Horror on TV: Friday the 13th The Series 1.10 “Tales of the Undead” (dir by Lyndon Chubbock)

On tonight’s episode of Friday the 13th: The Series, Ryan is convinced that an old comic book monster has come to life and is now killing people!  Could it all be connected to a cursed pen that was sold to the creator of the comic book?  

Watch and find out!

Tonight’s special guest star is Ray Walston, who played embittered comic book creator Jay Star.  From what I’ve recently learned about how the comic book industry treats its artists and writers, I can’t really blame him for being bitter.


Deep In The Heart Of “Texas Tracts”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

There’s no polite way to say this, and perhaps as an outsider I’m not even terribly qualified to opine on the matter anyway, but rest assured the following sentiment is shared by millions : the state of Texas appears to be a very troubled — and, in many respects, troubling — place.

I say this fully cognizant of the fact that my own home state of Minnesota has come in for its fair share of negative headlines over the past year-plus, but when a “perfect storm” of lax safety and building regulations, a laughably substandard power grid, and hollowed-out social services budgets did more damage to the people of the Lone Star State than the natural storm that literally hit it earlier this year did, the rest of the nation — and even the rest of the world — became acutely aware of the reality that something was seriously…

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The TSL’s Grindhouse: Pumpkinhead (dir by Stan Winston)

Originally released in 1988, Pumpkinhead has always struck me as being one of those films that more people remember hearing someone else talk about it than have actually sat down and watched.  

I think that’s because it has such a great title.  Pumpkinhead!  That’s not a title that you’re going to forget and it conjures up all sorts of scary images.  If you hear someone mention that title, it stays in your head.  It’s an easy title to remember and it’s also an easy title to turn into a macabre joke.  If, on Halloween night, you and your friends hear a sound in the house, you can always say, “It must be Pumpkinhead!”  Everyone will laugh, regardless of whether they’ve seen the film or not.  It’s kind of like how everyone knows what the Great Pumpkin is, even if they’ve never actually watched the old cartoon.

As for the actual film, it’s a mix of monster horror and hick revenge flick.  It’s one of those movies where a bunch of dumb city kids do something stupid while driving through the country and, as a result, they end up having to deal with a curse and a monster. 

Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) is a widower who owns a grocery store that is pretty much sitting out in the middle of nowhere.  Seriously, you look at his little store sitting off the side of a country road and you wonder how he makes enough money to feed his family.  Of course, the store’s location isn’t the only problem.  The other problem is that Ed seems to instinctively mistrust the few people who do stop off at the place.  Even if I lived near there, I probably wouldn’t want to shop at that store because I know Ed would glare at me and make me feel like I was doing something wrong.

However, a group of dumbass dirt bikers do stop off at the store.  And then they decide to drive their dirt bikers around the store while another member of the group takes pictures.  Unfortunately, the dirt bikers run over Ed’s son, little Billy.  The dirt bikers flee the scene, heading to their cabin.  Ed meanwhile goes to the local witch and asks her to summon …. PUMPKINHEAD!

After a lengthy ceremony, Pumpkinhead shows up.  Because Pumpkinhead was directed special effects maestro Stan Winston, he’s a very impressive creature.  He looks something like this:

You may notice that Pumpkinhead doesn’t actually have a pumpkin for a head but no matter!  It’s still a good name and when your monster looks like that, he can call himself whatever he wants.

Anyway, Pumpkinhead tracks down and starts to kill the people responsible for the death of Billy.  Unfortunately, it turns out that Ed experiences each murder along with Pumpkinhead and he quickly has a change of heart.  The witch tells him it’s too late.  Pumpkinhead will not stop until everyone’s dead and if Ed tries to interfere, Ed will die as well.

It’s a clever-enough idea, a filmed version of one of those old legends that you occasionally hear about in the country.  It’s a good thing that the monster is really, really scary because his victims are pretty much forgettable.  Some of them feel bad about killing Ed’s son and some of them don’t but it’s hard to keep straight which is which.  They’re just too bland.  As a result, their deaths don’t really generate any sort of emotion, good or bad.  They’re just there to be victims.  The only person your really care about is Ed but that’s mostly because he’s played by Lance Henriksen and Henriksen is one of those actors who can bring almost any character to life, regardless of how thinly-drawn that character may be.  Henriksen has a built-in authenticity.  Since he’s clearly not a product of the Hollywood publicity machine but is instead someone who obviously lived an interesting life before he ever auditioned for his first film, you believe in Henriksen’s performance even when the script betrays him.  You believe that he owns that store, even though the store seems to be in the worst location ever.  When he mourns Billy, you believe it.  When he tries to stop Pumpkinhead, you believe that as well.  What little humanity that there is to be found in the film is almost totally the result of Henriksen’s performance.

So, give it up for Lance Henriksen and give it up for the scariness of Pumpkinhead and also give it up for director Stan Winston, who came up with enough horrific visuals that it almost made up for his apparent lack of interest in the film’s human characters.  Give it up to for a little-known character actress named Florence Schauffer, who is properly creepy as the local witch.  Pumpkinhead is a good film to watch with your friends on Halloween, even if the title monster doesn’t really have a pumpkin for a head.

Here’s The First Trailer For House of the Dragon!

HBOMax has a Game of Thrones prequel coming out.  If you weren’t aware of that or had forgotten about it, don’t feel bad. So did I and I’m actually supposed to keep up with this stuff!

It’s definitely a sign of how let down everyone was by the final season of GoT that the production of House of the Dragon has gotten almost not attention.  Personally, I’m kind of intrigued by the show but, at the same time, it’s hard to deny that there’s been a huge backlash against Game of Thrones.  Ever since the final season, it’s become increasingly difficult to find anyone who is willing to admit that they enjoyed the show.

And yet, I know for a fact that people did enjoy the show.  Game of Thrones wouldn’t have gone for as long as it did if not for its very passionate fan base.  There’s a lot of revisionist history going when it comes to Game of Thrones.  Quite frankly, the anger that the finale generated could only have been generated by people who, after devoting several years of their lives to a program, felt that their loyalty and love had been betrayed.

(Of course, that “Who has a better story than Bram the Broken?” line didn’t help.)

So, will House of the Dragon be another success or will it be something like one of the The Walking Dead prequel series, forever destined to live in the shadow of the show that spawned it?  We’ll find out next year!  For now, here’s the official trailer for House of the Dragon:

Mute Witness (1995, directed by Anthony Waller)

Billy (Marina Zudina) is an FX makeup artist who is working on a movie in Moscow.  The movie is a cheap slasher, directed by Andy (Evan Richards), who is dating Billy’s sister, Karen (Fay Ripley).  One night, after shooting on the slasher film has ended for the day, Billy stumbles upon another film crew shooting what she initially thinks is a porno.  Instead, it turns out to be a real-life slasher film as the film’s star is brutally murdered while Billy watches.  Though Billy manages to escape from the killers, the police refuse to take her claims seriously.  Working with a private detective named Larsen (Oleg Yankovsky), Billy tries to prove that she saw what she saw while also trying to avoid being killed the snuff film crew and the Russian mob.

Mute Witness is an intense, clever, and suspenseful thriller from the mid-90s.  It has never got as much attention as it deserves, despite an intriguing premise, a sympathetic protagonist, and an international setting.  The film was shot on location and Moscow proves to be the perfect setting for a chilling story about greed, corruption, and murder.  When Mute Witness was filmed, the collapse of Soviet communism was still a recent event and there were still a lot of questions about what type of country the new Russia was going to become.  The Russian mob was still a relatively new concept to many people.  In Mute Witness, post-Soviet Moscow is a dark and menacing place where no one is who they say they are.  It’s a city where people can easily disappear, money can buy immunity from scrutiny, and where the horrors of a slasher film can’t begin to compete with the horrors of reality.  Though the film was made when Boris Yeltsin was still in charge of Russia, it feels very much like a prediction of the Putin era.

Alec Guinness makes a cameo appearance in Mute Witness.  He only appears in one scene but he makes an undeniable impression.  His scene was filmed in Germany, months before the rest of the film was shot.  (Due to his busy schedule, it was the only time that Guinness was available.)  Guinness reportedly did the scene as a favor to director Anthony Waller and offered to do it for free.  Genuine class, indeed!

Though Mute Witness was overshadowed by the success of Scream, it was still enough of a critical and cult success that Waller was offered a studio picture.  Unfortunately, that film turned out to be An American Werewolf in Paris.  Waller has only directed two films since American Werewolf in Paris.  That’s a shame as Mute Witness was an auspicious debut and stands the test of the time as one of the better horror thriller to come out of the 90s.

Game Review: Closure (2021, Sarah Willson)

Closure is an entrant in the 2021 Interactive Fiction Competition.  All of the entries can be browsed and experienced here.

In Closure, you play the best friend of Kira. Kira has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend. Because she wants to find, for sentimental reasons, a photograph that was taken of the two of them during happier times, she breaks into his dorm room to search for it. When she can’t find it, she texts you. She sends you a description of the dorm room and asks you for advice. You can text back with command like “search the desk,” “look in the closet,” and “leave the room.”

The last command is one that I sent a few times because I’m not a teenage girl and I guess I had the stereotypical male response to Kira’s problem. Sad over a breakup in college? Leave the dorm room, suppress all of your emotions and your feelings, drink until you pass out, wake up with a monster hangover, keeping going out and turning off every girl you meet by constantly talking about your ex, and, after everyone finally tells you that they’re getting sick of hearing about it, move on with your life. That worked in college (or, at least, everyone always pretended that it worked in college) but it wouldn’t make for a very good or emotionally rewarding IF game.

Closure, however, is a good IF game. Once I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to talk Kira into leaving the dorm room, I helped her investigate and solve the mystery of why her boyfriend had dumped her. At first, I thought the texting approach would make for an awkward game but it actually ended up working pretty well and the game ends with a good message about moving on and yes, closure. It also ends with a suggestion of things that you could tell Kira to try the next time that you play the game. This is a simple but rewarding game, one that can be played more than once.

Play Closure.

Scenes that I Love: John Grant Meet Doc Tydon in Wake In Fright

102 years ago today, the great actor Donald Pleasence was born.

Pleasence is, of course, best-known for playing Dr. Loomis in Halloween. He’s so identified with that franchise that it’s always seemed appropriate that he celebrated his birthday in October. And usually, to celebrate his birthday, we would share a scene of Dr. Loomis yelling at or shooting Michael Myers.

This year, though, I’m going to do something a little different and share a scene from a different type of horror movie, 1971’s Wake in Fright. In this Australian film, Donald Pleasence plays Doc Tydon, an alcoholic doctor who lives in the Australian outback and who befriends John Grant (Gary Bond), a naïve school teacher who has become stranded in a town full of people who don’t have much respect for Grant’s intellectual pursuits. Actually, befriends is perhaps the wrong word. Tydon allows Grant to stay with him but it soon become apparent that Tydon, like almost everyone else in this movie, might have a less-than-friendly agenda of his own.

Wake In Fright features what may be Pleasence’s best performance. In the scene below, Tydon and Grant meet for the first time and Pleasence shows that he was capable of far more than just playing Blofeld and Dr. Loomis.

The Mayflower, Review By Case Wright

What if in Alien the xenomorph was really easy to kill? This is a question most filmmakers never cared to answer, but you would not be fancy then like Benjamin Farry! Nope, you would not be fancy, not….fancy…at…all! Benjamin Farry, unlike you, is super fancy because he answered that question- that’s just science! Like that song, She blinded ME… with Bacon Grease… or science or something like that. Bacon is scientifically delicious! I’m very hungry.

Speaking of being hungry, what if you were a space ship janitor and got infected by a parasite that made you hallucinate and go full-on cannibal and head toward earth? Well, you’d rapidly remember that you were a space janitor and blow up your space ship before humanity became a snack! That’s pretty much the entire short.

I don’t want to be too cruel about this short because it did have a beginning, middle, and end like you would have in an interesting story. I cannot write that this wasn’t filmed because it definitely was filmed…and I think they used props… From party city. I also cannot write that it wasn’t a short because it was really really easy for the protagonist to achieve his quest; therefore, it was a short or even a brief. I cannot write that “The Mayflower” didn’t win an award because that did happen….somehow. Maybe it was like everyone got a turn to win like an honorary degree?

If you’re bored and want to take that boredom to another level, this is the short for you! Think of it like watching Alien if it were on cheat mode and made for 30 bucks.

4 Shots From 4 Clive Barker Films

4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films is just what it says it is, 4 (or more) shots from 4 (or more) of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, we wish a happy and nice 69th birthday to writer and occasional director Clive Barker!  Barker’s stories have provided the basis for several films and Barker himself attempted to build a career of his own as a filmmaker.  Though he pretty much retired from directing after the box office failure of Lord of Illusions, he still has a better directorial track record than Stephen King.

Today, we honor the birthday of Clive Barker with….

4 Shots From 4 Clive Barker Films

Hellraiser (1987, dir by Clive Barker, DP: Robin Vidgeon)

Nightbreed (1990, dir by Clive Barker, DP: Robin Vidgeon)

Candyman (1992, dir by Bernard Rose, DP: Anthony B. Richmond)

Lord of Illusions (1995, dir by Clive Barker, DP: Ronn Schmidt)

Horror on the Lens: Trilogy of Terror (dir by Dan Curtis)

For today’s horror on the Lens we have a made-for-TV movie that, like yesterday’s The Norliss Tapes, was produced and directed by Dan Curtis.

Trilogy of Terror, which aired in 1975, is an anthology film, featuring three segments that were each based on a short story from Richard Matheson.  What makes this particular film special is that each segment features Karen Black playing a radically different character from the previous segment.  The film really is a showcase for this underrated actress, though Black herself later said that the film ruined her career because it typecast her as a horror actress.

The third segment is the one that gets all the attention.  That’s the one with the killer doll.  I like all of the segments, though.  The first one is often considered to be the weakest but anyone who has ever been through a similar situation will appreciate it as tale of revenge.  The second segment has a playful vibe that I liked.  And yes, the third segment is genuinely frightening.

From 1975, here is Trilogy of Terror: