Horror Artist Profile: Bernie Wrightson (1948- )


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Horror fans know who Bernie Wrightson is even if not by name, but by the work he has done in the horror field.

Born in October 27, 1948, Bernie Wrightson has made his name creating some of the more recognizable horror illustrations since the 1970’s. Wrightson would have his break out work in conjunction with Len Wein in co-creating the character Swamp Thing for DC Comics in 1971. In time, Wrightson would move on from DC Comics and the character he created for Warren Publishing that were well-known for producing black-and-white horror titles.

Throughout the years, Wrightson would end up producing some classic images for horror stories ranging from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein right up to several Stephen King novels (The Stand, Cycle of the Werewolf and Wolves of the Calla).

Here’s to hoping that Wrightson has many more years of horror work ready to fire up the imaginations of horror fans everywhere.

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Tag It And Bag It : “Toe Tags”


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A few weeks back, Lisa Marie blamed/credited me for the fact that she even watched, let alone reviewed, director/star/editor/cinematographer Darla Enlow’s 2003 shot-on-video, direct-to-DVD 68-minute opus Toe Tags, so I’m returning the — ahem! — favor by blaming/crediting her for the fact that I’m gonna do the same thing (well, I say “gonna do” only as it applies to reviewing this flick, since I first watched it several months ago, then gave it a second look last night). See, I kinda think it would be amusing to make Through The Shattered Lens the only site on the entire internet with two different reviews of this movie. Granted, I haven’t checked every single website in the entire universe to make sure this claim holds water, but it’s a pretty safe bet, since I doubt that more than a few hundred people have even seen this thing — and most of them were probably either friends with, or related to, somebody who had something to do with its production.

Shot for around $30,000 in Tulsa, Oklahoma — where SOV slashers got their start with Blood Cult way back in 1985 — the “action” in this film centers around a series of murders at the supposedly high-end Valley Creek apartment complex, where the dynamic police duo of Detectives Mark Weiss (Marc Page) and Kate Wagner (Enlow) are investigating a grisly series of slayings, with a twist — every corpse that comes into the morgue by way of Valley Creek ends up with its titular toe tag going missing somewhere along the way.

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One thing that really stands out here : the movie was quite obviously all shot in the same apartment complex, with one notable exception —- it’s evident that the landlady’s supposed “apartment” is actually an honest-to-God house and is located elsewhere. So that leaves us with a rather incongruous bit of easily-noticeable movie less-than-magic — while the “police station” where a good chunk of this story takes place is almost without question an office in an apartment complex, the supposed headquarters of the actual  apartment complex is not in the apartment complex! Hey, when ya only got 30 grand ta play around with, ya do what ya can.

Enlow doesn’t have much eye for style or perspective when it comes to the camera work, but I do give her points for at least trying to do something more other than simple point-and-shoot stuff, even if her attempts are largely failures, and she’s definitely to be lauded for managing to convince a steady stream of generally pretty attractive women to drop their tops in front of her camera for probably little to no money, but beyond that Toe Tags doesn’t really stand out in any way, shape, or form. The script, by one John Overbey (about the only thing Enlow didn’t do herself when it comes to this flick is write it), takes a pretty straightforward story and messes it up by heaping a bunch of ex-love-interest drama on both of the cops (it turns out they had both been sleeping with separate victims of the killer previously — and Kate makes it clear to Mark that she’s fair game if he feels like taking a crack at her during their off-hours) and having some seriously unconventional, if not downright illegal, police procedural shit towards the end when the captain thinks he’s got the identity of the murderer sussed out, so be prepared to suspend your disbelief beyond its usual, already-stretched-thin levels for this one. As for the “twist” finale, well — you’ll not only see it coming a mile away, but it’s waving its arms in the air, wearing a helmet with a flashing light on it, and setting off road flares.

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On the splatter front (hey, admit it, that’s pretty much what you’re watching a movie like this for, apart from the tits), Enlow and her shoestring crew do a pretty nice job with the gore EFX all told, and considering the whole thing runs barely over an hour, the body count is fairly impressive. My best guess is that most of the budget for this one was consumed in an effort to make the numerous murders look reasonably realistic, and by and large it pays off, so hey — credit where it’s due.

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Toe Tags is available either as a stand-alone DVD from Brain Damage Films (as pictured at the outset of this review), which probably contains a fair amount of extras (assuming you actually want  to know more about how this was made), or you can see it like I did, as part of the “Crazed Killers” six-movie, two-disc set from Mill Creek’s sub-label specializing in microbudget/ homemade horrors, Pendulum Pictures. It’s presented full frame with stereo sound, both of which are unspectacular but perfectly adequate considering (which probably isn’t such a bad overall description of the film itself).

The folks who made Toe Tags obviously had a pretty good time with the whole thing, at least if the rather self-indulgent little “blooper reel” that plays during the end credits is any indication (without it the film would clock in under an hour), and I’m glad they enjoyed themselves — I just wish I had as much fun watching it as they did acting in, shooting, and directing it. I’ve certainly seen far worse fare on these Pendulum compilation discs, but often the clunkers are so bad as to be truly memorable, even if for all the wrong reasons. This one just kind of comes on your screen, tries to do its job, and calls it a day. It doesn’t make a mess of you home while it’s in it (like, say, its disc-mate Las Vegas Bloodbath), but it’s not the kind of interesting, unpredictable guest you’re likely to invite around again.

I appreciate all the effort and energy Enlow put into just getting this thing made, and she’s certainly to be commended for that alone as well as for busting her tail to make the financial pittance she had to work with go farther than it probably had any right to, but at the end of the day, the Toe Tags title is an appropriate one — this flick is dead on arrival.

The Daily Grindhouse: Toe Tags (dir by Darla Enlow)


Bad things are happening at the Valley Creek Apartments.  The residents are getting naked and getting murdered by a stranger with a knife.  Could the murderer by the creepy landlady?  Or could it be … someone else?  Two detectives (played by director Darla Enlow and Marc Page) are determined to solve the crimes and it quickly turns out that both of them have a connection to every single person who has been murdered.  The very angry coroner (Scott Killman) is upset because someone keeps breaking into the morgue and stealing all of the toe tags.  An even angrier police captain (Larry Scott) shows up at random moments to yell at the two detectives.  Finally, there’s a crime scene photographer (Andrew Lombardo) who seems to enjoy his job way too much.  Needless to say, it all concludes with a surprise ending that actually works a lot better than you might expect.

Toe Tagswhich was released in 2003, is probably the one of the least known, most obscure films that I’ve ever reviewed for the Shattered Lens.  I came across the film as a part of Decrepit Pit Of Nightmares box set, which I bought as the result of reading a review of Las Vegas Bloodbath that was written by our very own Ryan C., the Trashfilm Guru.  So, when you get right down to it, its’ pretty much Ryan’s fault that I watched Toe Tags.

Well, that’s okay because I actually enjoyed the nonstop silliness of Toe Tags.  Clocking in at 68 minutes and shot-on-video, Toe Tags is one of those zero budget exploitation films that you have to admire just because it actually managed to get made and released.  The whole film has this random, improvised feel to it.  The story is quite bold about its refusal to make any sense and, while none of the actors give good performances, they’re all trying so hard that it’s impossible not to like them.  My favorite performers were Scott Killman and Larry Scott.  You could seriously tell that both of them were having a lot of fun going over-the-top with even the simplest line of dialogue.

The end of the film features about 10 minutes of clips of the actors blowing their lines or cracking up into laughter and, to my surprise, I actually enjoyed this obvious padding.  It was nice to see that everyone had fun even while they were having to play dead and it reminded me of the fun that I use to have doing plays in high school.  The end credits feature credits like, “Thank you Craig Lamb for the endless supply of blood” and “Production assistant…anyone on the set!,” and, again, they just add to likable drama club feel of the whole production.

(Warning: There’s some nudity in the trailer below and a lot of fake blood.)