Weekly Reading Round-Up : 10/07/2018 – 10/13/2018, November Garcia And Ines Estrada


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

It’s no secret to anybody who’s read this site for any length of time that I consider November Garcia to be the best comics art import to come out of the Philippines since Alex Nino, and it’s equally-public knowledge that my adoration for Mexican (by way, the last few years, of Texas) DIY cartoonist extraodrinaire Ines Estrada knows no bounds, so when John Porcellino recently listed two new self-published titles from each of them for sale at his Spit And A Half distro site, you knew I was gonna be all over them in no time. Let’s have a look at ’em, shall we?

Rookie Moves  is a witty and never-less-than-completely engaging mini that charts Garcia’s “rise” from the ranks of comics fan-girl to published cartoonist in her own right and showcases her at her neurotic, self-deprecating best as she rubs shoulders with the likes of Gabrielle Bell, Jon…

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Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.3 “They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be….” (dir by Allen Baron)


On tonight’s episode of Kolchak, Carl investigates a series of mysterious thefts which could very well be connected to a series of mysterious murders.

Needless to say, it’s all very mysterious.

Kolchak is often cited as having been an influence on The X-Files and you can certainly see why in this episode.  While I don’t want to spoil the nature of this episode’s monster, I will say that this episode will be enjoyed by conspiracy fans everywhere.

Enjoy!

First Man, Review By Case Wright


fm77.jpg

Happy Horrothon……wait a minute…this isn’t a horror movie!!! Nope, but it is going to win Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director.

First Man is a biopic of Neil Armstrong from his test pilot days, Gemini missions, Apollo Mission and return home.  I was moved.  Ryan Gosling inhabited that man’s very soul.  I have not seen acting that good in years and years.  At every point in the film, you are more on the edge of your seat than you have been in decades.  I knew he would land the LEM on the moon, but it was so close to disaster that you felt for him.

The picture opens with Neil doing test piloting.  He’s already getting tapped to be in the Gemini missions, but he almost passes.  He has a daughter that stricken with cancer and we share in his grief throughout the film’s entirety.  I won’t spoil it, but there’s a moment when Neil is on the moon with his late daughter’s bracelet and …. oh man.  Once his daughter passes, his wife pushes him to take the Gemini mission and we rapidly see that she is his ROCK!  We see it when his daughter passes and when the stress of the burden of achievement weighs upon this Great Man.

The weight of greatness and death is looked dead in the eye in this picture.  Brave men are facing and dealing with mortality in nearly every scene.  We see that the cost of putting the first man on the moon is paid in blood.  So many great men die in this heroic quest that it begins to feel like a Homeric adventure or great tale of an ancient Samurai told through a modern lens.  All the while they are struggling to make this great achievement, we hear the familiar whining of lesser men moaning in the background like white noise.

Once it is clear that Neil will be Commander to go to the Man, his wife demands that he explain the risks to his two remaining children.  He tells them and we feel his paternal pain twisting in him like a blade because his destiny is set.  We get closer to the other two members of his team – one I can’t remember and the other is Buzz Aldrin who is portrayed as complete asshole.  I mean…wow…what a dick!

When Neil approaches the moon, the LEM is heading for disaster and fate tempts Neil to abort, but it’s obvious that Neil will succeed or he will die trying.  There was no going back empty handed for him.  There’s a lesson here: the greatest achievements require sacrifice up to and including your life.

The film allows us to see this amazing quest through the eyes of our greatest American Representative.  It is also clear that the Space Race, Humankind’s greatest achievement, was a road that led to victory and was paved with blood.

 

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Last Girl Standing (dir by Benjamin R. Moody)


The final girl.

Every old school slasher film has one.

You know who I’m talking about, of course.  She’s usually the only person in her circle of friends who isn’t sexually active, who doesn’t drink, and who doesn’t do drugs.  She’s usually studious and responsible and it’s usually said that she’s so mature and smart that guys are scared to ask her out.  While that may sound like kind of a boring life for a teenager to lead, it also means that there’s nothing around to distract her once the killer shows up.  While all of her friends are too drunk, stoned, or naked to escape, the final girl is the one who not only outruns the killer but who occasionally beats his head in as well.

Every slasher film has a final girl but few of them ever really seem to concern themselves with what’s going to happen to her after the end credits roll.  (Usually, if there is a sequel, we find out that the final girl died mysteriously a few months after surviving the previous massacre.)  It’s only logical that having all of your friends killed over the course of one night would not necessarily leave you in a good place emotionally.

The 2015 horror film Last Girl Standing answers the question, “What happens after the horror movie ends?”  In the opening scenes, we find Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) in a very familiar situation.  She’s running around the woods.  She’s stumbling across the bodies of all of her dead friends.  She’s being pursued by a man wearing a deer mask.  The man is known as The Hunter and when Camryn finally manages to turn the tables on him, we have reached the point where most slasher films would end.

However, this is right where Last Girl Standing begins.

Two years later and Camryn is still struggling to recover from the night.  She’s haunted by nightmares and sometimes, she even has visions of the Hunter stalking her.  She’s gotten a job working in a laundromat and her co-workers seem nice but are they?  It seems like everyone Camryn meets either asks her about that terrible night or they’re scared to get too close to her, as if she carries bad luck or they’re afraid that the Hunter’s insanity has somehow been transferred to her.

For her part, Camryn worries that someone might be stalking her and it doesn’t help her paranoia when Nick (Brian Villalobos) starts working at the laundromat.  Again, Nick seems friendly but is he?  Can Camryn ever trust anyone again?  Even more importantly, should she ever trust anyone again?  As most things do, it all ends in blood and tragedy.

Last Girl Standing is an interesting hybrid of a film.  On the one hand, based on the film’s opening and its final scenes, Last Girl Standing is definitely a horror film.  And yet, the middle part of the film is far more concerned with examining the life of someone struggling with PTSD than with providing the usual jump scares.  While the film’s premise might sound like the setup for a typical slasher film, Last Girl Standing is ultimately more about how we deal with trauma.  Akasha Villalobos gives a sensitive and empathetic performance as Camryn and the entire cast of this low-budget film does a good job of grounding this story in reality.

All in all, Last Girl Standing is a worthwhile film for those of us who have wondered what happens after the final credits roll.

Bad Medicine: Dr. Giggles (1992, directed by Manny Coto)


In 1957, the citizens of the town of Moorheigh discovered that their local doctor was doing experiments on his patients, removing their hearts and using them to try to bring his dead wife back to life.  The townspeople responded by executing Dr. Rendell and chanting a poem that goes, “This town has a doctor named Rendell/Stay away from his house because he’s the doctor from Hell.”  They would have killed Dr. Rendell’s son too, except that Evan, Jr. escaped by sewing himself up in his mother’s corpse and then later using a scalpel to cut his way out.

Thirty-five years later, Evan, Jr. (Larry Drake) returns to Moorheigh, looking to get revenge on the town.  Because of his evil laugh, he is now known as Dr. Giggles and he has a medical-related one liner for every occasion.  When Dr. Giggles learns that Jennifer (Holly Marie Combs) needs a heart monitor, Dr. Giggles decides to stalk her while killing all of her interchangeable friends.  Dr. Giggles says that he wants to give her a new heart, preferably one that he’s ripped out of someone else’s body.  Jennifer is not very appreciative.

Dr. Giggles was meant to be a franchise started, in the fashion of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th films.  It was a franchise that would never be because there wasn’t much that could be done with Dr. Giggles that wasn’t done during the first film.   Larry Drake was a good actor but, other than the scene where he used a scalpel to cut himself out of a dead body, there was nothing about Dr. Giggles that distinguished from all the other horror movie slasher.  He wasn’t a dream weaver like Freddy or indestructible like Jason.  He was just a dude dressed like a doctor who giggled too much.

For a better film featuring Larry Drake as a villain, do yourself a favor and watch Sam Raimi’s Darkman.

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Ending of Friday the 13th


Since today is October 13th, I figured that today’s horror scene of the day should be one of the best endings ever!

I’m talking, of course, about the ending of 1980’s Friday the 13th.  You can say what you want about the rest of the film (though, personally, I think the film’s underrated) but the ending is brilliant.  No, it doesn’t really make much sense, both in the context of the film and in the Jason-dominated sequels that followed.  That’s probably because the ending was a last-minute addition.  It wasn’t designed to make sense.  It was designed to make audiences scream and hopefully set the groundwork for a sequel.

But no matter!  I still love everything about this scene.  I love how thing sopen with that serene lake.  I love the calming music in the background.  I love the feeling that everything’s going to be safe.  And then suddenly …. AGCK!  It may not be as effective today because we all know it’s going to happen but I bet this scared the Hell out of people back in 1980.

“He’s still out there.”

 

Halloween Havoc!: HORROR ISLAND (Universal 1941)


cracked rear viewer

Universal Pictures kept cranking out the horrors, but HORROR ISLAND isn’t one of them. It’s as misleading a title as Hollywood ever produced, more of a comedy/mystery with some “old dark house” elements thrown in for good measure. This little ‘B’ was released as a double feature with MAN MADE MONSTER, and while its good for what it is, it ain’t horror!

Atmospherically directed by George Waggner and shot by Universal workhorse Woody Bredell , HORROR ISLAND  begins spookily enough with a peg-legged sailor trodding the docks attacked by the mysterious Phantom. Rescued from the briny water by hard-pressed for cash entrepreneur Bill Martin and his pal Stuff Oliver, we learn the sailor is Tobias Clump, a Spaniard who claims he has half a map of Sir Henry Morgan’s buried treasure – and The Phantom just stole the other half! Bill happens to have inherited Morgan’s Island, where twenty…

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Book Review: Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th by Peter M. Bracke


A few years ago, when I reviewed the entire Friday the 13th film franchise for this site, one of the main resources that I used in my research was the 2006 book, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th.

As you can probably guess from the title, the book is a nearly complete history of the Friday the 13th franchise.  (I say nearly complete because the book was published to coincide with the release of Freddy vs. Jason so there’s no information about the later reboot.  That’s okay, though, because the reboot sucks and deserves to be forgotten.)  What sets this book apart is that it’s an oral history so you’re learning about the history of the Friday the 13th films from the people who were actually involved.

It makes for compelling and interesting reading, providing a portrait not just of the franchise but also of what it was like to be involved in the world of low-budget, genre film making.  Friday the 13th may have started out as an independent American giallo just to then become a studio slasher franchise but the one thing that remained consistent was that, no matter how much money the films made, they weren’t ever given much respect.  One of the recurring themes in the book is that the actors who were cast in the films were often happy for the work but it was rare that getting killed in a Friday the 13th film ever led to stardom.  (Kevin Bacon, of course, is the exception to that rule.  Though Bacon isn’t interviewed in the book, everyone who worked on the first film seems to agree that he was fun to work with.)  Some of the actors interviewed are just happy to have been a part of an iconic franchise.  Some of them display a commendable sense of humor while other seem rather annoyed to know that they’ll be forever associated with Friday the 13th.  Some, like New Beginning‘s Jerry Pavlon, worry about the franchise’s subtext while actress Barbara Howard jokes that she calls her annual Final Chapter residual check her “blood money.”

Another recurring theme in Crystal Lake Memories is that of the bitter screenwriter.  For the most part, the people assigned to write the scripts for these films come across as being a uniformly bitter lot.  It’s actually understandable, as the majority of them attempted to add a new twist to the franchise just to be told that the studio just wanted more scenes of Jason killing camp counselors.  That gets at a larger frustration shared by almost everyone interviewed.  How do you add your own personal touch to a set of films that are specifically designed to be as impersonal as possible?  That’s the question that everyone involved with the franchise had to answer for themselves and it makes for an interesting and relatable read.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book deals with the lengthy development of the Freddy vs. Jason film.  We’re told that one of the executives involved with the film believed that, if she added an environmental subtext to the story, Freddy vs. Jason would be the first slasher film to win an Academy Award.  As for the films themselves, it sounds like Friday The 13th: A New Beginning had the most out-of-control set while Friday the 13th Part 2 was the fun set.  The set I would have wanted to avoid would have been Friday the 13th 3D, where everyone was apparently too stressed out over the special effects to actually have any fun.

This book is a must not just for Friday the 13th fans but for movie lovers in general.

Italian Horror Showcase: Bay of Blood (dir by Mario Bava)


Like many Italian horror films, Mario Bava’s 1971 film, Bay of Blood, is known by many different names.

The original Italian title, or at least one of them, was Ecologia del delitto, which roughly translates to Ecology of Crime.  That may sound a little dry to our English-speaking ears but it’s actually a totally appropriate title.  The film is about a series of crimes, all inspired by greed and the desire to take control of a bayside mansion.

The film was also called Reazione a catena, which translates to Chain Reaction.  Again, that may sound a bit bland but it’s a totally appropriate title.  This film takes the concept of a chain reaction to its logical extreme.  Everyone in the film wants control of the bay and everyone is willing to kill to do it.  One person murders someone just to get murdered themselves.  As dark as that may sound, this film actually finds Bava in a rather playful mood.  Bava’s direction is wonderfully self-aware and totally cognizant of how absurd the film’s plot occasionally is.  It all ends with a perfectly sardonic little twist, one that not only feels earned but which perfectly epitomizes the film’s darkly humorous worldview.

When the film was released in the UK and the United States it was given several different titles.  (At one point, in the United States, it was actually sold as being a sequel to Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left, which it definitely was not.)  One title was Carnage.  Another was Blood Bath.  Again, bland titles but totally appropriate to the film.  Over the course of the film’s 84-minute running time, 14 people are murdered.  With the exception of two innocent bystanders and four teenagers who made the mistake of trying to party in the murder mansion, they were all bad.  Still, fourteen is a lot of carnage.

In fact, Bava’s film would later be cited as one of the first slasher films.  That’s true, though this film has considerably going on beneath the surface than the average slasher film.  If the average slasher often can be defined by sex=death, Bava’s film can be defined as greed=death.  That said, several of this film’s murders were “borrowed’ by the early installments of the Friday the 13th franchise.  Remember that double impalement from Friday the 13th Part 2?  It was taken, almost shot-for-shot, from Bava’s film.

My favorite title for Bava’s film was Twitch of the Death Nerve, which is just so wonderfully over-the-top and melodramatic.  It’s the title that most captures the film’s combination of blood and satire.  If I was solely in charge of picking the film’s official title, I would have selected Twitch of the Death Nerve.

However, the official title of Bava’s film appears to be Bay of Blood and I guess that’s an okay title.  I mean, it’s appropriate.  A lot of blood is spilled in that bay, starting with Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) and then going on to include the majority of her family members and business associates.  The film opens with Federica’s murder and then doesn’t waste any time in revealing that Federica was murdered by her husband, Filippo (Giovanni Nuvoletti).  Filippo murdered his wife on behalf of her estate agent, Frank (Chris Avram) and now, Frank just needs Filippo to sign the property over to him.  Of course, what Frank doesn’t realize is that Filippo was murdered just minutes after he murdered Federica….

And that’s just the start.

Bay of Blood is one of Mario Bava’s best films, featuring a cast of wonderfully sordid characters and grisly murders.  The film itself becomes a bit of a black comedy, as one murder leads to another.  Bava directs with his usual bravura sense of style, making the bay both beautiful and menacing at the same time.  If you want to know why almost every horror film made since 1970 owes a debt of gratitude to Bava, Bay of Blood is a good place to start.

4 Shots From 4 Nightmare Films: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dream Warriors, The Dream Master, Freddy’s Dead


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 reviewed A Nightmare on Elm Street earlier today, it just feels right to do….

4 Shots From 4 Nightmarish Films

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir by Wes Craven)

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors (1987, dir by Chuck Russell)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988, dir by Renny Harlin)

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991, dir by Rachel Talalay)