Horror on TV: The Veil Episode 3 “Food On The Table” (dir by Frank P. Bipas)


Tonight’s episode of The Veil features Boris Karloff as not only the host but also the star of the show!

Karloff plays Captain Elwood, a sea captain who is desperate to be rid of his wife so he can marry a woman who is about to come into a large sum of money.  Elwood plots out his wife’s murder but, as usually happens in stories like this, it turns out that getting her out of his life won’t be as simple as he originally assumed.

This is an enjoyably macabre little ghost story.  Karloff gives a great performance as a truly despicable man.  From what I’ve read, the real Boris Karloff was an unfailingly polite and very kindly gentleman so it’s always interesting (at least to me!) to consider that he would become famous for playing monsters and madmen.  He certainly gives a good performance here!

Enjoy!

Terminator Redux: Eve of Destruction (1991, directed by Duncan Gibbins)


When Eve VIII (Renée Soutendijk), a robot that has been designed so that she can pass for a human, is taken on a test run though the city, things go terribly wrong when she gets caught up in a bank robbery.  When one of the robbers shoots her, it scrambles her circuits and causes her to switch into combat mode.  For some reason, someone thought it would be a good idea to install the equivalent of a nuclear bomb inside the robot so now, Eve VIII is wandering around the city, killing anyone who shes views as being a danger, and threatening to send both herself and everyone up in a nuclear fireball.

Realizing that Eve VIII’s test run has become a national emergency, the military calls in the best operative they’ve got and he turns out to be … Gregory Hines!?  The legendary Broadway song-and-dance man plays Colonel John McQuade, a special operative who has seen action in all of the world’s hot spots.  McQuade works with Eve VIII’s creator, Dr. Eve Simmons (also played by Renée Soutendijk) to try to track down the robot before it’s too late.  In a move that makes as much sense as installing the equivalent of a nuclear bomb inside of her, Eve VIII has also been programmed to have the same traumatic memories as her creator.  When Eve VIII destroys a cheap motel that Eve Simmons used to wonder about, McQuade announces that the key to trapping the robot is for Dr. Simmons to reval all of her “teenage sexual fantasies!”

The idea of a robot having and acting upon all of the repressed memories and desires of its creator is a good one but Eve of Destruction doesn’t do much with it.  Once McQuade and Dr. Simmons head off in pursuit of Eve VIII, it becomes just another low-budget Terminator rip-off.  Gregory Hines deals with being miscast by yelling all of his lines.  Renée Soutendijk does better as both Eve VIII and Dr. Simmons and even manages to generate some sympathy for the killer robot.  Interestingly, Soutendijk is best known for her work with Paul Verhoeven, whose RoboCop was an obviously influence on Eve of Destruction.

Eve of Destruction is a forgettable killer robot film from an era that was full of them.  Most disappointing of all is that Barry McGuire is nowhere to be heard.  If you do see the film, keep an eye out for the great Kevin McCarthy, playing yet another befuddled victim and, for some reason, going uncredited.

Game Review: The Haunted House of Hideous Horrors (2002, David Whyld)


You’re a pizza delivery man!  Mr. Desther has ordered a pizza but when you arrives at his house, he tells you that he has a problem with ghosts.  They’re all over his home and he wants you to get rid of them.  And if you don’t get rid of them, he’s not going to give you a tip.  At first, you’re reluctant to get involved but then he offers you £15.  (That’s $18.88 for our American readers.)  You’ll get rid of the ghosts at the risk of your own life and sanity.  And if you don’t do it, Mr. Desther’s pizza is free!

The Haunted House of Hideous Horrors is a short and simple text adventure.  It was designed for ADRIFT 4.0, which is the easiest IF interpreter to program for.  Unfortunately, ADRIFT’s vocabulary is also extremely limited so playing an ADRIFT game can often feel like an extended session of guess-the-verb.  That’s not as much of a problem in The Haunted House of Hideous Horrors as it is in other ADRIFT games.  David Whyld keeps things from getting too complicated or frustrating, though there is one notable moment when you’re told that you’ve entered a room that contains a dead body but, whenever you try to “look body” or “examine corpse,” you get a “There’s no such thing here” message.

There’s only one way to die in this game but you’re given so much advance warning that, if you die, it’ll mostly be due to your lack of reading comprehension.  Once you get used to the natural limitations of the ADRIFT story engine, this is a simple but enjoyable haunted house game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Download the game and, if need be, ADRIFT for free, get in that house, and earn your tip!

Scenes That I Love: Jonathan Harker Meets A Vampire Bride in Horror of Dracula


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from the classic 1958 British film, Horror of Dracula.  Horror of Dracula was not only one of my favorite horror films but iit was also a favorite of Gary’s as well and, as I spend today considering how best to honor his memory and his love of cinema, sharing a scene from this film just feels very appropriate.

Horror of Dracula was not only the film that introduced the world to Christopher Lee as Dracula but it was also the film that, for lack of a better term, “rebooted” the whole Dracula legend.  It was the film that showed that Dracula could still be intriguing and frightening in the modern era.  Even more so than the original Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, the Hammer Dracula films — and Lee’s performance as Dracula — have influenced every vampire film that has come out since.

In this scene, Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) leaves his room at Castle Dracula and runs into one of Dracula’s brides (Valerie Gaunt).  Lee’s Dracula doesn’t make an entrance until towards the end of the scene but what an entrance it is!

This scene epitomizes everything that made the Hammer Dracula films so memorable.  You’ve got sex, horror, and Christopher Lee playing Dracula.  What had before merely been the subtext in previous vampire films was revealed by Hammer in all of its glory.

Enjoy!

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Book Review by Case Wright


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Happy Horrorthon! Have you ever read something so dark you felt unclean? My Favorite Thing is Monsters gave me that feeling. The reason I felt unclean is because the situations appeared to be based upon real events in Chicago in 1968 and earlier in Europe. Apparently, everyone in Uptown Chicago in the 1960s and in Germany from the 1920s-1940s was just a terrible person who preyed upon the weak, put their own needs first, and made foolish decisions.

Am I being harsh? No….No, I’m not.  When a person can question you, “Didn’t the child being sold into prostitution plot sicken you?” and you have to respond, “Which time?” you wonder why this was written at all?  Was Emil Ferris’ having an iced tea one summer and thought, “Hmmmm the world seems like it’s missing something….I got it! … the world is missing a murder mystery that revolves around terrible people who actually deserve to be dead.” By the last few pages, I was rooting for Chicago to be hit be a meteor- it’s the only way to be sure.  I know … I know… but Case, so many people liked this book… how dare you buck the literary zeitgeist?! I write… tough! This book is beautifully illustrated, but straight up gross and a pain to read.

The central focus of the story is solving the murder of Anka who has a mysterious and dark past … and when I write Dark Past… I mean the absolutely worst life ever.  Anka is the ONLY Holocaust survivor who is not sympathetic! Why?! Because in order to escape the Holocaust, she made a deal with a Nazi pederast to take 6 young children from the camp and force them into child prostitution and be raped by Anka’s Nazi pederast benefactor and other Nazis for the rest of their lives.  Yes, that happened! This book was recommended by a parent whose daughter was friends with my daughter and she “loved it, it’s my favorite book”… ok, I’m never speaking with her again!

The plot begins with Anka’s body found in her apartment, shot in the chest, and with no forced entry.  Karen Reyes, the ten-year-old main character, does not believe the police’s determination that it was a suicide.  Therefore, Karen dons a trench coat and detective hat and gets on the case.  By gets on the case, I mean Karen goes on a meandering journey of self-discovery and repeatedly ignores the two most obvious suspects: Anka’s jealous husband and her brother who is a part-time tattoo artist, murderer, who bedded Anka who was married (I should note: the brother bedded Anka while she was alive because this book would go there if it could and probably will in the sequel), and quasi-philosopher.

The book does have a redeeming feature: the art is beautiful, which is maybe a symbolic statement about the world itself; the world is beautiful, but the monsters (people) are the ones who make it ugly.

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Karen sees the entire world through art and monsters and draws herself as a short werewolf in the story.  She finds out more information about Anka – She was born in Germany shortly after WWI. Her mother sold her into child prostitution twice and Anka garnered a pederast benefactor Schultz who is described above.

Germany is described much like Chicago, an evil place filled with predators, who seek to dominate and murder for their lusts.  My big complaint is that this behavior is never really judged harshly by the author; it’s matter of fact and without contempt.

Back in Chicago, her brother Deez would use his tattoos as a form of ownership over his female conquests.  The most relevant conquest was Anka, who was extremely mentally ill by the time she moved to Chicago, but that didn’t stop Deez. He also liked to tattoo her back after he would take advantage of her sexually.  It was beyond disturbing.  Later, in the story, their mother gets cancer and needs medical care.  Deez gets drafted, but doesn’t go.  You’d think he would accept the draft because it would give his family greater stability, nope; instead, Deez continues down the road of hedonism and violence. Then, I truly despise him.

The characters who are decent human beings are subjected to constant degradation, humiliation, and physical violence.  The best thing about this book was that it ended.  You don’t even find out who killed Anka for sure at the end of the book because apparently there is a hunger for a sequel for this.  Maybe we should keep track of the fans of the people who enjoyed this book- light monitoring only. Who am I kidding?! ROUND THE CLOCK SURVEILLANCE!

A Blast From The Past: Responsibility (dir by Herk Harvey)


Director Herk Harvey

The year is 1953 and a rural high school — maybe one that’s a lot like yours — is in chaos!

That’s the idea behind Responsibility, a short film that was apparently designed to make students think about the importance of …. well, responsibility.  Narrated by a rather judgmental principal, Responsibility tells the story of two teenagers.  Lloyd is responsible and mature and boring and probably is destined for a middle management job at the local feed store.  Hank is a new student with a chip on his shoulder and a haircut that screams “trouble.”  Hank is irresponsible but charismatic and, in the real world, there’s absolutely no question who would be the more popular of the two.

However, this is a short film from the 50s so we’re thrown into this weird fantasy world where students actually give serious thought to their options before voting in student elections.  It’s a world where everyone might like Hank better but they just can’t forgive him for blowing off class and losing the big debate tournament.  It’s world where boring old Lloyd could possibly be a more appealing choice than a rebel in a leather jacket.

Lloyd and Hank are friends but that doesn’t stop them from both running for president of the student body.  The initial vote is tied but there is one absentee ballot.  That ballot will determine who will become the new president — unless, of course, the absentee student has a sense of humor and wrote in their own name, like I always used to do.

“Who would you vote for?” the principal asks.

Me?  Why, Gary Johnson, of course!

This is yet another educational short film from Herk Harvey.  Harvey made a career out of doing films like this but, today, he’s best remembered for directing the classic horror film, Carnival of Souls.  We’ll be watching Carnival of Souls later this month.  For now, enjoy Responsibility and ask yourself …. “Who would you vote for?”

Guilty Pleasure No. 42: Harper’s Island


Oh my God, do you remember Harper’s Island!?

Way before The Walking Dead and American Horror Story made death and gore safe for mass consumption, Harper’s Island was the scariest show on television.  I have to admit that, when I first heard about the show, I wasn’t expecting it to be.  Way back in 2009, whenever the commercials for the show would air and that little girl would go, “One by one,” I would roll my eyes so hard that I once nearly gave myself a concussion.

“Really?” I would say, “A slasher television show where at least one person dies every week?  And it’s going to be on network TV?  There’s no way this is going to be bloody or scary enough to be worth watching.”

However, I did watch the first episode because I figured that I could at least be snarky about it on twitter.  (I had joined just a few months before the show premiered.  Harper’s Island was the first show that I ever live tweeted, even though I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as “live tweeting” way back then.)  The episode opened with a man tied to the propeller of a boat, screaming as the engine started.  The episode ended with Uncle Marty (played by special guest star Harry Hamlin) getting chopped in half by an unseen assailant.

“AGCK!” I said.

I was hooked from that episode on.

 

Believe it or not, Harper’s Island wasn’t just killings.  It actually did tell a story, about a young woman named Abby (played by Elaine Cassidy) who returns to her childhood home, on Harper’s Island, for her best friend’s wedding.  Many years ago, Abby’s mother was among those who was killed by a serial killer named John Wakefield.  From the minute that Abby arrives, she feels that something bad is going to happen and it turns out that she’s right.

Of course, Abby’s not the only one on the island.  There’s the other members of the wedding party.  There’s the island’s inhabitants, the fishermen and the deputies and the cafe owner and the local reverend whose destined to lose his head in the woods.  They’ve all got their quirks and subplots.  Boisterous Malcolm (Chris Gauthier) is in desperate need of money.  Local fisherman Jimmy (C.J. Thomason) is still in love with Abby.  The groom, Henry (Christopher Gorham), has issues from his past that he needs to deal with.  Some of them are likable.  Some of them are annoying.  Some of them, like spoiled Chloe (Cameron Richardson), are meant to be annoying but become likable as the series progresses.

And, in the end, none of their hopes and dreams really mattered because, by the end of the show, everyone was pretty much dead.  The ads for Harper’s Island promised a bloodbath and that’s what the show delivered.  It wasn’t just that at least one person died per week.  It was also that they usually died in the most macabre and disturbing ways possible.  This was the type of the show where the most likable groomsman ended up getting chopped into pieces and then tossed into an incinerator.  Another wedding guest chose to drown herself rather than be attacked by the killer.  Sometimes, the killers didn’t even have to be around for someone to get killed.  Who can forget poor Booth (played by Sean Rogerson), accidentally shooting himself in the leg and bleeding out while America watched?

And yes, you did watch every week because you wanted to see who would be the next to die.  (That’s where the guilty part of the pleasure comes in.)  But you also watched because the show was produced and directed so well.  The island was a wonderfully atmospheric location and the cast really committed themselves to bringing the show’s morbid reality to life.  At the time, it was the darkest show on television and it could have been even darker because, originally, the plan was for the killer to get away with it.  In the end, karma caught up with the killer but not before we were all traumatized upon discovering just who was responsible.  Harper’s Island‘s mystery was as intriguing as its deaths were bloody.

Being ahead of its time, Harper’s Island struggled in the ratings and it was never a big hit with critics.  But, with the help of Netflix and the the occasional marathon on SyFy, Harper’s Island‘s reputation has improved and grown over the years.  Looking back, it’s easy to see that Harper’s Island was not only the forerunner to American Horror Story but it was also a far better series.  American Horror Story tends to condescend to the horror, keeping the genre at arm’s length through misdirected pretension.  It’s a show for people who think that they’re too good for horror.  Harper’s Island, on the other hand, fully embraced both the horror and the melodrama and it did so without apology.

Seriously, what Halloween is complete without a trip to Harper’s Island?

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer
  40. Parking Wars
  41. The Dead Are After Me