Saturday, October 18, 2014

"People Are Talking" Halloween TV Special featuring Steve Vertlieb

People Are Talking Halloween special Steve Vertlieb.png 1

While wandering the crowded halls of YouTube recently, I came across this enjoyable Halloween special that aired sometime in the early 1980s (maybe ‘81 or ‘82). The show in question, People Are Talking, was hosted by Richard Bey, and this particular episode features a genuinely interesting interview with film journalist and historian Steve Vertlieb.

One thing that I enjoy about this special, specifically the interview with Vertlieb, is the fact that horror films aren’t being chastised, something of which was very common for this type of show during the time period. Instead, this interview and the special as a whole is more of a celebration of what makes horror enjoyable for people of all ages. There is some discussion about how horror evolves to reflect modern society as well as how horror films can be a positive escape for some people.

People Are Talking Halloween special Steve Vertlieb

Now, that’s not to say there isn’t an obvious undercurrent of fear and trepidation about the genre in question, which is most obvious when the conversation turns to snuff films, a topic that is delved into when a caller asks if Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse was indeed one of these snuff films. The thought that this caller actually believed that people were being murdered in The Funhouse because the deaths looked so real is absolutely bananas, though it is also very reflective of the times. On a side note, the look on Richard Bey’s face as Vertlieb talks about snuff films is priceless.

The special also features some great moments in which audience members share what scenes from horror films have frightened them the most. It’s hard not to smile as middle-age moms talk about House of Wax and Creepshow. Also strewn throughout the special are clips from films such as Tales of Terror and Carpenter’s Halloween as well as random check-ins on an audience member having some “horror makeup” applied to her face.  

While the video runs over 12 min long, unfortunately it is not complete, as the special is cut off at the first commercial break. Regardless, there’s more than enough here to enjoy for horror fans and those of us who love Halloween, so I highly encourage you to give it a watch. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Goosebumps At 33: My Hairiest Adventure

Goosebumps TV shows

My Hairiest Adventure!

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure

When first introduced to Larry (Andrew Bartkiw), he is being chased down by a pack of wild dogs. As this is happening, Larry – as heard through a voiceover – complains about how asinine it is that dogs are considered man's best friend. He then goes on to complain that he has allergies, which only leads me to one conclusion: Larry is a real asshole.

After being chased around by the vicious creatures for a bit, Larry decides to climb a tree to get away from the dogs. Larry’s moment of relief is short-lived, however, as the tree branch he’s sitting on breaks, even though it’s like 13” around. Oddly, though, when Larry lands on the ground, the dogs don’t attack him. In fact, they simply sit there staring at him like he's an asshole. Because he is an asshole, and dogs can sense that kind of shit.

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure 1

At some point, Larry’s friend Lily (Courtney Greig) rescues Larry from the dogs that aren't attacking him. And thankfully so, as without Larry, I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to witness the greatest garage band practice scene of all time. We’re talking a keyboard solo performed with a gusto not seen since Elissa in the masterful thriller #HATES

After the band finishes rocking the afternoon away, one of Larry’s band mates finds an old bottle of tanning lotion. Immediately the band has a serious discussion about how getting nice and tan would really help them make a great impression for an upcoming audition, so they proceed to rub the tanning lotion all over their skin. Because that’s what you do when you find a random bottle of old tanning lotion in a garage.  

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure 3

Soon afterward, Larry notices an inordinate amount of hair growing from the top of his hands. His immediate response is to shave it off; however, the hair almost immediately grows back and eventually spreads up his arms and all over his body. Not that we see his body. I mean, this is a kids show, ya know. Anyway, this newfound hair growth is certainly a concern for Larry, but things get even stranger when his friends begin to go missing. Worse yet, their parents suddenly have absolutely no knowledge of their now missing child’s existence.

Taken from the 26th book in the series, My Hairiest Adventure is a clear nod to the werewolf genre, and like some werewolf tales, there is a clear tie to puberty. Which, in all honesty, seems a little out of place in an episode of Goosebumps. I mean, there’s actually a scene where Larry asks Lily if she’s started to notice any hair growing in strange places after using the tanning oil. If that’s not an inappropriate thing to ask, I don’t know what is. Actually, I do, but I’ll keep that to myself.

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure

Overall, My Hairiest Adventure is a very light episode, in that it’s not all too creepy. Well, minus the whole puberty thing, but that’s a different kind of creepy. If there is one major standout in the episode, however, it’s that Larry is a whiny, angsty, lowlife crybaby. In other words, an asshole. Outside of Larry the asshole and hair in strange places, My Hairiest Adventure is far from a memorable episode of Goosebumps, though it does have one great little payoff that ties in with the shows famous opening. It’s not much of a saving grace, but worthy of note. 

Until next time, kiddies, keep your night light on and your head under the covers...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Salute Your Shorts: The Backwater Gospel (2011)

The Backwater Gospel Halloween Short film

Set in the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, a small, isolated community is plagued by the lingering threat of a mysterious undertaker, who always seems to show up just before someone is about to die. The townsfolk are absolutely frightened, which is only heightened by a guitar-strumming tramp (Zebulon Whatley) who sings a song warning the townsfolk that the undertaker is on his way. Led by a propaganda-spewing preacher (Lucien Dodge), the townsfolk, who have the intelligence of an ingrown toenail, come to believe that the tramp is to blame for their impending doom.

Directed by Bo Mathorne, The Backwater Gospel is a Danish animated short with a simplistic but relevant message. The entire basis for the short is how easy it is to sway the masses, especially when they are afraid for their lives. The fear of death causes the townsfolk to act completely irrational, which leads them to take some very unchristian-like actions. And all along the way, the preacher does nothing but feed into the fears of the townsfolk, because in the end it is he who is the most afraid.  

While the narrative of the short is fairly basic, the strength of The Backwater Gospels is the way in which it’s presented to the viewer. With a style that is best described as gritty, the film is gorgeously animated and exudes a legitimate sense of dread and despair, something of which greatly heightens the dark subject matter. The animation stands out most during the short’s final moments, in which the proverbial shit hits the fan. This is where The Backwater Gospel becomes quite violent, but the way the violence is visually portrayed is through black silhouettes, something of which adds a fantastic level of style to the piece.  

Take a moment to check out The Backwater Gospel for yourself, and afterwards, please feel free to let me know what you think!

Salute Your Shorts 4

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bad Trick or Treat Ideas: Bag of Popcorn

bad trick or treat candy ideas

Hey, I like popcorn as much as the next person, but trying to pass off 3¢ worth of stale air as a Halloween “treat” is simply unacceptable. I take no issue with spending an evening rotting my teeth out whilst chowing down on the copious candy goodies there are to be had, but I have absolutely no desire to spend said evening picking kernels out of them. Plus, I’d much rather not eat a snack that you dished out with you bare, filth-covered hand.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ghoul School (1990): Too Ghoul for School

ghoul school 1990

When a group of dim-witted criminals attempt to steal a fortune in cash from a high school basement, they accidentally unleash a poison into the school’s water supply, resulting in the swim team and a handful of other students becoming flesh-eating ghouls. The only people who can stop this outbreak from breaking out are a couple of horror geeks, Jeff and Steve (Scott Gordon and William Friedman), a five-man basketball team and the baddest rock band of all time, the Bloodsucking Ghouls. Will they be able to expel this ghoulish nightmare, or find themselves stuck in permanent detention?

Written and directed by Timothy O’Rawe, Ghoul School is an immensely low-budget horror comedy that somehow, someway delivers the goods despite being riddled with issues. Comically bad acting is sporadically laced throughout the film, which is often enhanced by post-production dialogue so ridiculous that it would almost seem like they were doing it on purpose to get a laugh. Furthermore, the editing is amateurish at best, featuring an abundance of awkwardly edited and staged moments of dialogue where characters seem as if they are in two completely different planes of existence.

ghoul school 1990 1

Despite a runtime of 70 minutes, Ghoul School has a whole lot going on. There are a number of parallel storylines that, regardless of coming together in the film’s finale, seem to be nothing more than nonsensical filler. With horror junkies Jeff and Steve being the obvious leads, the film mainly focuses on them as they sneak into the AV room to watch a bootleg of the latest zombie gore film before the ghoul outbreak occurs. During this time, there are sections of the film dedicated to the Bloodsucking Ghouls, who come equipped with mullets, massive amounts of fringe, cheetah print, and weight-lifting gloves, all things you want and need in a hair-metal band. What the viewer does not get, however, is a taste of "the best goddamn rock 'n roll singer in New York," because their performance suspiciously lacks vocals.

ghoul school 1990 3

Keeping the film’s momentum at a crawl is the worst basketball practice ever hosted by the worst coach ever who is forcing the varsity basketball team to practice an extra hour because they suck. What follows are an abundance of sporadic scenes where the viewer is privy to the basketball team lazily taking practice shots and arguing with one another about who’s the gayest. All of these characters eventually come to play a part in the film as a whole, but in all reality this poorly executed build up adds nothing of real value to the film in the scenes leading up to that point. Well, outside of laughable entertainment value, that is.

As out of place as the basketball practice may seem, it holds not a candle to the random scenes featuring Joe Franklin and Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, both of whom make an appearance as themselves. Serving absolutely no purpose to the film whatsoever, these are clearly nothing more than cameos that came in exchange for favors, or in the case of Martling, self promotion. There are a handful of characters wearing a T-shirt that says “I stumped Jackie the Joke Man!!” as well as a moment where one of Martling’s videos is playing in the background. The most egregious and absurd moment comes from a scene where Martling literally spends 5 minutes telling jokes to Franklin in an office. It’s absolute madness.

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While issues are aplenty, Ghoul School is thoroughly enjoyable in a way where its many problems actually add to the film in a positive way. The film somehow retains a level of horror-loving earnestness, which I think can be attributed to it being made by people who genuinely love the genre. Of course, the time period in which the film was made adds to the amusement, especially because it comes at a time when we weren’t all so self-aware. Those who nostalgically cherish the 1980s through modern-day retro-entertainment should enjoy watching a movie such as Ghoul School, as it genuinely delivers much of the same absurd amusement during an era that so many try to capture.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Goosebumps at 33: Piano Lessons Can Be Murder

Goosebumps TV shows

Previously on Goosebumps At 33…

Goosebumps The Girl Who Cried Monster TV Show Episode 3

Goosebumps It Came from Beneath the Sink TV Show 2

goosebumps Phantom of the auditorium 3

Well hello boils and ghouls! I am extremely excited to welcome you to a brand spanking new season of Goosebumps At 33! This is the 5th season of Goosebumps At 33, and oh boy are you in for a treat, as this season is set to deliver all sorts of thrills, chills and dolla dolla bills, ya’ll!

For those of you who aren’t hip to all this Goosebumps jazz, I encourage you to jump in my time machine and take a look back at this introductory post. For the rest of you dear brave souls, why don’t you have a seat, take a deep breath, and listen closely as I tell you the horrid tale of…


Goosebumps Piano Lessons Can Be Murder 4

Jerry (Ben Cook) is a young boy with a wild imagination filled with aspects of horror, science-fiction and adventure. While moving into a new home, Jerry’s imagination crosses over into reality when he hears a piano playing Ludwig Van Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata… all by itself! This obviously startles Jerry, but when he tells his parents about what he just witnessed, they chalk it up to his imagination and suggest that he gets a hobby to keep his wandering mind occupied. Oddly, they don’t seem to worry about Jerry wearing a spaghetti strainer on his head. Like, not only is it a strange thing to do, it’s highly unsanitary.

Goosebumps Piano Lessons Can Be Murder

Soon after the piano incident, Jerry meets a neighborhood girl named Kim (Erica Luttrell), who gleefully informs Jerry that his new home was previously owned by a piano teacher, something that intrigues Jerry. Later on that night, Jerry once again hears the same song as before, which leads to him heading down to the basement to investigate. When Jerry sees that the pianist is a ghost, he freaks out and runs away, but not before waking his parents by knocking over a bunch of boxes.

Jerry is as frightened as he is fascinated by what is happening in his new home, so he decides that the best way to figure out why there’s a ghost playing the piano in his basement is to take piano lessons. This goes over well with Jerry’s parents, as they believe this will keep him occupied and prevent so many strange outbursts.

Goosebumps Piano Lessons Can Be Murder 2

While taking piano lessons seems like a pretty innocuous undertaking, the piano school is located in an abandoned factory with some seriously high-end security. Nothing to be ‘alarmed’ about, right? Well, if an abandoned factory and security system isn’t sketch’ enough for you, the fact that Jerry’s piano teacher (Aron Tager) is a flamboyant Santa Claus looking old man obsessed with little boy’s hands might be of concern. That, or the fact that there is a creepy maintenance man (Geza Kovacs) who’s in charge of various red-eyed robots that roam the halls of the factory. Like really, what could go wrong?! 

Taken from the 13th book in the series, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder was the 8th episode in the 1st season of the Goosebumps television series. Overall a solid episode, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder has a bit of a strange but visually interesting finale, filled with twists and turns and turns and twists. Interestingly enough, however, this is one of those rare occurrences where there is no twist at the very end of the episode. The performances are fairly entertaining, and Terry isn’t too obnoxious as the protagonist, though at one point he claims that he can play Stairway to Heaven On the Kazoo. Jerry is obviously a crack head.

Goosebumps Piano Lessons Can Be Murder 3

Anyway, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder is a nice way to get this year’s Goosebumps at 33 started, and I only hope that the rest of this season brings about a bevy of equally enjoyable Goosebumps goodies! 

Until next time, kiddies, keep your night light on and your head under the covers...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Salute Your Shorts: Tricker's Treat (2013)

Halloween short film Tricker's Treat

It's Halloween night, and a man credited as The Fatman (Paul Hernandez) wants absolutely nothing to do with any sort of trick-or-treating. In fact, he even goes as far as putting up a sign in his front yard saying “NO TRICK ‘R TREATERS.” Instead of being bothered by greedy little children, The Fatman would much rather spend his Halloween watching horror movies and eating a massive bowl of buffalo wings covered in blue cheese. And honestly, I don't blame him, because buffalo wings are wicked good. Like, they’re one of my favorite foods good.

In any event, a handful of trick-or-treaters come knocking and interrupt The Fatman’s evening of horror movies and eating buffalo wings. As expected, he doesn't take it too well and responds accordingly by telling the children to kick rocks. This isn’t the last time The Fatman will have to deal with visitors, however, as soon his evening of horror films and delicious buffalo wings becomes a night of regret for having shunned so many young trick-or-treaters.

Written and directed by Don Greene, Tricker’s Treat is a 5 minute short that clearly cost very little to make. That’s not to say the short suffers as a result. In fact, it’s just the opposite, as Tricker’s Treat is a solidly made little slice of Halloween horror that features impressive lighting and editing as well as a humorous performance by Paul Hernandez.  

Give it a watch for yourself below, and please feel free to invite me over next time you order wings.

Salute Your Shorts 3.5



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