy mouse or something.  In this film, there was really no reason to kill the cat and it felt a bit gratuitous.  It was hard not to tell that the only reason the cat was put in the film was so it could be killed.  My point is, if you want to me to like your movie, don’t kill the cat.

Anyway, Nocturne is a rather uneven film.  If you can see past the dead cat, you might find this one interesting.  It has its creepy moments, even if it’s hard not to feel that the overall movie doesn’t really work.

Captain Kirk vs. Sheriff Taylor: Pray For The Wildcats (1974, directed by Robert Michael Lewis)


The year is 1974 and there’s nothing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California.  That’s because psychotic business Sam Farragutt (played by Andy Griffith!) is on the loose.  Sam likes to describe himself as being a hippie himself.  “A hippie with money,” Sam puts it as he waves a hundred dollar bill in the face of a hippie without money,

Actually, there is one thing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California and that’s being an ad executive.  Once again, Sam Farragutt is to blame.  He’s willing to give his business to three ad execs but first they have to agree to go down to Baja and ride around with him on their motorcycles.  The three ad execs are Terry Maxon (former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner!), Paul McIllvain (former Brady Bunch star Robert Reed!), and suicidal burn-out Warren Summerfield (William Shatner!).  Warren is having an affair with Paul’s wife (Angie Dickinson!) but he’s still planning on committing suicide in Mexico.

However, going to Mexico gives Warren a new lease on life.  After Warren discovers that Farragutt is responsible for the death of two hippies, he becomes determined to make sure that justice is served.  Soon, Andy Griffith (!) is chasing William Shatner (!) across the Mexican desert.  Someone’s going to die.  Is it going to be Sheriff Taylor or Captain Kirk?

Pray For The Wildcats was a made-for-TV movie that aired the same year as Savages.  Both movies were a part of Andy Griffith’s attempt to change his image after playing the folksy Sheriff Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show.  Griffith is a good villain but the main appeal of Pray for the Wildcats is the chance to see William Shatner doing his thing.  Shatner has a juicy role here, playing a man who is at first suicidal and then righteously indignant.  He overemotes with the self-serious intensity that was Shatner’s trademark in the years before he finally developed a sense of humor about himself.  The movie itself gets bogged down with unnecessary flashbacks and dated dialogue but the spectacle of Griffith vs. Shatner makes it all worth it.

Book Review: Baal by Robert R. McCammon


Baal begins with an act of violence.

In the late 60s, a woman is raped in an alley by a stranger whose touch burns her skin.  Nine months later, Jeffrey Harper Raines is born.  The woman’s husband fears the baby and tries to drown him, just to be stopped and murdered by Jeffrey’s mother.

Jeffrey is sent to a Catholic orphanage, where he proves himself to be an intelligent and troubled child, the type who can not only mentally control all of the other children but also inspire them to go on a rebellious and destructive rampage.

Years later, a mysterious cult leader named Baal has emerged, first in California and then eventually in Kuwait.  His followers come from all walks of life and they include some of the wealthiest men on the planet.  A researcher tries to gain access to Baal’s cult and promptly disappears.  The researcher’s mentor, an elderly theologian named Dr. Virga, goes to Kuwait in search of his protegé.

What he discovers is that Baal is not only extremely dangerous but that his followers are willing to do anything that he orders them to do.  Fortunately, Virga does find one ally out in the desert — a mysterious man named Michael….

(I guess it was Gabriel’s week off.)

Baal was first published way back in 1978 and reading it, it’s obvious that the novel was heavily influenced by films like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby.  In fact, it’s so derivative of those films that it’s impossible not to get kinda annoyed at not only how predictable the story is but also at the fact that it takes the people in the book so much longer to figure out what the reader realizes immediately.  You really do have to wonder if a cult leader couldn’t have perhaps come up with a name other than Baal.  I mean, that’s kind of like naming yourself Lou C. Ifer or something like that.  You’re just giving the game away.

Today, Baal is best known for being the debut novel of Robert R. McCammon.  McCammon was only 25 years old when he wrote and published Baal and most of the book’s problems — the lack of focus, the occasionally clumsy plot twists– are problems that many debut novels seem to have in common.  For quite some time, McCammon refused to allow Baal to be republished, saying that he felt it was inferior to his later historical and crime novels.  For the record, McCammon’s correct about that but Baal still has enough trashy and sordid moments to be occasionally entertaining.  I guess my point here is that Baal isn’t great and, at times, it’s barely good but it’s still better than Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff.

4 Shots From 4 Other Lucio Fulci Films: The Black Cat, Aenigma, Demonia, Door To Silence


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.

Since I finally got around to reviewing Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond Trilogy (as Arleigh can tell you, I’ve been talking about reviewing those films ever since I first joined this site), it seems appropriate to dedicate today’s horror-themed 4 Shots From 4 Films to Lucio Fulci’s other horror films.  We present to you….

4 Shots From 4 Other Lucio Fulci Films

The Black Cat (1981, dir by Lucio Fulci)

Aenigma (1987, dir by Lucio Fulci)

Demonia (1990, dir by Lucio Fulci)

Door To Silence (1991, dir by Lucio Fulci)

Horror Scenes That I Love: From Pieces, The Greatest Line Reading Ever


I may have shared this scene before.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that I did because I can remember discussing this scene with Val Troutman.

Oh well, no matter!  There are some things that deserve to be shared more than once!

This scene comes from the 1982 film, Pieces.  Now, for the record, it’s not easy find an appropriate scene to share from Pieces.  Just about every scene in the movie seems to either feature gratuitous nudity or really bloody violence.  I mean, it’s probably nothing that would shock our jaded readers but it is the type of stuff that would probably get this site blocked from being accessed from a public library.

But then there’s this scene right here.  Now, in order to understand what’s happening here, you should keep in mind that Lynda Day George is playing an undercover cop who also happens to be a tennis pro.  She’s been assigned to the local college.  Her job is to figure out who is using a chainsaw to kill all of the students.  Unfortunately, she sucks at her job so she has to get this kinda nerdy college student to help her out.

Anyway, after spending the morning playing tennis, they’ve just discovered a dead body in the showers.  Yes, the killer has struck again and …. well, it was really messy.  Speaking as someone who appreciates a clean house and a carefully organized day, I can relate to the reaction below:

By the way, it’s impossible for me to watch this scene without thinking about the episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia where they’re playing Chardee McDennis and the question is, “Dennis is asshole.  Why Charlie hate?”

“Because Dennis is a bastard, man!”

Anyway, stay safe.

Halloween Havoc!: TOWER OF LONDON (Universal 1939)


cracked rear viewer

Rowland V. Lee followed up his successful SON OF FRANKENSTEIN with TOWER OF LONDON, reuniting with stars Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in a take on the story of Richard III that mixes historical drama with horror. This “Game of Thrones” is filled with political machinations, royal court intrigue, and murder most foul as the crook backed Richard kills his way to the top of England’s heap, aided by his chief executioner Mord.

You won’t find any Shakespeare here or historical accuracy, but Lee and his screenwriter brother Richard N. Lee craft a tale of bad intentions to capitalize on the renewed interest in the horror genre. Rathbone exudes evil from every pore as Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, who along with his brother King Edward VI, has seized power by imprisoning the feeble-minded Henry IV. But there are six heirs standing in Richard’s way to succession, and he keeps…

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Italian Horror Showcase: The House By The Cemetery (dir by Lucio Fulci)


Lucio Fulci’s 1981 masterpiece, The House By The Cemetery, begins as so many slasher movies have begun.

A teenage couple fools around in the basement of the deserted Oak Mansion.  Just from listening to them talk, we can surmise that the mansion has a reputation for strange events.  Suddenly, the boy vanishes.  The girl looks for him, telling him that whatever he’s doing stopped being funny a long time ago.  Suddenly, a knife is driven through the back of her head, the blade eventually exiting through the girl’s mouth.  Fans of Italian horror and Fulci films in particular will not be shocked by this grisly turn of events, mostly because the girl was played by Daniela Doria.  Doria appeared in several Fulci films and, in each film, her character was brutally murdered.  The House By The Cemetery was her third Fulci film.  She would later appear and get killed in Fulci’s The New York Ripper.

From that rather conventional horror movie opening, The House By The Cemetery goes on to become progressively more bizarre and surreal.

 

The Boyles — Lucy (Catriona MacColl), Norman (Paolo Malco), and their young son, Bob (Giovanni Frezza) — are to spend the next six months living in a mansion in New England.  It’s all so Norman can work on a research project.  His colleague, Peterson, previously stayed at the house and basically went crazy, killing his family, his mistress, and himself.  This doesn’t seem to particularly disturb Norman.  Before they leave New York, Bob stares at a picture in his father’s office.  It’s a black-and-white picture of a dilapidated house.   There’s a young girl staring out the window of the house.

Suddenly, we can see and hear the girl (Silvia Collatina) as she yells at Bob to stay away from the house.

In the small town of New Whitby, the girl — who is named Mae — stands on a sidewalk.  She’s clutching a doll and it doesn’t appear that anyone else can see her.  Mae stares into the window of tailor’s shop.  One of the mannequins has fallen over and its head has become detached.  Mae watches a dark blood oozes out of the plastic head.

Sitting in the back seat of his parent’s car, Bob watches Mae.  Mae turns to stare at him.  Despite the fact that there’s a road in between them, Mae and Bob are able to calmly speak to each other.  Again, Mae tells Bob that he shouldn’t have come.

When the family arrives at their new home, Lucy says that the Oak Mansion looks a lot like the house in the picture in Norman’s office.  Norman shrugs it off as a coincidence.  As for the house itself, it turns out to be a bit of a dump.  Yes, it’s big but the inside of the house is covered in dust and cobwebs and there’s a particularly nasty bat living in the basement.  However, what really upsets Lucy is the fact that there’s a tombstone in the middle of the front hallway.  Norman dismisses her concerns, saying that it used to be very common for people to be buried in their homes.

Much as how Jack Torrance was “always the caretaker,” everyone in town seems to be convinced that they’ve met Norman before.  Norman swears that he’s never been to New Whitby before.  Meanwhile, Lucy grows more and more anxious inside the house.  Sometimes, she thinks she can hear noises in the walls.  Are they alone or is there someone else living in the house?  Bob spends his time playing with his new friend Mae, who shows him a nearby headstone for someone named Mary Fruedstein.  “She’s not really buried there,” Mae tells him.

Things get stranger.  A mysterious young woman named Ann (Ania Pieroni, who has previously played The Mother of Tears in Dario Argento’s Inferno) shows up and says that she’s the new babysitter.  A real estate agent (played by Dagmar Lassander) comes by the house while the Boyles are out and is promptly murdered.  Lucy wakes up one morning to discover Ann scrubbing a huge blood stain and says nothing about it.

Norman’s research reveals that the house once belonged to a Dr. Jacob Freudstein, a Victorian-era scientist who conducted illegal experiments.  Could that have something to do with all of the strange things that have happened in the house?  Norman goes to New York to do further research and once again, he finds himself dealing with people who are convinced that they’ve seen him before….

In an interview, Lucio Fulci once described The House By The Cemetery as being his answer to Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining and there are some obvious similarities, from the ghostly girl to the little boy who appears to have psychic powers.  Fulci said that he didn’t feel The Shining was dark enough and make no mistake about it, The House By The Cemetery is a very dark film.  Even by the standards of Lucio Fulci, there is very little hope to be found in The House By The Cemetery.

As a follow-up to both The City of the Living Dead and The Beyond, it’s also the concluding chapter of Fulci’s Beyond trilogy.  When Mae offers Bob a chance to escape to a safe place, those who have viewed The Beyond will immediately realize that she’s talking about the same dimension that was visited by David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl at the end of Fulci’s previous film.  And while Mae may be offering Bob an escape from what’s happening the House, those who have seen the entire trilogy know that the Beyond is just as dangerous as our world.  The end of the film seems to suggest that there is no escape from the horrors of the world.  At best, there’s just a temporary delay to the inevitability of doom.

The House By The Cemetary is Fulci at his most atmospheric as he combines the gothic visual style of City of the Living Dead with the aggressive dream logic of The Beyond.  In much the same way that the The Beyond indicated that the price for discovering the truth about the world was blindness, The House By The Cemetery indicates that the longer the Boyles remains in the house, the more incapable they are of seeing the horror right in front of their faces.

And what horror!  When Dr. Freudstein does make his appearance, he’s a monster straight out of Lovecraft, a mix of Frankenstein, Freud, and the Great Old Ones.  And yet, the film’s real horror is not to be found in the monster but in the disintegration of the family living in the house.  In the end, Bob is stalked not only by the monster in the basement but also by his parent’s increasingly unhappy marriage.

Giovanni Frezza actually does a pretty good job in the role of Bob, though you might not notice because he’s been so atrociously dubbed.  (Far too often, in Italian horror films, children were dubbed by adults speaking in squeaky voices and that seems to be what happened here.)  Frezza would later appear in Fulci’s perplexing Manhattan Baby while Paolo Malco would play another arrogant academic in The New York Ripper.  And then there’s Catriona MacColl, appearing in her third and final Fulci film.  Fulci was often criticized for the way women were portrayed in his films but MacColl gave strong lead performances in The City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, and The House By The Cemetery and, most importantly, her instantly relatable presence helped to provide some grounding for Fulci’s surreal vision.  Even if the films didn’t always make perfect logical sense, audiences would continue to watch because they wanted things to turn out well for whichever character MacColl was playing.  (Of course, they rarely did.)

The House By The Cemetery was the third and final part of Fulci’s Beyond trilogy and one of his strongest films.  Lucio Fulci passed away in 1996 but, like the inhabitants of the Beyond, his films live forever.