A Josh Bayer Two-Fer : “Theth : Tomorrow Forever”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

A tidal wave of memories real and imagined, meticulously haphazard (here we go with the contradictions) pencil, pen, and brush strokes, kaleidoscopic colors, steam-of-consciousness observations, mixed genre tropes, and weighty foreboding, Josh Bayer’s latest Tinto Press-published comic/”graphic novel,”  Theth : Tomorrow Forever, may be a sequel to its shorter-titled 2014 predecessor literally and thematically, but it’s also very much a “stand-alone” work — and one that leaves a pretty damn indelible mark upon the reader, at that.

Most of us have been where protagonist/authorial stand-in (to one degree or another) Theth finds himself in Columbus, Ohio circa 1990 : 20 years old, at loose ends, burning to make a mark upon the world, unsure of what form that mark should — or even could — take, the future appearing equal parts formless void and open wound. It’s probably trickier for those with an artistic inclination to navigate this period…

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Horror on TV: The Curse of Degrassi (dir by Stefan Brogren)

This is a special episode of my favorite TV show of all, Degrassi!  Originally airing on October 28th, 2008, The Curse of Degrassi features Degrassi’s main mean girl, Holy J Sinclair (Charlotte Arnold), getting possessed by the vengeful spirit of deceased school shooter, Rick Murray (Ephraim Ellis).  Chaos follows!  Fortunately, Spinner (Shane Kippel) is around to save the day.  As any true Degrassi fan can tell you, only Spinner has a chance against the forces of the undead.

What I like about this episode is that, in the best tradition of Degrassi, it goes there.  Holly J does get possessed.  Just about the entire cast end up dying horribly.  Spinner has to battle the undead spirit of Rick Murray and he has to do it without the help of Drake.  And, as far as we know, this episode is canon.  So, yes, Rick Murray’s ghost actually does haunt Degrassi Community School and yes, only Spinner can save us all.

Go Spinner!


The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: End of the World (dir by Charles Band)

The 1977 film End of the World has got a great opening scene.  An obviously distraught priest (played by none other than Christopher Lee!) steps into an isolated diner.  He tells the counterman that he needs to use the phone.  The counterman says, “Sure, father.”  And then suddenly, everything in the dinner starts blowing up.  The phone, the coffee, the pinball machine, everything explodes.  The counterman ends up trying to unsuccessfully throw himself through a window.  The priest, looking rather confused, steps outside of the diner and he runs into …. his exact double!  Christopher Lee meets Christopher Lee!

Again, that’s a great opening and it’s really not a surprise that the rest of the film can’t live up to it.  Once the two Christopher Lees disappear into the darkness, the focus of the story shifts to a scientist named Andrew (Kirk Scott) and his wife, Sylvia (Sue Lyon, who years previously played Lolita).  Andrew spends a lot of time sitting in front of a boxy computer and staring at the screen.  He’s picking up strange transmissions from space and he’s trying to translate them.  Andrew goes home.  He and his wife got a party.  Andrew sits in front of the computer a while longer.  Andrew goes home.  Andrew goes to work.  Andrew keeps staring at the computer….

“Wait,” you’re saying at this point, “isn’t this is a Christopher Lee movie?”

Yes, it is.  Christopher Lee is indeed top-billed and he’s hardly in the movie at all.  I’d like to think that, when asked why by an intrepid reporter why he agreed to star in End of the World, Lee laughed and replied, “For the money, of course.”  But, according to Lee’s autobiography, he did the film because he was told that he would be appearing with a cast of distinguished actors like Jose Ferrer, Dean Jagger, and John Carradine.  Now, Dean Jagger does have a small cameo in the film but Ferrer and Carradine are nowhere to be seen.  Either they left the production or someone lied to Sir Christopher!

Anyway, back to the plot.  Eventually, Andrew figures out that the space transmissions are predicting natural disasters.  We don’t actually see any of these disasters because, after all, this is the end of the world on a very low budget.  But we are assured that the disasters are happening.  Andrew and Sylvia discover that the transmissions are coming from a convent in the middle of the desert.  Andrew and Sylvia go to investigate and they discover that the nuns are….


Now, this is actually a pretty good twist and there are some vaguely humorous scenes of the the nuns working in a space lab.  It turns out that the nuns (and one of the Christopher Lees) are stranded on this planet because their spaceship broke down.  They don’t really like Earth, considering it to be an ugly and polluted place.  They’re planning on ending the world but they need to leave before the whole place blows up.  They demand that Andrew help them fix their transporter and they’re going to hold Sylvia hostage until he does so….

It’s all a bit silly but, as you’re watching the film, you can’t help but wish that it had been even sillier.  I mean, alien nuns and Father Christopher Lee?  That sounds like the makings of a certain type of classic!  But, unfortunately, the film never fully embraces the full potential of its absurdity.  It takes forever for Andrew and Sylvia to actually reach that convent and even the alien nuns become rather passé after a few minutes.  Christopher Lee is fun to watch as always and his character’s irritation with being stuck on Earth was obviously mirrored by Lee’s irritation with being in the film.  And, despite all else, let’s give credit where credit it is due — the title lives up to its promise.  The world may end in a pile of stock footage but an end is an end.

Anyway, this one is pretty much for Christopher Lee completists only.  Watch the opening and then fast forward to the end.

Creepshow, S1 Ep 1, “Gray Matter” “The House of the Head” Review by Case Wright


Happy Horrorthon! We are in the thick of it and it is AWESOME! Yes, I got another streaming subscription service, but I draw the line at Disney and CBS because they’re boring.  In 1982, Creepshow was a film written, produced, and directed by horror masters, including Stephen King.  The stories were an homage to the EC Horror Comics from the 1950s and 1960s.  The show has become reincarnated on the Shudder streaming service and I will review all of the episodes as they are released.

What’s great about these shows (except for Two Sentence Horror, which is a steaming pile of garbage) is that they give talented people a chance to direct or write when they haven’t had the opportunity prior. Also, because Greg Nicotero (Executive Producer Of The Walking Dead and friend to everyone in horror) is helming it, the show has tremendous access to great stories by Stephen King and actors like Tobin Bell (Saw) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad).

The two stories in the premiere were Gray Matter – a Stephen King short story from Night Shift, Directed by Greg Nicotero and The House of the Head was the second story and was Directed by John Harrison, written by Josh Malerman.  The two stories and direction were completely different.

Gray Matter was what I expected: an over the top story with lots of gore that would have been totally at home in a Tales From the Crypt episode.  The House of the Head, on the other hand was genuinely TERRIFYING! I had trouble watching this story because it was so intense that I really worried about the characters and the figurines- I’ll explain later.

Gray Matter is about a son who’s trying to live with his alcoholic single dad.  Everyday the Dad promises to stop drinking and everyday it ends with both of them disappointed.

One day, the father drinks some tainted beer and turns into a slime monster with a craving for beer and people.  The son who enabled his father’s drinking now enables his father’s thirst for human flesh.

This enabling dooms mankind. In essence, the disease of alcoholism consumed the alcoholic and destroyed everyone around him. Sounds about right.

At this time in the 1980s, Stephen King was in the worst period of his cocaine and alcohol addiction and many of his stories revolve around the enabling and tragedy that followed his disease.  In an interview, he described how he put cotton balls up his nose from the frequent bleeds and he kept a sugar bowl filled with cocaine next to him while he wrote.

The symbolism in the episode was not that obvious; it was much into dramatic performances and gore. The monster was a classic Tom Savini art work.

The House of the Head was amazingly unexpected.  It was tense, subtle, and had you on the edge of your seat for the entire episode.  Evie, the central protagonist in The House of the Head, is a nine year old girl whose father got her a dollhouse. Screenshot (98).png

The dollhouse is adorable with cute figurine parents and a child.

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Unfortunately, the dollhouse is also haunted by a severed head!!!! Yikes!

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The writing and direction ramps up the tension as we see that reality is being blurred by this supernatural entity.  The figurines in the dollhouse get terrorized and murdered by the severed head.  It’s real nightmare fuel.

The suspense/thriller writing and directing was also unexpected.  I thought it was going to be a Tales From the Crypt style story; instead John Harrison (Dir) and Josh Malerman (Writer) relentlessly pull the viewer into the haunted dollhouse where every shot is filled with uncertainty and terror.

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The dollhouse itself becomes a character and the viewer is forced to wonder if our protagonist and her parents are in fact figurines themselves with shots like this.

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The parents are laying in an doll-like manner and the furniture also looks like a dollhouse’s accessories. Is the Head pulling them into a dollhouse world? Is it pushing its way into our reality? Much like the episode itself, you never really know. Every time Evie looks from one room to another, the camera pans back and the figurines have changed and it’s rarely good.

This show was a lot of fun and it’s great to see a horror anthology story done well!

It’s not really enough to recommend this show without recommending Shudder itself. It’s not a lot of money per month and has a lot of original programming.

Robotic Vengeance: Steel and Lace (1991, directed by Ernest Farino)

On trial for raping concert pianist Gally Morton (Clare Wren), evil businessman Daniel Emerson (Michael Cerveris) gets four of his sleazy buddies to provide a fake alibi for him.  After Emerson is acquitted, Gally goes to the roof of the courthouse and leaps to her death.

Five years later, Daniel and his four friends have made a fortune by illegally foreclosing on people’s houses.  They may think that they’ve gotten away with their crimes but what they don’t know is that Gally’s brother, Albert (Bruce Davison), has been building a robot version of his sister.  Soon, Robot Gally is killing off all of Emerson’s friends while a courtroom sketch artist named Alison (Stacy Haiduk) and a detective named Dunn (David Naughton) attempt to figure out what’s going on.

A mix of The Terminator and I Spit On Your Grave, Steel and Lace is a classic of its kind.  While the deaths are inventive and, considering who Robot Gally is killing, deserved, what really sets the film apart is the strong cast and the inventive direction.  Director Ernest Farino wastes no time getting down to business and he inventively opens the film by cutting back and forth between Emerson assaulting Gally and the jury acquitting him of the crime that we just saw him commit.  Davison is not in the film as much as you might expect but he still makes an impression as the fanatical Albert and Naughton and Haiduk are likable even if their scenes sometimes feel like padding.  Best of all is Clare Wren, an actress who deserved to be a bigger star and who is convincing both as the fragile Gally and as the vengeance-driven robot.  Robot Gally eventually comes to question whether justice is truly be served by all of the killings and Wren sells it.  Also be sure to keep an eye out for David L. Lander, playing the prerequisite eccentric coronor.  (Has there ever been a movie coroner who wasn’t an eccentric?)  Finally, Brian Backer — who will be forever known for playing nice guy Mark Ratner in Fast Times At Ridgemont High — is effectively cast against type as one of Emerson’s stooges.

Steel and Lace is one of the best low-budget films to come out of the early 90s, a deeply satisfying tale of robotics and vengeance.

Video Game Review: Hamburger Hell (1986, J.P. Jansen)

In this game, you are working in a fast food restaurant.  Your goal is to make as many hamburgers as possible.  The more hamburgers you make, the more money the restaurant makes and the more your boss likes you.

Sounds simple, right?

Think again!

In this restaurant, it’s not just about knowing when to flip the burger.  Instead, you have to climb to the top of a ladder and push each ingredient down a level, one-by-one.  (That’s you, at the bottom of the third ladder.)  Making things extra difficult is that there’s a ghost running up and down the ladders.  The more hamburgers you make, the faster the ghost becomes.  If the ghost touches you, you die.  You come right back to life the first four times.  But after the fourth time, this happens:

This is an intentionally dumb but very addictive game.  You can play it at the Internet Archive.

Eat well and watch out for that ghost!

Horror Scenes That I Love: Jack Meets Lloyd in The Shining

The scene below is, of course, from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece, The Shining.

In this scene, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) stumbles into the Overlook Hotel’s ballroom, still fuming over having been accused of abusing his son.  A recovering alcoholic, Jack sits at the bar and thinks about how he would give up his soul for just one one drink.  And, on cue, Lloyd (Joe Turkel) appears.

As I was watching this scene, it occurred to me that, way back in 1980, there probably was some guy named Lloyd who saw this movie in a theater and was probably totally shocked when Jack suddenly stared straight at him and said, “Hey, Lloyd.”

The brilliance of this scene is that we never actually see Lloyd materialize.  We see him only after Jack has seen him.  So, yes, Lloyd could be a ghost.  But he could also just be a figment of Jack’s imagination.  Jack very well could just be suffering from cabin fever.  Of course, by the end of the movie, we learn the truth.

Everyone always talks about Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack.  Some people love it and some people hate it.  (I’m in the first camp.)  However, let’s take a minute to appreciate just how totally creepy Joe Turkel is in this scene.  Turkel was a veteran character actor and had appeared in two previous Kubrick films, The Killing and Paths of Glory.  Two years after appearing in The Shining, Turkel played what may be his best-known role, Dr. Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner.

From Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, here’s Jack Nicholson and Joe Turkel:

Horror Book Review: Encyclopedia Of Vampire Mythology by Theresa Bane

Now, here’s the interesting thing about vampires:

They’ve been around forever.

Seriously, long before Bram Stoker first put pen to paper, there were legends about vampires.  Of course, they weren’t always called vampires.  In the Middle East, there was talk of the Afrit, which was the soul of a murdered person who would return to the spot of its death and drink the blood of anyone unlucky enough to cross it.  In Macedonia, it was said that certain people who had lived wicked lives and never eaten pork would return to life as a blood-drinking wild boar.  In Iceland, it was the Alfemoe who sucked blood while the ancient Greeks could tell you all about Empusa, who drank blood to maintain a youthful appearance.

Of course, we all know that vampires don’t exist, or at least they don’t exist as supernatural creatures.  Still, it is somewhat amazing that all of these different societies and cultures developed essentially the same myth at roughly the same time, despite not having much contact with each other.  There is just something universal about both the threat and the allure of the vampire.

With all of the different legends out there, it can be difficult to keep your mythological vampires straight.  Fortunately, the Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology is here to help!  Written by a vampirologist (albeit one who goes out of her way to make sure that we understand that she personally doesn’t believe in them), this encyclopedia has entries for all of the various mythological vampires and their legends.  With the exception of Dracula, this encyclopedia doesn’t include any of the “fictional” vampires from television or film.  If you’re looking for an entry on Angel or Edward Cullen, this is not the place to look.  But what the book does have is entries on the legendary beings who came before the celebrity vampires of today.  It makes for interesting reading and it also serves as a reminder that there’s more to the vampire legend than what we’ve seen in the movies or read in novels.

For both authors and readers of vampire fiction, the Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology is a valuable resource.


International Horror Film Review: House (dir by Nobuhiko Obayashi)

The 1977 Japanese horror film, House, opens with a teenage girl named Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) who is excited about the start of summer.  Her father has finally returned home from Italy, where he was scoring a film for Sergio Leone.  (Supposedly, Leone said that her father was even more talented than Ennio Morricone!)  However, Gorgeous is upset to discover that her father has remarried and she has a new stepmother!  No longer wanting to be around her father, Gorgeous writes to her aunt and asks if she can spend the summer with her.  Gorgeous’s aunt (Yōko Minamida) agrees and invites Gorgeous to visit the country house where she lives with a white cat.

However, Gorgeous will not be traveling on her own.  She’s bringing six of her school friends with her!  Like Gorgeous, all of them have trait-appropriate names.

For instance, Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo) is athletic and good at kung fu.

Prof (Ali Matsubara) is intelligent and wears glasses.

Fantasy (Kumiko Oba) is a daydreamer.

Mac (Mieko Sato) enjoys eating.

Melody (Eriko Tanaka) plays music.

Sweet (Masayo Miyako) is …. well, sweet.

They’re all fun, cheerful, optimistic, and good-natured.  (They also all have a crush on their teacher, Mr. Togo (Kiyohiko Ozaki),  goofy fellow with sideburns and an old car.)  As soon as the girls arrive at Auntie’s house, they present her with a watermelon and then take a tour of the old house.  They all take the time to notice Auntie’s white cat, who is adorable but seems to have a little bit of an attitude.  Everyone’s happy and perky and it truly appears that this is going to be the greatest summer of their lives….

Of course, not everything’s perfect.  There are a few complications.  For instance, Gorgeous is still upset about her father remarrying and chooses to go off on her own. Mac goes out to the well and then doesn’t return.  However, her head is later seen floating around the house and biting the other girls.  One girl gets eaten by a clock.  Another loses her hands while playing the piano.  The piano then proceeds to eat the girl while Mac’s disembodied head giggles and says, “Naughty!”  Soon, there are body parts flying around all over the house and the downstairs is flooded with blood.  The cat, it must be said, appears to be rather amused….

I don’t know if words alone can convey what a strange movie House is.  This really is one of those movies that has to be seen to believed.  In many ways, it feels like a children’s film made by someone who really dislikes children.  Everything starts out very happily, with bright colors, frantic camera work, corny humor, and cheerful music playing in the background.  There’s even several incidences of deliberately crude, pop art-style animation sprinkled throughout the film.  Then the girls reach the house and suddenly, everyone’s screaming and there’s blood spurting everywhere and disembodies heads and other limbs flying around and yet, the tone of the film doesn’t change.  The music remains cheerful.  The humor remains corny, especially in the scenes involving hapless Mr. Togo and his attempts to rescue the girls, and the film’s special effects remains deliberately crude.  At the same time, there’s an interesting subtext to the film.  Gorgeous’s aunt is bitter over the death of her lover, who never returned from World War II.  When Gorgeous meets her new stepmother, the sky glows with an almost atomic intensity and one unfortunate character is literally vaporized into nothing.  The old house is literally eating the young, perhaps to punish them for being the first generation to be born after the end of the war and to have no firsthand experience with the twin traumas of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As I said, it’s a weird, weird movie.  It’s also an incredibly watchable one, one that comes very close to capturing the feel of a filmed dream.  It’s not for everyone, this oddly cheerful bloodbath.  But I’d still recommend watching it at least once.

Lifetime Film Review: The Madam of Purity Falls (dir by Sam Irvin)

One of the first rules of moving to a new place, avoid any location that has a potentially ironic name.

Seriously, don’t live near a virgin spring.  Don’t move into the house at the end of Charity Drive.  Avoid Peaceful Meadows at all costs.  Happy Street?  Don’t even think about it.  And Purity Falls?

Listen, there’s no way that moving to a town called Purity Falls is a good idea.

Still, that’s what Nicole and her children do in the Lifetime film, The Madam of Purity Falls.  The recently widowed Nicole (Kristanna Loken) even gets a job as the guidance counselor at Purity Falls High School!  Since the family is still struggling to come to terms with the death of Nicole’s husband and the children’s father, the hope is that a new home can help them move on.  Younger sister Justine (Sloane Avery) is willing to give it a try.  But older brother Jason (Trevor Stines) is resistant from the beginning.  Even meeting and befriending Chad (Jonathan Bouvier) doesn’t seem to help with Jason’s angst.  Of course, Chad is soon found floating in a swimming pool, dead.  Can you believe such a thing could happen in Purity Falls?

Trying to adjust to a new school, Jason joins the wrestling team and even meets a girl who seems to like him.  But how can Jason go on a date when he doesn’t have a car!?  And how can he get a car if he doesn’t have any money!?  Hey, wait a minute.  Didn’t his new neighbor, Courtney (Olivia d’Abo), mention that she had some odd jobs that she needed done around the house and that she would be willing to pay him to do them?  At first, Jason is reluctant to work for Courtney but one of his fellow wrestling teammates assures him that working for Courtney will be the greatest experience of his life.

Courtney has a nice big house and a lucrative job selling organic cosmetics.  Everyone in Purity Falls seems to know her.  She puts Jason right to work, paying him for landscaping and sex.  Realizing that there’s a lot of money to be made from being a suburban prostitute, Jason agrees to become one of Courtney’s “boys.”  Soon, he’s sleeping with almost every frustrated housewife in Purity Falls, making all sorts of money, and getting into all sorts of danger!

Of course, Nicole is curious as to why her son keeps sneaking out of the house and then staying out for so long.  And some of Jason’s clients are into some things that make Jason uneasy.  And, of course, there’s the fact that people are dying.  Hmmmm …. being a suburban prostitute might not be as easy as it looks!  But is Jason already in too deep to escape his new life?

The Madam of Purity Falls is an enjoyably over-the-top in execution as it is in its name.  This is one of those films where everyone lives in a nice, big house and they’ve all got nice, big secrets to hide.  Don’t take the film too seriously.  Just enjoy it for the melodrama and the sex and for Olivia d’Abo’s enjoyably villainous turn as the Madam of Purity Falls.