Horror On TV: Suspense 2.5 “Dr. Violet” (dir by Robert Stevens)

I think it’s fairly safe to say that wax museums are inherently creepy.

I mean, don’t get me wrong.  If I see a wax museum off of the side of the road, I’m definitely going to visit it, if just so I can find the Hall of Presidents and give the finger to FDR.  (It’s a long story.)  But that said, wax museums are definitely not some place where you would want to get accidentally locked in.

Well, in tonight’s episode of Suspense, that’s exactly what happens to one unfortunate college student.  AGCK!

This episode originally aired on October 4th, 1949 and it has a very impressive cast that will be familiar to anyone who has ever spent a few hours watching TCM: Anne Francis, Hume Cronyn, Ray Waltson, Evelyn Varden, and Mike Kellin are all featured.


“The Death Of The Master,” The End Of An Era

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Last month’s release of Patrick Kyle’s The Death Of The Master from Koyama Press was both an auspicious and somber occasion — auspicious because it marked the ambitious fleshing-out of a self-published mini into a 244-page “graphic novel” of remarkable texture and character, somber because it meant the end of the road for an exceptionally fruitful relationship between cartoonist and publisher that’s offered readers a privileged glimpse at the upward trajectory of the former’s artistic development with the latter’s full faith and support every step of the way. We’re all going to miss Annie Koyama’s publishing efforts when she fully transitions into “patronage mode” after next year, it’s true, but no one will miss her more than the talented people she’s shepherded from “promising newcomer” to “fully-formed, utterly unique creator.”

Certainly last year’s Roaming Foliage offered lead pipe-cinch evidence that Kyle had completed that trek from point A to point…

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The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Lisa (dir by Gary Sherman)


So, here’s the thing about Lisa, a horror-thriller from 1990 that shows up occasionally on This TV.

It’s got a great title.

Seriously, this film has got one of the greatest titles of all time. I would almost say that you really don’t even have to pay attention to the movie because the title itself is so perfect that the plot doesn’t even matter.  The only thing that would make this title even better would be if they had added a “Marie” to the end of it but oh well.  You can’t have everything.

This is a movie about a girl named Lisa and, speaking as a girl named Lisa, I have to say that it’s incredibly true to life.  Lisa (Staci Keanan) is a smart and amazingly talented 14 years old and not alllowed to date by her incredibly overprotective mother, Katherine (Cheyl Holland).  So, instead of dating, Lisa spends her time stalking a serial killer.  See, Katherine thought she was protecting her daughter but instead, she’s only inspired her to take an even greater risk.  That’s why you need to let the Lisas in your life do what they want.

Admittedly, Lisa doesn’t know that Richard (D.W. Moffett) is a serial killer.  She doesn’t even know that he owns a successful restaurant.  All she knows is that he looks like a model and he drives a nice car and it’s fun to follow him around Venice Beach.  When she jots down his license plate numbers, she hacks the DMV to get his name, address, and phone number.  Soon, Lisa is calling him up and having flirtatious conversations with him.


It’s all good fun, except for the fact that Richard is also known as The Candelight Killer and he’s got a thing about calling people and leaving them messages right before he kills them.  It’s all very ritualized.  For instance, it’s very important that his victims be in the process of listening to his message when he kills them.  To be honest, though, that sounds like he’s taking a lot of risks.  I mean, what if someone came home and didn’t immediately check their messages?  Would Richard just have to hide behind the drapes for hours until the did?  Of course, Richard would be even more out of luck if this movie were made today because who has an answering machine anymore?

Anyway, Richard is obsessed with discovering who is stalking him and Katherine is obsessed with keeping Lisa out of danger and Lisa just wants to actually be allowed to full celebrate having the greatest name ever.  Did you know, for instance, that Lisa may have started out as a shortened form of Elizabeth but that it became so popular on its own that it was one of the most popular names in both the United States and the United Kingdom for several decades?  And, even though it’s no longer in the top ten as far as names are concerned, being named Lisa is still one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed upon anyone?  Lisa means God’s Promise by the way.  And….


What?  Oh yeah, the movie.

Well, anyway, it all leads to pretty much what you’re expecting it to lead to.  Plotwise, the movie may be predictable but the Staci Keanan, Cheryl Ladd, and D.W. Moffett all gives good performances and director Gary Sherman keeps the action moving at a steady pace.  It’s dumb but entertaining, kinda like cinematic junk food.  Plus, it has a great title.  What more do you need?


You Have To Pay The Bills Somehow: The Maddening (1995, directed by Danny Huston)

Because her husband’s a dick who spends too much time working and not enough time taking the day off, Cassie (Mia Sara) grabs her five year-old daughter, Samantha (Kayla Buglewicz) and heads off for her sister’s house.  When Cassie stops at a gas station to fill up the car, she’s spotted by seedy Roy Scudder (Burt Reynolds!).  Roy puts down his cigar long enough to tamper with her car.  When it breaks down a few miles down the role, Roy drives up and offers Cassie and Samantha a ride back to his place, where he can fix her car or where she can at least call for hep.  Not realizing that she’s in a direct-to-video horror movie, Cassie accepts.

Big mistake!  Roy’s wife, Georgina (Angie Dickinson!), has not been the same since the mysterious death of her son and Georgina and Roy’s other child, Jill (Candace Huston, daughter of the film’s director and granddaughter of John Huston), needs a playmate.  Roy has decided that Samantha fits the bill.  Cassie is locked in a room while Samantha is turned into Jill’s slave and Roy deals with the angry ghost of his abusive father (William Hickey!).

You have to feel bad for Burt Reynolds.  He made this film at a time when his career was in decline.  His TV show was no longer on the air.  Boogie Nights was still two years away.  The man had bills to pay.  Can you blame Burt for accepting any role that came his way, especially if it meant a chance to co-star with Angie Dickinson and be directed by the son of John Huston?  Reynolds was famous for hating even his good films so you can only imagine what he must have thought about The Maddening.  Fortunately, since Burt was playing a total psycho in The Maddening, he could at least channel his feeling into the role.  Throughout ever minute of The Maddening, Burt is totally and thoroughly unhinged and angry in the way that only the former number one star in America could be upon having to settle for a role in a direct-to-video horror film.  He yells at his ghost father.  He slits throats.  He beats people into unconsciousness.  He does everything that a normal movie psycho does but, when he does it, it’s even more memorable because he’s Burt Reynolds.  Burt and Angie Dickinson playing the type of role that Bette Davis would have played for Robert Aldrich in the 60s are not just the main reasons to watch this movie.  They’re the only reasons.

This was Burt’s only horror film and it’s too bad that it couldn’t have been a better one.  But if it helped Burt keep the lights on during the lean years of the early 90s, good.

Game Review: Dwelling: Insomnia (2014, 0vr)

This piece of interactive fiction is a strange game.  I’m not quite sure how else to describe it.

The premise is a simple one.  Each night, you try to sleep.  Every night, you are awoken by someone or something pounding on your door.  Every.  Single.  Night.  In Choose Your Own Adventure fashion, you are given a set of options.  Do you try to go back to sleep or do you go to the door?  Do you look through the peephole or do you return to bed?  Open the door or hide?  Left or right?  At every step, you’re given the option to explore further or to try to return to safety.  The problem is that if you make the wrong choice, you might make it back to your apartment in one piece but you’re still going to be woken up the following night.  Make the right choice and something bad might still happen to you but at least you’ll no longer be woken up in the middle of the night.

What makes the game so strange is the way that it constantly loops back to the beginning, until you finally make the “right” choices.  The only thing that changes is the number that lets you know how many nights you’ve been woken up by someone pounding at your door.  Is someone really knocking at your door or are you stuck in some sort of time loop or permanent dream state? Having played the game and gotten to the end, I am still not sure.

The game itself is well-written and vivid enough to justify its placement in the horror genre.  It can be played here.

A Halloween Scene I Love: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Last night, I was so excited about watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown that I even missed the first 30 minutes of the World Series so that I could watch it!  (Go Astros!)

I really love It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown(I even wrote about it!)  There are a lot of scenes that I love in this special but I think my favorite moment is when Lucy, Charlie Brown, Pigpen and the rest are trick or treating.  I love the spooky music in the background.  I love that almost everyone’s a ghost and that Charlie Brown had trouble with his costume.  And I especially love that, if you watch for it, you can actually see the rocks getting thrown into Charlie Brown’s bag.

Someday, Charlie Brown will get real candy on Halloween and Linus will see the Great Pumpkin.  Until then, happy early Halloween!

Halloween Book Review: The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree

Up until a few years ago, every episode of the original Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.

That always made me really happy in October because, really, what better way to end each day of the Halloween month than by watching a classic episode of The Twilight Zone, right?  To Serve Man, The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street, It’s A Good Life, that episode with William Shatner freaking out on the plane and that other one with the guy entering his bedroom only to discover a lion waiting to eat him, these were all great episodes to watch in October!

Sadly, once Hulu started carrying Twilight Zone, all of the old episodes got yanked off of YouTube.  And now that the Twilight Zone is on Netflix, there’s no way the show will ever show up YouTube again.  We can still watch the episodes, of course.  Even if you don’t have Netflix for some reason, SyFy does regular marathons of the original show and, of course, there’s the Jordan Peele revival for those who watch old episodes of the Twilight Zone and say to themselves, “This is good but I just wish it was a little more heavy-handed.”

Well, I may not be able to embed any episodes this October but I can recommend that you order Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, which is an indispensable guide to the original show.  Every episode is covered, with credits, plot synopsis, and anecdotes about the production.  Since a lot of important directors, actors, and writers did at least a little bit of work on Twilight Zone, the anecdotes are all very interesting and very much worth reading.  Even more importantly, Zicree takes a look at the life of Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling and also some of the key people involved behind the scenes.  The tragic story of Charles Beaumont will move you to tears.

So, if you’re a fan of the original show, you need this book!  Order it and enjoy!

International Horror Film Review: Requiem For A Vampire (dir by Jean Rollin)

1971’s Requiem for A Vampire opens with a car chase.

In one car, there’s a male driver and then there’s Michelle (Mirelle Dargent) and her girlfriend Marie (Marie-Pierre Castel).  Who is pursing them?  Who is shooting at them?  Why are both of the girls wearing clown makeup?  These are all good questions and they’re never clearly answered in the film.  We shouldn’t be surprised about that, however.  This is a Jean Rollin film, which means that the imagery is far more important than the storyline.  In the end, the girls are wearing clown makeup because Rollin often worked clown imagery into his films.  And they’re fleeing together because Rollin’s films often celebrated female friendship.  As for why they’re being chased, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear some mention of a murder but it’s never made clear who was murdered or why or even by whom.  It’s not important.  This is a Jean Rollin film.  You either get it or you don’t.

After the car crashes, the girls wash off their clown makeup, change clothes, and set the car on fire.  They also set the driver on fire.  They claim that the driver was killed in the car accident but the actor playing the driver visibly twitches while they pour the gasoline on him.  Was that simply a mistake on the actor’s part or did Michelle and Marie essentially burn a man alive?  Does it really matter?  Michelle and Marie survived, that’s what’s important.

Marie and Michelle walk through the French countryside, stealing food and avoiding detection.  As always, Rollin’s camera loves the the beauty of the countryside.  They explore the forest.  They go down to the cemetery.  Michelle nearly gets buried alive.  It’s a dangerous world out there.

Eventually, they stumble across a gothic castle and, as you might guess from the title and the fact that this is a Jean Rollin film, the castle is full of perverse vampires who take Marie and Michelle prisoner. It’s here that film reaches a level of peak Rollin as we’re confronted with scenes of dungeons, dark hallways, and vampires transforming into bats while (literally) going down on their victims.  The castle is ruled over by a vampire woman who plays an organ and a male vampire who wants to use Marie and Michelle to continue his bloodline, specifically because neither has ever been with a man.  Michelle is totally happy with the idea of living forever but Marie is a bit less enthused and starts looking around for a random male.

What’s interesting is that, for a vampire film, the vampires themselves are largely red herrings.  For that matter, so is the car chase and the cemetery and almost everything else that Michelle and Marie have to deal with over the course of the film.  Instead, the film is really about their relationship and whether or not it will survive all of the challenges that it faces.  Marie and Michelle may both have differing views on whether or not to become a vampire but what’s the most important is that nothing be allowed to come between the bond that they share.  This was a theme to which Rollin would often return.  Dargent and Castel are both perfectly cast as Marie and Michelle, who reminded me of myself and my BFF.  If I ever get into a car chase while wearing clown makeup, I would definitely want my best friend at my side.  She makes stuff like that fun.

Especially during the film’s early scenes.  Requiem for a Vampire plays out almost like a silent film.  The dialogue is kept to a minimum and the emphasis is put on the imagery with Rollin emphasizing the beauty of the countryside and the stately menace of the imposing castle.  The film is a visual poem, a celebration of friendship, and one of Rollin’s best.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Haute Tension, House of 1000 Corpses, Underworld, Wrong Turn

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!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 2003 Horror Films

Haute Tension (2003, dir by Alexandre Aja)

House of 1,000 Corpses (2003, dir by Rob Zombie)

Underworld (2003, dir by Len Wiseman)

Wrong Turn (2003, dir by Rob Schmidt)

Insomnia File #43: Legend (dir by Brian Helgeland)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If, last night, you were having trouble getting to sleep around two in the morning, you could have turned over to HBO and watched the 2015 British gangster film, Legend.

Tom Hardy is Reggie Kray.  Arrogant, handsome, charming, and dangerous to know, Reggie is a club owner who is also an up-and-coming gangster in 1960s London.  Scotland Yard has him under surveillance.  The East End both fears and respects him.  American gangsters want to do business with him.

Tom Hardy is also Ronny Kray!  Ronny is the ugly twin, the one who lives in a trailer and has just been released from a psychiatric institution.  Ronny is openly gay at a time when that was still illegal in the UK.  Driven by jealousy of Reggie and a desire to prove himself superior to everyone who has ever judged or looked down on him, Ronny is determined to make sure that he and his brother become the top gangsters in London.

Together …. they solve crimes!

No, actually, they do the exact opposite.  They commit a lot of crimes.  Ronny is willing to shoot anyone in the head.  Reggie tries to be a bit more respectable.  He even attempts to run a legitimate nightclub.  Reggie understand that sometimes, the threat of violence is more effective than violence itself.  Reggie and Ronny are about as close as siblings can be, even if they do spend a lot of time beating each other up.

Frances Shea (Emily Browning) is the sister of Reggie’s driver, Frankie (Colin Morgan).  She’s sixteen when she meets and falls in love with Reggie Kray.  Reggie loves her too and he even marries her.  (Of course, he has to do a stint in prison first.)  Reggie swears to Frances that he’s going to go straight and that they’re going to have a normal life.  Deep down, Frances know that will never happen so, while her husband and brother-in-law conquer London, she copes with pills.  Lots and lots of pills.

For an American viewer like myself, British gangster films are always fun to watch because they’re just as violent as American gangster films but, at the same time, everyone’s always dressed impeccably and stopping in the middle of all the mayhem to have a cup of tea.  Legend is based on a true story, which turns out to be both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.  On the one hand, it’s fascinating to see the film’s recreation of London in the early 60s.  On the other hand, the film never convinces us that we should really care about the Krays.  This isn’t a case where, like the Corleones, the Krays are tragic figures who can’t escape their destiny.  Tom Hardy does a great job playing Reggie and he’s an adequate Ronny but you can never quite escape the feeling that the two brothers are just — to use one of their own preferred insults — two wankers who aren’t really worth all the trouble.  This is a film that you watch and you ask yourself, “Why should we care?”  Beyond the novelty of the Krays being twins, the film really can’t provide an answer.

Still, I happen to be fascinated by the early 60s so I enjoyed the film as a historical recreation.  Legend isn’t a bad film.  It’s just somewhat underwhelming.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge