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Sunday, August 25, 2013

100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts

100 ghosts a gallery of harmless haunts book review doogie horner

When it comes to horror, nothing is more iconic than a ghost. From Slimer and Samara to Beetlejuice and Sam Wheat, a ghost can come in all shapes and sizes, but if there is one depiction of a ghost that is most recognizable, it is that of the white bed sheet with two eye holes cut into it. This ghostly image has been around for so long that it’s difficult to pinpoint when it began being used to frighten people, and to this day it is still one of the most prevalent pop culture icons associated with horror and Halloween alike.

This classic ghostly figure is the basis for 100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts, a humorous and often delightful look at the versatility of the bed sheet ghost. Written and illustrated by Doogie Horner, 100 Ghosts takes the traditional bed sheet ghost and places it in various comedic situations. These range from a ‘Jellyfish’ ghost, which comes complete with little ghost like tendrils, to a one-eyed ‘Cyclops’ ghost.

100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts is the perfect coffee table book for the coming Halloween season and could just as well find a nice home at the bedside of a young child. It’s charm is in its creative simplicity, and the wit that Horner injects into each and every one of these 100 ghosts makes the book enjoyable to spend as little or as much time with as the reader would like.

Here are a few examples of what you’ll find in 100 Ghosts:

If these images are your cup of bed sheet covered tea, then 100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts goes on sale September 10 from Quirk Books publishing. Furthermore, you can pre-order it right now for a very reasonable price of $8.96 over at Amazon.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dreamaniac (1986): And She’s Killing Like She’s Never Killed Before

dreamaniac 1986 movie reviewSteeped in ‘80s youth culture, David DeCoteau's d├ębut feature film, Dreamaniac, takes bits and pieces of all that was popular at the time, particularly heavy metal and the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. With a tagline such as "You don't have to live on Elm Street to have a Nightmare," it is clear that the target audience the film was aiming for was the Freddy crowd. In the same vein, this was a time when heavy metal was at its most popular (and most controversial), so the mixture was a no brainer for any cheap horror film looking to turn a few bucks. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you.

Despite the film's brilliant hybrid title and the promise of a female version of Freddy Krueger, Dreamaniac has very little-to-nothing to do with the dream world. In fact, the only time there is any actual dream sequence would be within the first five minutes where the audience is introduced to Adam (and his ass) and Lilly (re: The Succubus!), the women who Adam has been having sexually driven dreams about. After Lilly puts a kink in Adam's hose by killing him within this opening dream sequence, he wakes up, and this would be about the point where the dream portion of Dreamaniac ends. Maybe it should have been called Awakeiac.

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Soon after the opening dream sequence, it is learned that Adam is a professional heavy metal lyrics writer (wait…what?) who is living on his own in a secluded area so he can focus on his work. Oh, and so he can privately focus on his satanic rituals, which he actually uses to bring Lilly out from his dreams and into the real world. To be honest, I'm really not sure why he does this. First off, Adam has a gorgeous girlfriend named Pat (Kim McKamyshe aka Ashlyn Gere!), which is actually a total surprise considering Adam’s style consists of a sleeveless Def leppard t-shirt, gold rimmed glasses, ripped jeans, and short (for a metal guy), blonde feathered hair. You know, the outfit of choice for most any kid who plays Dungeons & Dragons and kills small animals to feed their sexual urges.

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Much of the film (well, all) is set in Adam's home, which is being used by Pat's sister to throw a party as a way to get into the good graces of a sorority she is trying to join. The partygoers consist of the usual hipster dweeb, the snotty - but oh-so entertaining - bitch, the lame-o jock, a valley girl, and every other stereotype you can imagine. These would all become the cattle for Dreamaniac's killer, Lilly (Sylvia Summers), as she works her way around the house using her powers of seduction to slay all of its inhabitants. This leads to what is a slew of sexually driven scenes filled with enough male tighty whiteys (and the butts behind them) to have granted a sponsorship from Fruit of the Loom. And with DeCoteau at the helm, it's not a surprise.

While Dreamaniac is filled with some hysterical dialogue (and I mean HYSTERICAL!), terrible music and bad acting, it is a film that tried to be more than just any old cheap ‘80s Slasher film. I've never seen or read anything to support this, but there seems to be a clear Italian influence as far as the film’s style goes. With liberal use of fog, colored gels and stilted camera angles to portray atmosphere, I couldn't help but think that people like Argento, Fulci and possibly Soavi were aesthetically very influential for DeCoteau. Granted, it's not anything to be impressed with, but I commend the attempt at creating a sense of style instead of simply mailing it in.

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Released in 1986 by the long defunct and pre-Full Moon distribution company, Wizard Video (which fell under the Empire Pictures umbrella), Dreamaniac is one hell of a good time. Even if it doesn't deliver anything that it promises to, it's worth a watch for any fan of bad cinema looking for a quick chuckle. Furthermore, anyone who is interested in taking a deep look into the inner workings of a heavy metal songwriter will certainly be pleased with this one. Before I sign off, however, I feel I should mention that the VHS box art is simply wonderful, but what really shines most is the pure fact that the crazed looking Clint Howard look-alike is absolutely nowhere to be found in this film whatsoever. Like, not at all. That kind of tells you everything you need to know about Dreamaniac right there.

Who needs the trailer when you can watch the entire film?!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Tao of BOLO!

Despite it being mid-August, I've already gotten a strong whiff of the upcoming Fall/Halloween season. Many stores have begun putting out their Fall gear, with some even having much of their Halloween items already on shelves. However, one of the biggest indicators that Halloween is on it's way comes in the form of our good friend Bolo, a gourd plant(s) that I started growing in my backyard about two seasons ago. During the last two Fall seasons, Bolo has given me and my slave woman a bounty of awesome gourds, but as you’ll soon see, this year things are certainly off to a very different start.

Here's a look at Bolo from exactly one year ago:

And below is Bolo right now. Same time of year but easily 80% bigger! I'm like mudda fuggin' Dr. Greenthumb and shit!

Based off past experience, Bolo will only get bigger, and chances are it will completely take over my entire home and eat me alive. And I'm okay with that, so long as it gifts me with many a gourd to decorate my house with this October.

Anyway, for those of you who would like to know more about the history of this beautiful creature (which is likely none of you), then click HERE for a look at Bolo past!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Blackbelt (1992): No Shirt Required

blackbelt1992

Ex-cop and master of the martial arts Jack Dillon (Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson) is forced out of retirement to help protect a beautiful singer named Shanna (Deirdre Imershein) from a crazed stalker, and master of the martial arts, John Sweet (Mathias Hues). Sweet - who rocks a sweet golden feathered semi-mullet - believes that Shanna is a woman he once had a sexual relationship with... his mother. Sweet isn’t the only one after Shanna, however, as she’s also in some hot water with the local mob because she refuses to renew her music contract, and seeing as her career is about to blow-up, they really want in on the action. That’s a lot of BS to deal with, but we are talking about Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson here, so I think it’s safe to assume that things are well under control.  

  • B-Action Movie Fun Fact #1: You’ll never find flowers in a box of flowers. A gun? possibly. A severed human body part? Very likely.

Blackbelt

Directed by Charles Philip Moore and Rick Jacobson, Blackbelt starts off with an awesome opening credit sequence that features the names of a number of martial arts actors and each of their individual competitive fighting accomplishments. I have to admit that it’s pretty cool seeing these real life fighters get some recognition for what they have done, something that I believe was important to Wilson. From there the film opens brilliantly with a scene that switches back and forth between Sweet kicking a ton of ass in a hotel room, while in another room, his date is stripping down to her sexy parts in anticipation of Sweet’s return. It’s the kind of imagery that’s pretty much the perfect way to open any movie. Unfortunately for the girl getting nekkid, however, Sweet is more interested in borrowing one of her fingers which he then sticks in a flower box to give to Shanna as a sign of affection. This event is what causes Shanna to, trepidatiously, go to Dillon for help.

  • B-Action Movie Fun Fact # 2: If the lead character/hero walks into a bar, there will be an epic one-at-a-time bar fight.

    • B-Action Movie Sub-fun Fact: During a bar fight, no one is safe, especially wooden tables, beer bottles and pool sticks.

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Something that immediately stands out about Blackbelt is the incredible fashion. For the most part, Jack Dillon’s style is simple, mostly consisting of a t-shirt tossed to the ground, a pair of jeans and a cowboy style boot. However, there is a moment early on when he’s shown training his martial arts’ students, and he’s just slaying bitches left and right in a black, acid wash denim karate gi top. Let me repeat that: a black, acid wash denim karate gi top. Then there’s the delectable Shanna, a rockin’ babe who can often be seen wearing any number of studded braziers. Though, it should be said that she is also a mid-drift mama of the highest order. And last, but certainly not least, there’s John Sweet, who is simply in a league of his own and must be seen to be believed.  

  • B-Action Movie Fun Fact #3: There will be a warehouse shootout on the one day no one decided to come into work.

    • B-Action Movie Sub-fun Fact: Said warehouse will clearly be a leading producer of empty cardboard boxes and blue storage drums.

Blackbelt 1

Blackbelt keeps a decent pace with some moderately fun action moments strewn throughout, but things really pick up in the third act, wherein you have a warehouse shootout, a multiple-baddie dojo fight, a car chase, and, of course, numerous shirtless/jean-clad fight scenes via Jack Dillon. Again, I have to reiterate how that dude simply does not want anything to do with a t-shirt. In fact, during one of the fight sequences, Jack tosses his shirt aside, takes a few dudes out, then instead of putting his shirt back on, simply throws on his brown bomber jacket for that open-chest sexy look.

  • B-Action Movie Fun Fact #4: If there is a dojo, there will be a fight in that dojo, and that fight will consist of numerous thugs of various ethnicities, brandishing a slew of weapons and fashion choices.

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The film wraps up with the eagerly awaited face off between Dillon and Sweet, and when the two are shown on screen together (with both being so extremely shirtless), it’s insane how massive the 6’5” Hues is in comparison to Wilson, who is no slouch himself at 6’1”. Overall, this end fight is as satisfying as one would hope for from a Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson flick, which is probably the perfect way to describe Blackblet as a whole. It features some highly entertaining, if not overly choreographed action scenes, there’s some questionable acting, namely from ‘The Dragon’, and of course the film features some silly fashion, all elements that one would expect and, more importantly, want from an early 90s B-Action movie starring Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson.

On a side note, can he ever not be referred to as ‘The Dragon’? Go ahead, try to say and/or type his first and last name without it. You will fail.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Salute Your Shorts: The Dump (2012)

The Dump 2012 Short film review Rebekah McKendry

Directed by Rebekah McKendry from a screenplay by David Ian McKendry, The Dump gives viewers the opportunity to see what it would be like to have two serial killers accidentally run into one another while disposing of their most recent kills.

First you have the clean cut, knife-wielding yuppie (Matthew Currie Holmes), who has the perfect suit and tie to go along with his perfect BMW. The other killer (Jack Bennett), on the other hand, comes in the form of a machete-clad masked maniac, complete with mechanic’s coveralls and a shoddy pickup truck.

Two very different types of serial killers who comes from two very different worlds. But as previously mentioned, both men do have one big thing in common besides their taste for blood: they need to dump their victim’s bodies into a ravine. This results in some genuinely clever moments of dialogue as the two murderers try to figure out how to deal with this perplexing situation.

Take a moment to check out The Dump for yourself, and feel free to let me know how you liked it afterwards! Also, hope you like the brand new scoring system I came up with, which will be exclusively used for shorts film reviews from here on out!

Salute Your Shorts 4


 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Private Parts (1972): Filthy Fairytale

*Disclaimer!* I wrote a handful of articles for a now defunct e-zine called BthroughZ a number of years back, and when that site went belly up, so didn’t the reviews I wrote for it. I didn’t want to lose the articles I worked so hard to write, so over the next few months I will be reposting them here for your enjoyment.

Private Parts 1972 Paul Bartel review1972’s Private Parts follows the exploits of an adventurous teenage girl named Cheryl (Ayn Ruymen). When Cheryl is first introduced, it is learned that she stole money from her parents and fled the state of Ohio with her best friend so they could live the high life in Los Angeles. After a less than positive run in with her best friend/roommate, Cheryl steals her friend’s wallet and flees the scene--just as she had done with her parents--to find something better than being judged and yelled at constantly.

With a small amount of cash and nowhere else to go, Cheryl makes her way to a rough area in L.A. and ultimately to her Aunt Martha’s (Lucille Benson) hotel. Not really a hotel as much as an apartment building, Cheryl talks Martha into letting her stay there for the time being, and in return, she will help out around the hotel to earn her keep. Filled with many eccentric and strange residents, this hotel is not the normal stomping ground for a youthful girl such as Cheryl. Furthermore, the hotel is filled with numerous dark and dangerous secrets, most notably being the hotel’s resident serial killer who preys on any unwanted trespassers.

While the hotel has a murderer running around it’s colossal hallways, Private Parts is not a slasher movie. There are certainly some elements, but this one is something entirely different. In fact, I would consider it to be more of a fantasy film, but a fantasy film that is definitely not made for kids. Well, unless they’re feral.

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Cheryl’s proverbial ‘rabbit hole’ is the entrance to the seedy hotel, which is filled with fantastical characters who are clearly not facets of a ‘normal’ real world. All of the hotel’s inhabitants are odd and varied in their strangeness, with one character who frolics around dressed up as a priest but really seems to enjoy the company of big strong men. There’s the usual crazy old lady lurking the halls, spewing weird shit about a girl named Alice to anyone who will listen. And then there is George (John Ventantonio), a creepy photographer who mostly keeps to himself, but has some very unhealthy sexual issues.

Cheryl is attracted to George, whose reclusive and dark nature is undeniably appealing to Cheryl, and the two characters come to indirectly play a game of unhinged cat and naive mouse. However, mouse or not,  Cheryl is very much a willing participant in this game, and her fairytale adventure is mostly driven by her curiosity towards sex. Cheryl, who hates being looked at as a child, seems to believe the way to becoming respected as an adult is through sexual activity, and she pursues this activity in a fashion that’s both innocent and very aware.

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Cheryl is driven by her sexual desire, and with a wide eyed curiosity she looks to do something that she is not familiar with; something that stimulates her growing feminine needs. Young or not, Cheryl isn’t intimidated by the more ‘out there’ aspects of sexuality. Some of the acts that George asks Cheryl to participate in are things that would creep out the average girl, especially a young one. This is not the case with Cheryl, as she seems to be intrigued by the sexual adventures, possibly seeing them as a way towards being liberated from childhood.

Ayn Ruymen, who plays Cheryl, is absolutely terrific. She is the driving force of the movie, and watching Cheryl slyly navigate the halls of the old hotel--curiously investigating all the little secrets that the hotel has to offer--is very enjoyable. This is really where you see that no matter how sexual she wants to be or thinks she is, Cheryl is just a kid; a child exploring a place that offers curiosities that most girls of her age would find to be taboo. Ruymen, who was much older than the age of her character, captures this youthful inquisitiveness very well, and it’s easy to feel as if you are right alongside Cheryl on her adventure.

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While the fantasy and sexual elements are a major part of its DNA, Private Parts still has a lot of horror elements. The hotel setting is creepy and filled with many dark corners, creaky floorboards, and quirky little intricacies that make it a nice visual world for Cheryl to explore. Though they are few and far between, there are also a few murders, but the horror aspect of the film really comes from the undercurrent that something sinister is going on, and very few people seem to be aware of it.

The hotel does harbor a dark history, and this is further compounded by Aunt Martha’s constant warnings for Cheryl to stay inside and keep away from the other tenants. Under a seemingly normal and stable guise, Aunt Martha herself is as odd as the rest of them, especially the way in which her personality can change from one moment to the next. One second, she warns Cheryl to just keep safe and out of sight, and in the next she is preaching abstinence and yelling about how she will not put up with any painted whores in her home. Martha plays the cautionary role, but in true fantasy form, she would appear less than trustworthy. To an extent, Martha is protecting Cheryl, but she is also clearly hiding some very dark secrets.

Private Parts 1972 Paul Bartel review 1

Private Parts is directed by genre legend Paul Bartel. Bartel’s direction is very solid in Private Parts, with its biggest strength coming from its subtlety. There are little flashes of eye catching style that show up from time to time, but these touches are subtle, which works perfectly for bringing to life the film’s fantastical elements. To go too far with the visuals could have taken away from the base realism of the movie. These slight touches are just small reminders that there is something off about the world that Cheryl is in. It’s a skewed reality but a reality nonetheless.

There is plenty I didn’t touch on in this review of Private Parts, but I plan on touching Private Parts as much as possible, and I encourage you to do the same. It’s an odd little film that will leave you contemplating some of the deeper aspects long after sitting through it, which for me is the mark of great filmmaking.

 

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