October Positivity: Remember The Goal (dir by Dave Christiano)


The 2016 film, Remember the Goal, is all about running track.

Well, actually, I guess it’s not all about running track.  It’s also about the importance of teamwork.  It’s also about the importance of remaining humble, respecting authority, and doing what your coach tells you to do.  In short, it’s a film that makes me happy that I wasn’t on the track team in high school.  I’m not really a fan of authority or doing what other people tell me to do.  For that matter, I’m not really much of a team person.  I’m an individualist who enjoys being around other individualists.  I’m a big believer that people can work together while still allowing everyone to do their own thing and at their own pace.

In short, Coach Courtney Smith-Donnelly (Allee Sutton Hethcoat) would probably not want me on her track team and that’s okay.  Though I will say that, a few years ago, I took up running because I was told that it might help to ease my asthma and it totally has.  I start nearly every morning with a good run.  I enjoy running.  It helps me to clear my head and get my thoughts in order.  Plus, it keeps my legs looking good.

But anyway, back to the film.

Courtney is the new coach at the local Christian school.  Unfortunately, her coaching techniques prove to be controversial.  She wants the members of the track team to pace themselves and to only run at a certain tempo, even if it means losing the race.  Courtney is trying to teach the team how to conserve their energy so that they’ll still have it when they get to State.  All of the parents, though, are upset because they want their daughters to win every race instead of spending all of their time preparing for the state competition.  They’re also not happy when Courtney starts tells them that they need to stop putting so much pressure on their children and instead just have faith in Courtney’s plans.

Meanwhile, the five girls on the team all deal with typical high school problems.  One of them likes a guy but her father has forbidden her from dating and, since this is a Christian film, she decides to honor her father’s wishes.  Another girl has just started smoking weed and, when confronted about it, she replies (quite correctly) that the Bible doesn’t say anything about smoking.  She also points out that most teenagers her age are experimenting with new things.  “An alcoholic starts with just one drink!” her friend replies, “A drug addict starts with just one joint!”  Uhmmm, that’s not really true but it’s enough to get her friend to give up the weed with roots in Hell.

This is another Dave Christiano film that takes a popular genre — in this case, a sports movie — and uses it to push a faith-based message.  The coach continually quotes Corinthians and the end of the film literally compares coaching a cross country team to Jesus raising the dead.  It’s a bit much, even if it’s not quite as preachy as his earlier films.  (No one is condemned to Hell in this film, for example.)  Christiano makes the unfortunate decision to have the final race play out in slow motion.  That’s several minutes of nonstop slow motion.  Unfortunately, slow motion and running are not a great combination, especially when some members of the cast are obviously more experienced runners than others.

Anyway, the main message here (beyond the religious one) seems to be that there’s no “self” in team.  What fun is that, though?  I’ll keep running for myself.

Horror on TV: Circle of Fear 1.17 “Doorway to Death” (dir by Daryl Duke)


Tonight, on Circle of Fear, bratty Robert (played by Leif Garrett) discovers that an upstairs door in his family’s new apartment building leads to someplace very unexpected.  His older sister, Peggy (Susan Dey), doesn’t believe him but she soon learns the error of her ways.  

This episode is really creepy and atmospheric and I don’t want to spoil too much of it.  It was written by Jimmy Sangster, who also did several Hammer films, and it was directed by Daryl Duke.  To be honest, this episode reminds me of the episode of Lost where Jack stumbles across the ghosts of Ben’s parents outside of the cabin.  It has a similar, dream-like feel to it.

The episode originally aired on January 26th, 1973.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Beyond The Time Barrier (dir by Edgar G. Ulmer)


This 1960 film tells the story of Bill Allison (Robert Clarke), an air force test pilot who flies his test craft into space and then returns to discover that Earth has totally changed!

The Air Force base where he previously worked is now deserted and desolate.  After he’s captured by a group of silent soldiers, Allison is taken to an underground city known as the Citadel.  He meets the head of the city, an older man known as The Supreme (Vladimer Sokoloff).  The Supreme explains that only he and his second-in-command, The Captain (Red Morgan), can speak and hear.  The rest of humanity communicates through telepathy.  Though the Supreme’s granddaughter, Princess Trirene (Darlene Tompkins), telepathically insists that Allison is not a threat, the Supreme and the Captain still exile him to live with a bunch of angry, bald mutants who are determined to destroy the city.  Allison meets three other exiles and discovers that they too are time travelers.  The scientists explains that Bill has found himself in the far future.  The year is no longer 1960.  No, the year is …. 2024!

OH MY GOD, WE’VE ONLY GOT TWO YEARS LEFT!

Actually, we’ve probably got less than two years left.  This is October and the film appears to be taking place in the summer so we’ve probably only got 18 months to go!

(Cue Jennifer Lawrence: “We’re all gonna die!”  Cue Leonardo Di Caprio: “I’m so scared!”  Okay, tell them both to shut up now.)

Anyway, Allison assumes that society must have collapsed due to a global war but the scientists explain that the first manned spacetrip to the moon actually ushered in an era of peace.  (Wow, how did I miss this?)  In fact, humans had colonized the Moon, Mars, and Venus by 1970.  (Woo hoo!  Yay, humanity!)  However, years of nuclear testing had weakened the Earth’s atmosphere and, in 1971, the planet was bombarded by cosmic rays.  (Uh oh….)  Humanity was forced to move into underground cities.  Some of them developed telepathy and became super advanced.  Others became bald mutants.  Unfortunately, everyone is now sterile and the Supreme probably expects Allison to impregnate Trirene and do his part to repopulate the planet.

On the one hand, Allison and Trirene are falling in love.  Allison is handsome and strong.  Trirene has pretty hair and is the only citizen of the Citadel who gets to wear anything flattering.  They’re a cute couple.  On the other hand, if Allison sticks around the repopulate the planet, he’ll never be able to go back to his present and warn everyone about the upcoming cosmic ray plague.  Plus, it soon becomes clear that the scientists have an agenda of their own.  Allison finds himself torn between the two factions trying to control the Citadel.

Made for next to no money and filmed at Fair Park in Dallas, Beyond The Time Barrier is a surprisingly good film.  It was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, an Austrian director who started out as an associate of Fritz Lang’s and who followed Lang to the United States.  Ulmer made films for the Poverty Row studios and he was a master of creating atmosphere on a budget.  He was one of the pioneers of film noir and he brought that same style to his horror and sci-fi films.  As envisioned by Ulmer in Beyond The Time Barrier, the future is full of menacing shadows, dangerous con artists, and untrustworthy authority figures.  It’s a fatalistic film, one that ends on a surprisingly downbeat note.  Even if Allison can save humanity, will it really be worth all the trouble?  Much like Detour, Ulmer’s best-known film, Beyond The Time Barrier plays out like a deliberately-paced dream, full of surreal moments and ominous atmosphere.

Beyond The Time Barrier is available on YouTube and Prime.  Watch it now before we have to go underground.

Great Moments In Comic Book History #29: A Vampire Stalks The Night


Now that we are halfway to October, I decided to share my personal favorite cover from The Tomb of Dracula.

The Tomb of Dracula was a comic book that ran for 70 issues, from 1972 to 1979. It was published by Marvel and it’s generally considered to be one of the best of the horror comics. It was also the first comic book to feature the character of Blade, who was later brought to life by Wesley Snipes in one of the first successful films to be based on a Marvel comic.

I’m a Tomb of Dracula fan and a collector. I’ve got nearly every issue of Tomb of Dracula and it’s companion magazine, Dracula Lives. Below is my favorite cover:

Great Moments In Television History #25: Vincent Price Meets The Muppets


In 1977, during the 16th episode of The Muppet Show, Kermit The Frog got a chance to interview Vincent Price and show off his vampire moves.  Later, no worse for wear, Vincent joined with the Muppets to sing a song.

I’m surprised that this episode was aired on January 16th, 1977 and not during October.

Here is the scene that lives forever in meme form:

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man
  22. Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish List
  23. Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin
  24. Siskel and Ebert Recommend Horror Films

RUN! Short Film Review by Case Wright


Normally, I would have all kinds of tags about the filmmaker and actors, but I can’t find any. There are far too many “RUNS!”. I didn’t know that the horror short of “a woman being chased while jogging with her headphones on” wasn’t as much of a subgenre as much as it was a meme.

Not to say that running alone with your headphones on is not an extremely dangerous activity- IT IS! However, do we really need 30+ shorts of this same thing?

HOW ABOUT NO?

They were trying to be funny, but they ended up being kinda scary. I know they didn’t mean to do it, but it failed up. I was unsettled by it. It’s also possible that I’m burned out from too many Alex Magana films and by studying this all day:

Yes, I know to solve this… mostly. Slow down ladies, there’s enough Case for everyone.

I know many of you are thinking: sure steam generators are hot and sexy and all, but we’re here for the short-film review and now I’m all sweaty. Fine, I’m here for it.

This film creeped me out because it’s too much like real life. When I moved across the country, I was alone except for my cat- Love you, wherever you are. I would see signs in Montana- Next Services 250 Miles. I realized that if my truck broke down, I’d die here or if some psycho disabled my vehicle, I’d be lost forever and ever. The actress’ vulnerable got to me. I mean Without a Trace had 9 Seasons – that’s According to Jim territory. Point is, we’re not as safe as we want to believe that we are. We could vanish. We are at the mercy of the social contract, but not everyone is a party to it.

This short tapped into that. It failed, but it did fail up.

Stepfather III (1992, directed by Guy Magar)


As if Stepfather II was not bad enough on its own, 1992 saw the release of Stepfather III.

Once again, Jerry Blake/Gene Clifford manages to survive being mortally wounded at the end of the previous film.  After he recovers, he is sent to the exact same institution that he previously escaped from.  Guess what happens?  He escapes again!  Now using the name Keith, he marries Christine Davis (Priscilla Barnes) and become stepfather to her son, Andy (David Tom).  Andy is in a wheelchair.  Keith is convinced that Andy is faking his condition and keeps calling him “slugger.”  When Andy doesn’t respond, Keith prepares to move on to another single mother (Season Hubley).  But, before he can move on, Keith needs to take care of his current family.  Good thing that he has a woodchipper.

Terry O’Quinn did not return for Stepfather III.  The Stepfather is played by Robert Wightman, who looked and sounded nothing like Terry O’Quinn.  The film tries to explain it away by saying that the Stepfather got plastic surgery after he escaped from the institution but, unless the plastic surgeon was God, there’s no way that Jerry/Gene could ever have become Keith.

Stepfather III goes through the motions and even repeats the first film’s “buckle up for safety” gag.  By repeating all of the key scenes from the first (and even the second) movie, the third movie only succeeds in reminding us that The Stepfather doesn’t work without Terry O’Quinn’s performance and Joseph Ruben’s intelligent direction.  Keith becomes a standard movie slasher with a wood chipper.  He does inspire Andy to get out of his wheelchair, in a scene that will inspire more laughter than cheers.

One positive note: Season Hubley is in this movie!  Much as with Jill Schoelen in the first movie and Meg Foster in Stepfather II, this franchise had a way of attracting actresses who deserved better.

The Stepfather II: Make Room For Daddy (1989, directed by Jeff Burr)


Remember how, at the end of the first Stepfather film, Jerry Blake (played, in a classic horror performance, by Terry O’Quinn), was killed by the family that he was planning on murdering for not living up to his expectations?

It turns out that he wasn’t dead after all.  He was shot.  He was stabbed in the back.  Somehow, he wasn’t killed.  Also, despite being a mass murderer, he was sent to a mental institution where the security is so lackadaisical that he manages to murder a psychologist and a guard and then escape once again.

Taking on the name of Gene Clifford and passing himself off as a family therapist, the Stepfather continues his search for the perfect family.  He meets and becomes engaged to Carol (Meg Foster), who doesn’t find it weird that Gene is always whistling Camden Races.  Before he can marry Carol, Gene is going to need to dispose of her ex-husband and her best friend.  And, of course, Carol and her son Todd (Jonathan Brandis) are going to have to live up to Gene’s ideal of the perfect American family.

This is a disposable sequel, which eliminates all of the humor of the first film and just turns Jerry/Gene into another generic slasher.  The strength of the first film was that Jerry seemed likable up until the moment that his idealized vision of the perfect family was threatened.  Then he snapped and ended up in the basement, ranting and raving.  In Stepfather II, Gene is obviously dangerous from the start and a lot less interesting.  The movie is unfortunate and unnecessary and even Terry O’Quinn seems to be bored.  Give the film some credit, though, for giving Meg Foster a sympathetic role.  Gene may be crazy but no one could blame him for falling for Carol.  How could anyone resist those eyes?

Game Review: The Godfather II (2009, EA)


Since I had already gotten my old Xbox 360 out of storage so I could play The Godfather game this weekend, I decided to also try my hand at the replaying game version of The Godfather II.

The Godfather II takes place in the 60s.  You play Dom, a Corleone soldier who becomes Michael’s right-hand man after you help him escape from Cuba during the revolution.  Back in New York, Michael assigns you to take control of the city from the Rosato brothers.  Eventually, you will also gain the ability to fly out to Miami and Cuba, where you’ll meet Hyman Roth and continue to extort businesses and battle rival families.  It’s another Grand Theft Auto-style game, where you can focus on the story or you can just focus on exploring the open world and seeing what type of trouble you can get into.

The good thing about The Godfather II is that you get to select the members of your crew and you can send them on all of the missions that you don’t feel like dealing with.  They also stick with you and act as bodyguards whenever you get into a gun fight.  Choosing the members of your crew is one of the best parts of the game because every potential recruit comes with their own skills and their own personality.  Like you, the members of your crew can be taken out of commission if they get heavily wounded but they’ll always return after a brief trip to the hospital.  However, if you get tired of a member of your crew, you can remove his invulnerability and toss him off a roof or send him on a suicide mission to attack the Rosato Compound all by himself.  That’s the power of being the underboss.

Other than the stuff with the crew, Godfather II is not as much fun as the first Godfather game.  The combat feels clunky and the game’s overall design feel rushed.  Sending Dom to three different cities instead of concentrating on recreating 60s New York was a mistake.  There’s not that much difference between the game’s version of New York, Miami, and Havana.  Plus, the game didn’t allow me to take out Castro.  What’s the point of sending me to Havana if you’re not going to let me change history?

When it comes to Godfather games, the second one is good enough to be played once but it doesn’t reward a replay.  The first Godfather game is the one that still remains enjoyable after all these years.

Video Game Review: The Godfather (2006, EA)


Due to getting handed a major project at work, I missed the last few days of our annual Horrorthon and now I’ve got some catching up to do.  It’s frustrating and, whenever I get frustrated and need to blow off some steam, I get my old Xbox 360 out of storage and I concentrate my efforts on running the Straccis out of New Jersey.

New Jersey is one of the many neighborhoods that you can take over in EA’s video game version of The Godfather.  New Jersey is full of nice houses, dive bars, and police that are so incompetent that I got away with bombing their station on numerous occasions.  If you don’t feel like taking over New Jersey, you can go into Brooklyn and pick a fight with the Tattaglia family.  Or you can drive into Hell’s Kitchen, the worst part of New York and fight the Cuneos.  If you’re really brave, you can try to take over Midtown but Midtown is controlled by the Barzini family and the Barzinis don’t go down without a fight.  If you get into too many fights, you might accidentally start a gang war but you can always find an FBI agent in a church and bribe him to end the war.  Just don’t accidentally shoot the guy.  I did that a few times.

The Godfather is an open world game, a 1940s version of Grand Theft Auto that happens to feature characters from classic gangster film.  You play a Corleone family associate who, over the course of the game, goes from being a soldier to being the Don of New York.  Along the way, you take part in all of the major scenes from the film.  When Sonny is gunned down, you’re the one who chases his assassins.  When Michael shoots the Turk, you’re the one who drives him to the docks so he can head to Sicily.  When it’s time to get revenge on Paulie Gatto and Tessio, you’re the one handed the gun.  You get the idea.  James Caan, Robert Duvall, and even Marlon Brando voiced their film characters for the game.  (Brando’s recordings, unfortunately, weren’t usable and a soundalike was brought in to redo most of his lines.)  Al Pacino did not voice Michael and the game’s Michael looks nothing like Pacino because Pacino had already agreed to exclusively license his appearance to the Scarface game.

As a game, The Godfather can get repetitive.  As your gangster gains experience, he’ll level up and receive skill points.  It really doesn’t take that long to become so powerful that none of the other families have a chance against you.  (Only the Barzini Family remains challenging to the very end.)  The interactions with the storekeepers that you intimidate to get protection all tend to follow the same pattern.  Storywise, the game actually cheapens the movie because it suggests that the Corleones were so incompetent that they had to keep calling you in to clean up all of their messes.

But, flaws and all, the game is pretty damn addictive.  Once I get into my vintage, 1940s car and start driving around New York (which is lovingly recreated, even if it is on a much smaller scale than the real New York), I’m in the zone.  Under the right circumstances, the simplicity of The Godfather can be refreshing.  Drive around.  Hijack a truck.  Fight the gangsters.  If the police get upset, just go to a nearby safehouse and save the game.  If you get bored, grab a bomb and take out an abandoned building or maybe a parked car.  It’s a game so there aren’t any consequences to doing incredibly foolish things.  Or, if you just want to relax, you can just drive around the city and appreciate all of your territory.  It’s up to you.  When you’re the Don of New York, you can do anything you want.