Friday, April 29, 2011

Staff Profiles

Nickolas Cook (editor-in-chief)
Publishing Credits: Nickolas has had dozens of short stories and non-fiction reviews and articles published in print and electronic formats. He has been the fiction moderator for for over four years. To date, his two published novels, THE BLACK BEAST OF ALGERNON WOOD (Dailey Swan Publishing), BALEFUL EYE (currently in pre-production with new publisher) and ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND 2nd Edition with Sourcebooks 2011, all of which have received several positive reviews and he’s been said to display a true craftsmanship missing in much of modern horror. His first short story collection, 'ROUND MIDNIGHT AND OTHER TALES OF LOST SOULS was recently released from Damnation Books.. He also has two new releases forthcoming: PAINT IT BLACK (early 2011 from Dailey Swan Press).

Personal Info: Nickolas lives in the beautiful Southwestern desert with his wife and three wonderful Chinese Pugs, who are worse than little children…the dogs, not the wife.
Visit me at my official website, THE HORROR JAZZ AND BLUES REVUE
He also has a very active Facebook page
Or email him at

Steven M. Duarte (Co-Editor)
Personal Info: I have always been interested in horror culture from a very young age. I enjoy all aspects of the genre from movies, video games, books to music. I have a soft spot for foreign horror films most notably Italian made ones. I especially enjoy zombie horror films and have made it my mission to try and view any and all movies involving zombies.
Favorite films: Day of the Dead, Suspiria, Zombi, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, and Deep Red, just to name a few.
I primarily listen to heavy metal but enjoy all different types of music. I have been a diehard Slipknot fan since the start and continue to be a supporter of the group. I also enjoy listening to horror soundtracks especially by the Italian group Goblin.

Bill Lindblad has been a bookseller specializing in horror and other genre fiction for roughly fifteen years. He is a regular contributor to the writing blog Storytellers Unplugged and has been a staple at conventions for almost a quarter of a century (as an attendee, dealer, panelist, auctioneer and convention staff.) Bill is an unrepentant fan and has taken this out on the pets... as ferrets Mughi (Dirty Pair) and Boingo, cats Gamera and Shane (after Shane MacGowan) and black labrador Grue (Dying Earth and Infocom games) could attest were they able to talk. His wife makes him watch too many strange movies.

Jenny Orosel has been published in fiction and nonfiction for the past nine years. She is also an avid baker and candy-maker (having only set a kitchen on fire once). She has also appeared in numerous game shows, worked on two feature films, and won an award for her first animated short film (also including fire, this time on purpose). When not writing or making sugary treats, she is forcing Bill to sit through some of the strangest movies he’s ever seen.

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter and the author of four non-fiction books, including THE CINEMA OF TSUI HARK. She is a three-time winner of the Bram Stoker award, a recipient of the Black Quill Award, and has published over three dozen works of short fiction. Her first novel, THE CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES, has received rave reviews since its release in early 2010 (by Gray Friar Press), and her newest novella, THE SAMHANACH, is a Halloween treat from Bad Moon Books. She lives online at

Karen L. Newman lives in Kentucky where she's an active member of "Horror Writers Association" and edits "Illumen" and "Cosmic Crime Stories". She edited the online magazine, "Afterburn SF" for over four years before the market closed. Over three hundred of her short stories and poems have been published both online and in print in places such as "Dark Tales of Terror", "Dead Worlds: Undead Stories", and "The Pedestal Magazine". Her poetry collections include EEKU (Sam’s Dot, 2005), ChemICKals (SMASHWORDS, 2010), and Toward Absolute Zero (Sam’s Dot, 2009). She blogs for the Apex Book Company. Her poetry collections include EEKU (Sam’s Dot, 2005), and Toward Absolute Zero (Sam’s Dot, 2009), which can be purchased online at or
She won the 2005 Kentucky Mary Jane Barnes Award and two of her poems received honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She's been nominated for a Rhysling Award, James B. Baker Award, and twice nominated for a Dwarf Star Award.
Please visit her online at:
Contact Info: and leave out NOSPAM when contacting
Fav Movies: SAW, Rocky Horror Picture Show

Brian Sammons has been writing reviews for years for such places as the magazines Cemetery Dance, Dark Wisdom, Shock Totem, and The Unspeakable Oath. His reviews have also appeared on many websites like The Black Seal, Bloody-Disgusting, and Horror World. Wanting to give other critics the chance to ravage his work for a change, Brian has also penned a few short stories that have appeared in such anthologies as Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, and Monstrous. Some of the magazines where you can find his twisted tales are Bare Bone, Cthulhu Sex, and Dark Animus. For more about this guy whose neighbors describe as “such nice, quiet man” go here:

Jason Shayer
Recent publishing credits:
Necrotic Tissue #6, the Dead Science and Through the Eyes of the Undead anthologies, and Arcane magazine.
He's also a regular contributor to Back Issue! magazine, a comic book magazine spotlighting the 1970s and 1980s.
Personal Info:
Jason Shayer's 12-year-old mind frame has given more than a few people a reason to raise an eyebrow, most often his wife. When he’s not writing or reading, he’s teaching his kids the finer points of zombie lore.
Contact info:

Stabbed in Stanzas Book Review: Roman Hell by Mark Mellon

Roman Hell (2010)
Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

History buffs will appreciate the novel, Roman Hell by Mark Mellon. He paints a rich tapestry of Roman life. He includes quotes from the Latin translation of the work of the Roman historian and senator Tacitus to aid in the authenticity of the setting. Mellon even includes a murder plot, reminiscent of the Shakespearian play Julius Caesar. Yet the betrayal leads to unpredicted results. As in real life things aren’t what they seem; a hero can turn into a villain and the villain into someone likable. The protagonist, a poet named Martial, is a refreshing change since most of these types of novels feature Roman soldiers. The addition of witches adds to the book without taking from its authenticity.
Sometimes, however, Mellon spends too much time on the setting and not enough on character development. The reader can lose sight of the plot and interest in the book. Unlike most books, Mellon moves fifteen years into the future to continue the story. He also utilizes quite a large number of characters which adds to the confusion. The language exudes brilliance and the intellect of Mellon is evident, perhaps a drawback to the average reader. Yet he doesn’t dumb down anything. This is fun fictional textbook.
Roman Hell is a unique look into the past; the horror, life itself. Isn’t that still true today?

--Karen L. Newman

TIME CAPSULES classic book reviews by Bill Lindblad

THE POISON BELT by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

In 1898, H.G. Wells used the science fiction story... at the time, "scientific fantasy"... to spin an apocalyptic tale of invasion by Martians. Death and destruction on a scale beyond that of any terrestrial war was chronicled, and literary history was made. Twenty years later, the creator of Sherlock Holmes decided to turn his own hand to an extraterrestrial attack, with a slight difference: everybody dies.

Well, almost everybody. After the event, there are six people left alive. To those familiar with Doyle's earlier The Lost World, it should be no surprise that five of them are Professor Challenger and his wife, and Challenger's three companions from The Lost World: materialist Professor Summerlee, adventurer Lord John Roxton, and reporter Edward Malone. Apart from the one other survivor, all multicellular animal life on the Earth is killed.

Because of the story format, any thoughtful reader will recognize that at least a few others must survive through to the end, and in fact it develops that despite the death of all animals, they - in the words of a famous Monty Python movie scene - get better.

The Poison Belt was first published in 1919, before the science fiction boom and before the advent of the pulp hero. It is apparent that Doyle was, again, ahead of his time. This pre-genre title is ultimately an adventure story but dabbles at being science fiction and post-apocalyptic horror. The scientific theory upon which the story was based has long been disproven, but the story still works well enough in its chosen format and is as pleasantly readable as his more famous Holmes tales.

Three stars out of five.

RINGSTONES and Other Curious Tales by Sarban

Sarban's first book, from 1951, collects some short fiction and the title novella. The stories grow longer as the book progresses, and it violates a basic editorial rule: putting the strongest and second-strongest stories in the book at the beginning and the end. In this book, each story is better than the one before it, and it's easy to see why.
Sarban (John William Wall) had been a British diplomat and his experiences provided a realistic air to the foreign lands which served as settings for many of his works. He had a good eye for detail and he worked to provide images for the reader. By doing so, he would typically spend multiple pages developing the primary characters and locales. In shorter works, this results in half of the story being used to prepare the reader for the beginning of action.
While his short fiction does not completely fail, it is nevertheless unsatisfying. His lesser efforts are unimpressive, and his better ones feel like they were sent through a filter of 1800s fantasy literature. As the stories grow longer, the developmental aspects of his writing play better for the reader. When events happen to the characters, the reader cares. This is especially true in the title novella which takes nearly the final half of the book. It is a masterful thriller in which we see a trap being steadily woven around an unsuspecting, bright and genial woman whose single greatest vulnerability is a lack of familiarity with magic and legend.
This is the weakest of Sarban's original three books. If that sounds harsh, it's only because his other books were even more impressive.
Four stars out of five.

Doctor Rat by William Kotzwinkle
This novel from 1976 is IMPORTANT. The author obviously wants you to know this. And despite almost half of the book sounding like a story told by a self-loathing zoophile on mescaline, the author is completely successful.
The saccharine fantasy elements are needed here, as counterpoint to the sterile insanity of Doctor Rat and the animal testing lab where he lives. This is a testing lab like none other, but only because of the size and scope of the lab. The tests described by Kotzwinkle are representative of tests which were performed by scientists throughout the country, and they are grotesquely inhumane.
Exposure of just how violent and torturous most animal experimentation was has led to significant overhaul of animal testing. It's still a source of thousands of deaths per year of rats, mice, birds, rabbits, cats and dogs, but rules exist in most countries to minimize all unnecessary suffering. Efforts of people like Kotzwinkle are why.
There is gore here to fit nicely with the splatterpunk wave of the late 1980s, but it is all described clinically by the title character. The dispassionate recounting of horrors makes the story simultaneously more palatable to the reader and more haunting. Yet the Doctor's half of the story is not merely a recitation of nightmare after nightmare, it is a sendup of a political espionage thriller sporadically interrupted by the Doctor's ruminations on one test or another.
The book is important. It also manages to be funny and sickening simultaneously. It's excellent.
Five stars out of five.

--Bill Lindblad

Movie vs. Book: The Bad Seed


Sometimes I don’t know what’s worse—a bad movie made by somebody who doesn’t know any better (like a high school student film), or a mediocre movie by someone who absolutely knows how to do a good one. The latter is the case with The Bad Seed, and right after watching, I’m left feeling cold.

Before you get all cranky with me, I’m not talking about the 1956 classic, but the 1985 made-for-TV remake. It was directed by Paul Wendkos, the man behind The Legend of Lizzie Borden, another TV horror flick with Elizabeth Montgomery. That one was genuinely scary, a prime example of the golden age of television horror alongside other greats like Bad Ronald and Night Stalker. Knowing the guy made the Lizzie Borden flick, I know he can not only make a scary movie, but do so for this specific medium. That’s what makes The Bad Seed’s fail even more offensive.

I understand there will be problems doing a remake like this. Thirty years after the original, between the movie, the book and the play, everyone is familiar with the story and what the term “The Bad Seed” means. Can you still make the story surprising? We don’t know because they didn’t even try here.

From the very first scene, before they ran the opening credits, you see a little old lady pushed down a flight of stairs. Sure, you don’t see who did it, but even if you were totally unfamiliar with the story, within ten minutes you’d know. Poor Rachel Penmark, years ago she saw a dear friend of the family, a little old lady, fall down the stairs, and she has a beautiful Christmas ornament to remember her by. Yep, no mystery there because the first scene gave that away. And when little Rachel chases poor Mark Daigler to the end of the pier during the school picnic, wanting his penmanship medal she felt she deserved, we are not surprised to hear the boy’s body was found soon after. They weren’t even trying to build any sort of mystery. By the time Rachel’s mother realizes what her daughter is up to, you want to smack her upside the head and ask how she didn’t know.

Especially if you compare this to the original, it’s a sad second. Patty McCormack’s Rhoda was a cold, calculating, emotionless murderess. The Rachel played by Carrie Wells gets too frustrated too quickly, taking out her rage on the piano she obsessively practices. Instead of sociopathic, she comes across as the ultimate spoiled child.

The performances were uneven. Blair Brown does a halfway decent job with her role as Rachel’s mother, but Lynn Redgrave as the landlady and David Carradine as Leroy the handyman are so cartoonish, calling their roles two-dimensional would be too generous. Whether it’s the fault of the actors or the mediocre script is hard to tell. Both of them are fine actors, and there’s only so much even the best actor can do with a poorly written role. Perhaps their biggest faults come in accepting the role in the first place.

It turns out there’s a Turkish remake of The Bad Seed from the 60s. If you’re familiar with Turkish remakes, you know they’re low-budget cheap rip-offs, often made for little more than the cost of a can of film and an eyeliner pencil, many times stealing entire sequences straight of the original movie, adding their own shots for things like close-ups. I have a feeling I would have had a lot more fun watching that than I did with this sad excuse for a remake.

Heavily NOT recommended.

- Jenny

BOOK : THE BAD SEED by William March
If any subgenre of horror has been more played out than the vampire and the zombie, it is the creepy kid story. Starting with the Exorcist, blossoming with the popularity of the movie The Omen, and an easy default villain for any wanna-be horror author in the 1980s who didn't want to learn about mythology or legend, evil child stories are plentiful.
I don't know why most of them bothered.
The Bad Seed was written in 1954, and it's brilliant. March tells the story of Mrs. Christine Penmark, whose daughter is a sociopath. Mrs. Penmark is remarkable through her normalcy; she is neither unusually bright nor stupid, neither self-centered nor fully altruistic. She is an everywoman of the 1950s, and in many ways an everywoman of today. Although the reader is provided insight into her daughter Rhoda's personality early in the book, Christine starts the novel without any suspicions and with only mild and possibly unreasoned unease. As the book progresses we see the development of Christine's viewpoint, until she at last confronts her daughter about the truth.
That, thankfully, isn't the end of the book. Instead, March continues by examining the moral issues Christine is facing. Does she have a duty to turn her daughter in, thereby possibly saving a life? But would her daughter be convicted, without evidence, at that young age? Is the child redeemable? Is there a cause for her condition?
As Christine investigates, she discovers that there may in fact be a reason, and that the reason is her. After skipping a generation from her homicidal mother, she has passed along the emotional void to her daughter. Christine realizes that she is, in fact, a bad seed, that any of her children could be corrupted. Blame figures heavily into the last portion of this novel.
The book is fantastic, and while it may not be the definitive evil child book, it's better than 99% of the others on the market.
Five stars out of five

-- Bill

Fresh Blood: New Releases In the World of Horror

compiled by Stephen M. Duarte

In Film:

Stake Land
Release date: April 22, 2011
Starring: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Kelly McGillis, Danielle Harris, Sean Nelson, Michael Cerveris
This flick slipped under the radar but is essentially a zombie apocalypse but with vampires in lieu of zombies. So you have your burned down buildings feeling of desolate loneliness pretty much everything Romero made out his old school zombie flicks to be. Not too sure how this one will fare, but, hey, it hss a "Halloween 4" (198) alum Danielle Harris in it.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
Release date: April 29, 2011
Starring: Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Taye Diggs, Anita Briem, Peter Stormare
Based on the graphic novel of the same name Dylan tells the story of a detective who deals with matters of the supernatural kind in New Orleans. A couple of foes that he meets includes but is not limited to zombies, vampires and werewolves.

Hobo With A Shotgun
Release date: May 6, 2011
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith, Brian Downey, Nick Bateman
What originally started off as a faux trailer for a contest supporting Death Proof and Planet Terror has been turned into a full feature length film. The director took a page out of Robert Rodriguez’s book to try and capture the feeling of a grindhouse film from the 70’s early 80’s. The gore looks intact and im interested on how the final product turns out.

Priest--in 3D
Release date: May 13, 2011
Starring: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Stephen Moyer, Lily Collins
A renegade priest teams up with two companions without the churches blessing to find a group of vampires who have trapped his niece.

--Steven M. Duarte

Celluloid Horrors Movie Reviews

Hatchet II (2010)
Review written by Steven M. Duarte

Director: Adam Green
Cast: Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Parry Shen and Tom Holland

I can’t say I was a fan of the original Hatchet and after watching the sequel…well now I can say I’m not a fan of the Hatchet series in general. While an improvement over the first installment, Hatchet just never finds its niche to separate itself from the numerous low budget slasher flicks that have flooded the market in the last 5 years.

The story follow up right after the first Hatchet where Danielle Harris character goes back to Rev Zombie played by Tony Todd to go back to the swamp to collect the bodies of her slain family members. Rev Zombie is more worried about his lost boat than retrieving the bodies so he agrees to form a posse to find the bodies and do battle with the hulking Victor Crowley. Kane Hodder makes a on screen cameo sans the makeup as the killers dad. We get a flash back sequence which gives us some back story on the monster known as Victor Crowley.

I really couldn’t put my finger on what specifically it was in Hatchet that never kept me fully involved in the film. The acting was subpar with the exception of Danielle Harris and Tony Todd, The story was weak and the pacing was a little slow. Through the film the characters refer to the killer as being a ghost then say he’s not a ghost because he can be hurt then say he’s a ghost again. Yeah pretty annoying stuff I wish they didn’t focus on what he was and just worried about killing him. The gore is aplenty with this film. Gallons upon gallons of blood were reported to have been used for this film. The gore scenes are a bit over the top and the movie tends to focus more on the gore than instilling any type of real horror or suspense. The formula used is big group separates, each is focused on for a bit then they hear something and their dead. Not too much originality here.

Final Thoughts:

I really wanted to give the Hatchet series another shot but I just couldn’t get into this one. I appreciated the inclusion of Danielle Harris because who doesn’t love Danielle Harris? The return of Tony Todd was also a nice touch but was in no way enough to carry the film. Apparently there’s going to be a third film in the series so let’s see if third time’s a charm.

1 1/2 OUT OF 5 STARS
--Steven M. Duarte

ZOMBIE (1979)
Reviewed by Nickolas Cook

Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay and Olga Karlatos

To say that this was an influential film (aka Zombie 2, Zombie Flesh Eaters) on me is a huge understatement. I saw this as an original run on a gigantic drive-in screen back in 1979. It was a film I never forgot, and it has never strayed far from my thoughts as a Horrorhead. How could it?
This is Fulci's highest grossing film in the USA, making him an exploitation star overnight. No one cared that it was essentially a ripoff of George R. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) (another hugely influential film on this editor and writer). In fact, some fans might even say he took Romero's concept one HUGE step further. His treatment of he undead sub-genre is genuis, despite the low budget feel of the film. Fulci knew his strengths in this sort of film, and he packs on the gore, the nudity, and zombies...zombies...zombies.
When Tisa Farrow's father goes missing, she recruits newspaper reporter Peter West, played by the great Ian McCulloch, who would go on to play parts in numerous Italian, Spanish and UK horror cult classics, and they charter a boat to his last known locale, an island full of the undead. Richard Johnson plays a scientist who refuses to believe the supernatural is responsible for the recent rash of flesh rending monsters who have overrun his tiny island home of M'tume. After various gory encounters with crusty faced zombies, the world goes to hell as the undead first take Manhattan (thanks, Leonard Cohen), and then the rest of the world, ala' Romero style infection.

There are some classic moments in this film which have never been surpassed: zombie vs. Shark (which recently turned up in a Toshiba/Satellite laptop commercial) and the infamous eye gouging scene, which many a Horrorhead treasures for its pure unleashed gore factor.
Alongside Romero's undead films, this may be one of the most important zombie films ever made. There's a feel of oppressiveness, a certain doom, to this film like no other Lucio Fulci fim. And if you're a real horror fan, then you should already have seen this. Hell, you should own it, by Fulci.
One of the many highlights of the movie is Fabio Frizzi's electronica soundtrack. He was way ahead of the other horror film composers, with the exception of Goblin, and this is one of my favorite horror soundtracks of all-time.
This is truly a classic of the 70s exploitation horror cinema. See it. Love it.

--Nickolas Cook

Foreign Fears: RoboGeisha (2009)

RoboGeisha (2009)
Reviewed by Steven M. Duarte

Not to be confused with Robocop (1987), Robogeisha is one of those kooky Japanese flicks that will leave you wondering what the fuck you just watched. Geisha’s heads pop open to reveal circular saws and they shoot out katanas from their mouths. O did I mention they also shoot out katanas and shurikens from their asses as well? Yeah pretty random over the top shit that will leave you wanting to see what’s next? Not surprisingly the director of Robgeisha is the same that brought us Machine Girl. I would have to say this really takes the wackiness of Machine Girl and doubles the fun. Where Machine Girl took itself somewhat serious this film is really just a roller coaster ride of randomness.
Large robots appear which and blood is spilt by the gallons. While not a traditional horror film Robogeisha ranks up there with Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police and Meatball Machine for over the top storylines, gore, hot women and characters that you will only find in Asian cinema. My only gripe with the film is I would have preferred the original Japanese language track versus the dubbed English version I viewed. A good film to sit down and relax to and not worry about understanding the story as you can pretty much jump into any scene to have an enjoyable time.

--Steven M. Duarte

Brian Sammons Hi-Def Horror Hoedown!

EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (2008) – Blu-ray review

Director: Jose Mojica Marins
Cast: Jose Mojica Marins, Jece Valadad, Milhem Cortaz

Confession time, I never saw the previous Coffin Joe movies. I know, I know, I can all but hear the tongue clucking and see the finger wagging of the horror snobs already. You know, the same people who were first to jump on the Asian horror bandwagon in the late 90s and loudly proclaim to everyone that any Japanese flick about a girl ghost with stringy hair in her face was infinitely better than anything done over here when the truth of the matter was that while there was some great movies to be seen from the East, many more were just as crappy as the schlockiest, no-budget, direct to video American fright flick. Yeah I hate elitist jag-offs like that and for years I’ve heard the members of the “I like things just because they are largely unknown” club go on and on about the Coffin Joe movies from the 60s but I wrote such things off as the typical claptrap.

Then I got this movie for review and damn it, but if this movie is an example of the previous two films then the snobs may have been right. And I really hate that.

Ok, preamble over, time for some history. Back in 1964 Brizalian writer, director, actor Jose Mojica Marins made the first movie about the evilest undertake this side of The Tall Man; Coffin Joe. Marins even played the part of Joe and that film had the awesome title of AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL. In 1967 Joe returned for THIS NIGHT I’LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE. Then there came…nothing. For over forty years Coffin Joe was silent. But in 2008 one of the greatest comebacks in horror history happened when Jose Mojica Marins, in his seventies no less, put on the top hat and got back behind and in front of the camera once more for the third and final Joe movie. But can any magic that the other two movies had still be alive after forty years? While I can’t attest to the first two flicks, I can say that this movie was quite the experience.

EMBODIMENT OF EVIL begins with Coffin Joe getting released from prison after forty years for his previous naughty deeds. Almost as soon as the prison gates close behind him he starts back up with his life long quest to find the perfect woman to bear his child before he dies and Joe’s willing to torture and murder anyone and everyone to get what he wants. That is, when he’s not suffering from nightmares and flashbacks about all his previous victims. Good thing he has his trusty hunchback (no, really) to help him and the total lack of a moral compass so he can do incredibly horrible things. How horrible? Well Eli Roth, Takashi Miike or anyone else for that matter don’t have nothing on Jose Mojica Marins for evil nastiness.

While I liked the movie on many levels, what really blew me away was just how great everything looked. The use of color is amazing and reminded me of Dario Argento and that’s a huge compliment coming from me. There was also a palatable and creepy gothic feel to everything you just see any more in movies made today. You add to that a spicy, south of the border flavor and you have a refreshing break from all the crappy remakes that Hollywood tries to pass off as horror movies these days.

This new Blu-ray/DVD combo package from Synapse Films is just a beauty to behold. Synapse has always busted their butts to bring out the best video transfers available but they have really outdone themselves with this Blu-ray. As I said, Marins is a master of color and this film just comes alive in High-Def. If for no other reason than just to treat your eyes to a truly great looking, if at times bloody and icky, film, you should get this movie on Blu-ray if you can or DVD if you must. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Now as cool as the film was, not everything is all wine and roses here. I must admit to being somewhat disappointed with the very limited selection of extras on these discs. There are two pretty short features, a trailer, and that’s it. No interviews, no commentary tracks, no critical analysis, no anything. While the addition of extras can’t make a bad movie good, their all but absence can make the Blu-ray of a good movie a bit of a bummer. That said, EMBODIMENT OF EVIL is more than good enough to warrant a purchase even with somewhat lackluster bonus features.

Lastly, let me end by stressing that even without seeing the previous movies of this series I still easily picked up and followed the storyline here and thoroughly enjoyed this film. Now that’s saying something. How many trilogies do you know of that you can come into at the end and still enjoy as much as the first movie? So if you are like the vast majority of horror fans out there and have never seen a Coffin Joe movie before, don’t let that stop you from getting EMBODIMENT OF EVIL on Blu-ray. Get it today and the next time the cool horror kids start talking about little seen fright films, you just might impress them with you own nugget of the obscure.

DEEP RED (1975) – Blu-ray review – Blue Underground

Director: Dario Argento
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia

Argento’s classic giallo has finally come to North American shores on a truly gorgeous Blu-ray edition from my good buddies (and with all the great films they’ve brought out, I say that in all sincerity) over at Blue Underground. Wait, what’s a “giallo” you ask? Well think of it as a bloody and weird as all hell murder mystery. Sort of like Italy’s take on the slasher flicks, although giallos were being made long before Michael Myers donned his pale William Shatner mask. If you’ve never seen one of these movies then are you in for a treat. Also, if you’ve never seen a giallo then DEEP RED is an amazing place to start.

The story is admittedly kind of weird. However you don’t watch Dario’s flicks for the story, you’re there for the experience and trust me; DEEP RED is one hell of a ride. This time out we have a German psychic lady who, while giving a lecture in a packed auditorium, says that she has just read the mind of someone in the crowd, someone who’s sick, who has killed before, and will kill again. Unfortunately she can’t tell whose mind she had just read. What’s really unfortunate for her is that the black gloved killer believes the psychic and takes a meat cleaver to her to keep her quiet.

Enter our heroes out to solve the crime and stop the deranged killer before more lives are lost. You have an English musician who witnessed the psychic’s murder first hand and is the new target of the killer teaming up with a feisty female reporter to unravel this very twisted mystery. Along the way there are several of Argento’s trademark murders that are beautiful in their brutality and gorgeous in their grotesqueness. Very few filmmakers can hold a candle to Argento when it comes to visual storytelling and setting up memorable scenes that will stay with you for a long time.

I won’t say too much more about the story because I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises. There are also WTF moments aplenty. Case in point, when you see the creepy little doll, you’ll know exactly what I mean. This movie is an experience and words just won’t do it justice. Trust me, if you’ve never seen DEEP RED then you’ve missed one of the great horror films of all time. Well it’s high time to rectify that and this new Blu-ray is a great way to do that.

There are two versions of the film on this disc, both lovingly transferred to high-def. The English version of DEEP RED at 105 minutes and the much longer Italian version of PROFONDO ROSSO at 126 minutes. Don’t worry, even the Italian version has an English/Italian 5.1 surround-ex soundtrack. Yeah, Blue Underground don’t play when it comes to bringing out movies and the fact that they would have two versions of this film, both looking and sounding equally great, goes to show you that they’re not just about the quick buck, but are true horror fans. It is that commitment to excellence that makes any disc by BU stand out.

Now for those extras. There is a brief collection of interviews (all total about 11 minutes worth) with Argento, co-writer Berhardino Zapponi and the legendary music masters, Goblin. Goblin also provides a new music video for the movie and not to be outdone, a synth heavy rock group I never heard of called Daemonia also provides a modern take on DEEP RED’S signature spooky theme. Trailers for both the US and Italian versions of the film bring the extras to a close. So my one and only grip with this new Blu-ray has nothing to do with the amazing presentation of the movie (make that movies) but with the rather thin extras. But is that enough of a bummer to keep me from highly recommending this movie to anyone and everyone? Hell no!

It simply cannot be stressed enough just how good these movies look in HD and Blue Underground has set the bar very high with this release. Argento’s trademark eye-popping colors all but jump off the screen and smack you upside the head. The blacks have never been darker, the yellows more brilliant, or the Reds more Deep. Consider this movie very highly recommended.

THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1982) – Blu-ray review

Directors: Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow
Cast: Laurie Lapinski, Stephen Sachs, Daphne Zuniga

Last seen on DVD under the title PRANKS, this 1982 slasher was best known for two things. One, it had very young Daphne Zuniga (THE SURE THINGS and SPACEBALLS) as one of the disposable victims. Two, most of the gory kills was cut out of the film by overzealous censors and the splatter had never been restored. That is, until now. Synapse Films is not only the first company to bring out this slice of 80s slasher fare in High Definition, but also uncut. That’s right, all the glorious gory goodness is back in the movie. If that wasn’t enough reason for you to get this, then how about this: not only is this movie on Blu-ray, but it’s also on DVD for those who have yet to upgrade, and both discs come together in one nice, neat package. What’s not to love?

Oh wait, you’ve never seen THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD? Ok, let me give you the nickel tour. And yeah, as far as the story goes, a nickel is all you’re going to need. That’s not to say that this slasher isn’t any good, just that it’s not that original.

A group of college kids volunteer to help close up an old dorm building before it’s scheduled to be demolished but unfortunately for them a mysterious psycho is bumping them off one by one. And well, that’s it for the story. Ok, there’s a little bit more, but not all that much. There’s a decent group of kids for the slaughter playing up the usual slasher stereotypes of good girl, wise-cracking clown, tough guy, etc. What sets this movie apart, just like any slasher flick, is the kills, how creative and gory they are. Luckily DORM delivers the goods now that the blood and guts has been restored. The infamous power drill scene is a clear standout but a baseball bat with nails pounded through it and a very large pressure cooker are all used to good effect.

Oh and let’s not forget the afore mentioned cutie, Daphne Zuniga. If you had a thing for her during the 80s like I did, then you’ll enjoy her here, slumming it in a horror movie to pay her dues. Yeah she’s not in the movie for long (opps I guess I should have given a spoiler warning or something , but just watching the movie you can figure that out pretty quickly) but what little she does, she does well.

As for the extras that I love so much, there is an audio commentary track with the two directors, a short featurette with the composer of the film called “My First Score” and another with makeup effect guy (and later Oscar winner) Matthew Mungle. A pair of trailers round out the extras and that’s it for the behind the scenes goodies. So there’s not a ton of bonus content on this disc, but it is a lot more than what’s ever been done for DORM before.

If you take the combo Blu-ray and DVD package, the buffed and prettied up video, the extras and most importantly the restored and uncut gore gags and add it all up together, you get a hell of must have for any fan of 80s slashers. This is the second Blu-ray from Synapse Films I’ve seen and it makes me hungry to see what they do next. Consider this one highly recommended.

THE BEYOND (1981) – Blu-ray review – Arrow Video

Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale

Finally Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND is in high-def for the very first time. That right there should be all you need to know to go and get this right now. But just in case you’re new to the splattery surreal cinema of this Italian horror maestro, I guess I’ll give you a little bit more to go on.

Down New Orleans way there is a quaint, secluded hotel that just so happens to have been built over one of the seven doors to hell. As if that wasn’t bad news enough, some years past an artists accused of black magic was chain-whipped, nailed to a wall, had some sort of acidic plaster poured over his head, and then was walled up alive. I guess a simple witch burning wasn’t fun enough for these virtuous vigilantes.

There is one odd bit about this Blu-ray release that I feel I should mention here, although I honestly don’t think it’s that big of a deal. The last time I watched THE BEYOND was on the DVD from Grindhouse Release and in that version this beginning prologue was shot, or at least shown, in sepia tones. On this Blu-ray from Arrow Video it is shown in black and white. Now that slight change didn’t do anything for me one way or the other, but I’ve heard of some “controversy” (yes those are ironic quotation marks) about some people getting all in a huff over which way is better. Me, I can’t understand such silliness as the prologue only lasts seven minutes the artistic merits or flaws between sepia and black and white don’t mean a whole hell of a lot to me I guess. But I thought I’d mention it.

Oh well, flash forward to the modern day of 1981 and a young woman inherits the hotel and hires some handymen to start renovating it. It is during some basement repair that the corpse of the walled-up warlock is discovered, but naturally the rotting body isn’t totally dead, and soon people are being torn apart in the amazingly stylish and gruesome fashion that made Fulci a legend in the horror world. There’s a face clawing that rips a guy’s eye out, a woman that gets her head dissolved by acid while her daughter watches (who then goes instantly blind afterward), a horde of flesh-eating tarantulas, and a host of other disgusting delights. As the bodies begin to pile up and more corpses begin to saunter and slay, it is up to the hotel’s new owner and her sort of love interest, the town’s local pathologist, to uncover the deadly mystery that links the hotel, a tome of black magic called the Book of Eibon, and all the horrible murders together. Can the young couple, with some help from a blind prophetess and her doggie, save the day before the door to hell is thrown wide open and the whole world is lost? Well if you know Fulci films then you probably already know the answer to that.

THE BEYOND is Italian splatter cinema at its finest. It’s got great gallons of gore galore, an amazingly eerie soundtrack, and so much style that it should be walking down a runway in Paris. Yes at times the story doesn’t quite make sense, and that goes for the film’s final scene as well, but that just adds to the movie’s overall surreal and nightmarish feel. If you want to watch a true horror movie that’s creepy and icky as all hell then THE BEYOND is the flick for you. There is a reason this movie is considered by most learned horrorheads to be modern classic.

Ok, so the movie is undeniable awesome, but how are the extras on this maiden voyage of THE BEYOND on Blu? Well don’t worry, this is UK’s Arrow Video, have they ever disappointed you?

Arrow has pretty much outdone themselves with all the bonus content to be had here. There’s an intro to the movie and a featurette with actress Cinzia Monreale, not to mention a Q&A session with the other female lead in this film, Catriona MacColl. The lovely MacColl also pulls double duty and returns for an audio commentary with costar David Warbeck and there’s a second commentary tack with Antonella Fulci, daughter of director, Lucio. On the second disc, a DVD so the quality isn’t as high but who cares, there’s another featurette on the movie as it was known and shown outside of Italy under the title of SEVEN DOORS OF DEATH. Catriona MacColl returns for more for a lengthy interview about not only THE BEYOND but all the horror movies she did for Lucio Fulci. The man who did the splatter special makeup effects for Fulci’s THE BEYOND and ZOMBIE 2, Giannetto De Rossi, also gets his own thirty minuet interview. The last meaty mini movie in this package is an overview of many of Fulci’s fright flicks. An alternate pre-credit sequence and an International trailer bring this convoy of awesome extras to a close. In addition to all this, Arrow Video does its usual bang up job with non-disc goodies such as their famous double-sided box art, which gives you four choices on how you want to display your Blu-ray. A double-sided wall poster and a more than hefty 31 page collector’s booklet round out the extras. Honestly, all Blu-ray and DVD companies would do well to emulate Arrow when it comes to packaging extra swag with their releases.

As I alluded to at the start, getting this Blu-ray is a no brainer if you have a BD player and consider yourself a horror fan in any sense of the term. It looks amazing, it sounds amazing, it has an amazing amount of bonus features, and the movie, well that’s pretty darn amazing too.

--Brian M. Sammons

THE EAST IS RED #20: Things That Go Hiss in the Night

by Lisa Morton

There must be a lot of snakes in Asia.
Obviously I’m no expert in herpetology, but I know Asian cinema, and I can testify to how many Chinese, Hong Kong, Japanese, and even Cambodian horror and fantasy movies focus on snakes. Or, more specifically: Spiritually advanced serpents that have taken human form. I guess you could call them were-snakes.
Many Asian countries have their own ancient folktales about transformed snakes, but none is more famous than “The Tale of the White Snake”. Considered to be one of the great fairy tales of Chinese literature, the story probably originated during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 A.D.), and has been re-told in dozens of variants over the centuries. In its most classic form, it tells of White Lady, a snake who descends from the fairy realm and takes human form, accompanied by her maid Xiao Qing (sometimes referred to as “Green Snake”). White falls in love with a young man named Xu Xian, who runs an apothecary shop; they are married, and – with Green – move to Suzhou, where White’s renown as a healer soon spreads. They’re happy until a self-righteous monk, Fa Hai, arrives; Fa Hai eventually kidnaps Xu Xian, and the women are forced to fight him. He triumphs over White and buries her under the Leifong Pagoda, but Green polishes up her sword skills and eventually returns to free White, which she does after a massive three-day battle. In the end the monk crawls off to the bottom of a lake and is imprisoned in the shell of a crab, and it is believed that the inedible abdomen of the lake crab is what’s left of the vindictive and bitter Fa Hai.
In the earliest versions of “The Tale of the White Snake”, the monk is virtuous and is successful in imprisoning White Lady beneath the Leifong Pagoda (which was a real structure); however, over the centuries, the story’s sympathies shifted to the snake woman, and when the actual Pagoda collapsed in 1929, the tale was altered again to include the Pagoda’s fall as part of Green’s rescue of White. Scholar Wu Chao has also noted that “White Snake” is really a feminist tale which “reflects the aspiration of ancient Chinese women who struggled under the restraints of the feudal system to gain the right to build their own lives.”
“The Tale of the White Snake” has been adapted to literally dozens of Chinese films, operas, and television series. The most famous adaptation is probably Tsui Hark’s 1993 GREEN SNAKE, starring the astonishing Maggie Cheung as Green and Joey Wong as White, with martial arts actor Vincent Zhao Wenzhuo as Fa Hai.

My adoration for GREEN SNAKE has already been discussed in earlier columns (to say nothing of my book THE CINEMA OF TSUI HARK), so another discussion of GREEN SNAKE is probably unnecessary at this point. Let’s just say the film hews fairly closely to the original story, but relies a great deal on sensuality, female empowerment and bonding, stunning visuals, a vibrant score, and of course the performances of two of Asian cinema’s best (and most beautiful) actresses.

Before Tsui’s masterful take on the story, though, there’d already been dozens of versions. I confess I haven’t seen the 1958 Japanese version THE TALE OF THE WHITE SERPENT (released internationally under the title PANDA AND THE MAGIC SERPENT), but it’s considered now to be the first color anime film. In Hong Kong, the Shaw Brothers alone made at least three different versions, beginning in 1956 with the Japanese collaboration THE TALE OF THE WHITE SERPENT, moving on to 1962 with the opera film MADAM WHITE SNAKE (starring legendary beauty Linda Lin Dai), and finally ending in 1976 with the incredibly strange THE SNAKE PRINCE, a lunatic mix of musical (the songs are full-on ‘70s disco, complete with wa-wa guitar and brass sections) and martial arts, with the genders from the original story bent to accommodate the star presence of Ti Lung, as the eponymous magical snake who descends to earth and falls in love with a human maiden. I wish I could recommend THE SNAKE PRINCE as a refreshing new telling of the old tale, but it really can only be considered a curiosity these days. With its goofy and stilted musical numbers, day-glo costumes, and comedic interludes, it’s not exactly in the Shaw Brothers top films.

Unfortunately, one of the most interesting spins on the story – 2000’s PHANTOM OF SNAKE – also ultimately doesn’t work. This low-budget Hong Kong production tried to put the snake women into a full-on horror story with a contemporary setting, centering on a Hong Kong detective (Jimmy Wong) trying to solve a series of mysterious murders. A chance encounter with a snake expert suggests the victims have all died of snake bite, and the detective eventually encounters the two snake women, played here with lots of glitter and writhing by Jade Leung and Cecelia Yip. There’s also some inexplicable business about how moonlight makes the girls go crazy (it’s never clear exactly what the moonlight does, except make them writhe about even MORE), and the snakes searching for a fossil snake egg that’s actually one of their husbands (HUH?). Unfortunately, the bizarre and confusing script isn’t helped along any by either Joe Hau Wing-Choi’s deadly dull direction or the two lead actresses’ performances – they seem to have taken Joey Wong and Maggie Cheung from GREEN SNAKE as their models, but have borrowed only the physicality of those two women, with their unique undulating walk and languid body movements, and not the intensity and sheer joy of Wong and Cheung. As with THE SNAKE PRINCE, PHANTOM OF SNAKE is best left to completists.

The oddest of the snake movies is probably the 2001 Cambodian production SNAKER. This one follows a Cambodian legend of a woman who becomes pregnant by a snake god, and gives birth to a child who grows up to be a beautiful woman with writhing snakes for hair (apparently SNAKER is famed in some circles for the way its director Fai Sam Ang achieved this effect: He really did attach a number of live snakes to a wig, which he forced the actress to wear). SNAKER has its moments – mainly some charming, fairy tale-like imagery – but overall its slender production values and barely-competent filmmaking are likely to leave most viewers feeling slithery in the worst way.
Japan hasn’t had quite the obsession with were-snakes that China and other mainland Asian countries have had, but it’s still made interesting use of snakes in cinema. Nobuo Nakagawa, often considered to be the godfather of modern J-horror, made 1968’s SNAKE WOMAN’S CURSE, which is really more of a ghost story but does toss in snakes for good measure (again, I confess I’ve yet to view this one, so we’ll save it for a future column).

And although it doesn’t include a single real snake, Shinya Tsukamoto’s 2002 A SNAKE OF JUNE is worth mentioning, mainly because anything by Tsukamoto (most well-known for his crazed industrial/punk classic TETSUO: THE IRON MAN) is worth talking about. Shot in a steely palette of intense blues and grays, A SNAKE OF JUNE delves into erotic horror by following Rinko, a repressed young woman who makes her living as a phone counselor for a suicide hotline. Rinko is trapped in a loveless marriage to Shigehiko, an older businessman whose obsession with perfection has him spending more time cleaning his kitchen sink than paying attention to his desperate young wife. Rinko receives a call one day from a man she’s counseled at work, a man who is now blackmailing her with illicit photos of Rinko’s one afternoon in which she entertained herself wearing a short skirt; the blackmailer forces Rinko to engage in humiliating acts in order to receive the negatives to the incriminating photos. The blackmailer (played by Tsukamoto) next kidnaps Shigehiko and forces him to wear a strange mask and witness a sexual act followed by a double murder. The blackmailer reveals that he’s dying of cancer, and forces Rinko to reveal a terrible secret of her own before she finally overcomes her repression in a spectacular climax (no pun intended). The title refers to June’s rainy season in Japan, when snakes are frequently driven up out of drainage holes and into the open – an apt metaphor for the shame, guilt, and self-loathing that Rinko and Shigehiko must try to rise above (there is, however, also a freaky scene in which a sort of mechanized snake that’s an extension of the blackmailer’s penis winds around Shigehiko – leave it to Tsukamoto to go for the classic Freudian thing). If A SNAKE OF JUNE lacks some of the frenzied kineticism and industrial fetishization of TETSUO, it also features carefully constructed layers of suspense and finely observed social commentary.

Later in 2011, we’ll be getting the latest version of White Snake, when A CHINESE GHOST STORY’s director Ching Siu-tung releases THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE. Given Ching’s track record as a cinematic fantasist (in addition to A CHINESE GHOST STORY I, II and III, there’s also the magnificent and poignant TERRACOTTA WARRIOR and the brilliantly unhinged SWORDSMAN II and III), this promises to be one of the very best versions of the story (and the first presented in 3-D). The casting of Jet Li in the role of the monk Fa Hai doesn’t exactly hurt, either. Stay tuned…

--Lisa Morton

Movies Worth Googling: Strange Movie Reviews by Jenny Orosel

“Try Not To Die Like a Dog”: A Celebration of the Lindsay Anderson/Malcolm McDowell/David Sherwin Trilogy, by Jenny Orosel


At first I wasn’t sure I was going to do The Trilogy for “The Black Glove”. Despite these three movies having torture, decapitations and dismemberments, human experimentation, school massacres, impalements and random acts of violence, you will not find these movies in the horror section. You might find them under comedy, drama, or in the case of the video stores that don’t understand what they speak in England, Foreign Language. That’s because it is truly impossible to drop The Trilogy into one genre, and that is one of many reasons I love it so.

The Trilogy (as the fans call it) was never meant to be a trilogy. Each movie was meant to stand alone, but they are all connected by the key filmmakers: A David Sherwin script, directed by Lindsay Anderson and actor Malcolm McDowell as the character Mick Travis. Even though the trilogy was never planned, there are pieces of the plot that tie into each other, and as a whole, you can watch a strange evolution, intentional or not.

It starts off with If.... (1968), a look at a boys’ boarding school in England. Even so, anyone who survived high school can easily find a character they can relate to. The seniors are in charge, with the freshmen being “Scum” who have to serve the seniors’ every whim, and the juniors being bullied to no end. Three of those juniors, led by a pre-Clockwork Orange McDowell as Mick Travis, struggle with their normal need for independence in a system that thrives on conformity. As the school year continues, the seniors’ doled out punishments become more and more severe (from extended cold showers to severe beatings), the boys become more and more restless until things reach a final and violent conclusion.

If you’re looking for a movie that has a straightforward, linear development, not for you. Anderson does a gorgeous job of telling his story as much with emotion as he does with traditional plot. The already surreal world of high school is further heightened by his alternating between black and white and color photography. Even though that choice was originally done for budgetary reasons (black and white film stock was much cheaper than color), because each scene was so well chosen and though out, we the audience feel the changes before we notice. Even when the same scene alternates between film stocks, we notice the change with our gut before our eyes.

During military exercises (commonplace in British boarding schools of the time), it would seem strange that the three juniors would casually decide to use live ammo, and it would be shocking in the real world if they were to shoot a teacher, then impale him with a bayonet. Not in the world of If..... Here, they get a stern talking to by the headmaster, made to apologize to the impaled teacher (who is healthy and lying in the desk drawer) before Travis and his cohorts are assigned to clean the storeroom.

With even that extreme act not getting heard, the movie reaches the climax with the boys climbing to a rooftop and opening fire on students, faculty and parents. It is interesting to see how modern, post-Columbine audiences react to this final act of extreme violence. While many can accept the surrealism and symbolism of the other two hours of movie, this act seems to be too much to handle, as if school violence is an untouchable subject whose mere inclusion can taint the entire flick. However, it is not meant as an endorsement for school violence. Rather, it was a statement that eventually the corporal punishment completely accepted by the school society can come back to bite that very system in the ass. Put into the context of England in the late 60s, the ending isn’t as much a celebration of violence but an innocent celebration of rebellion at its extreme. If we, as an audience, can separate ourselves from our current world, we can see this movie as a gorgeously filmed, if not naive, celebration of the spirit of the individual.

Five years later, the trio teamed up again for O Lucky Man, my personal favorite of the three. The film is loosely based on McDowell’s pre-acting career as a travelling salesman, and some of the strangeness he encountered. McDowell’s Mick Travis is now a young man trying to make a living as a coffee salesman in the United Kingdom. This three hour epic follows Travis through a bizarre series of events, first his successes through charm and luck, and his descent into some of the U.K.’s darkest corners as his luck seeps slowly away. But instead of being that simple little story, this flick is actually made up of many smaller stories. Will Travis survive the interrogation when he is captured outside a secret military base, and who do they think he is? Is that new job as the real estate magnate’s assistant too good to be true? When he signs up for a medical trial, what kind of horrors await him and will he escape?

Along with the character, the surreal world created for carried over to O Lucky Man. You don’t question when the peasant woman literally nurses Travis back to health after the military base explodes, and you don’t wonder just how they were able to get that man’s decapitated skull onto the body of the sheep and still have him survive. You just accept it. And this is the magic of O Lucky Man: Anderson is able to make such unbelievable events not just acceptable but it doesn’t throw you out of the story for a moment.

O Lucky Man doesn’t have the wide-eyed naiveté of If.... just as the young adult is slightly more jaded than his schoolboy self. Still, there is a sense of hope, even if it is a hesitant optimism. The last third of the movie sees Travis lose everything, with no place to go and the last of his money and possessions stolen, beaten by drunk hobos. Not only has Travis hit rock bottom, he trilled through and went as low as he could go. And yet, the ending has him not only being discovered by a movie director (in one of the most infamous ‘slap’ scenes in modern movie history), but in another surreal moment, having a grand party with every character he met throughout the movie, living or not. They seem to be saying “Yes, things will get bad. And then they will get worse. But at some point, things will get better.” In the hands of a lesser director, that ending could feel contrived or tacked-on. But in the world created by Anderson, it is not just believable, but makes perfect sense and is the perfect cap to this extraordinary epic.

That little glimmer of hope is essentially gone from 1982’s Britannia Hospital. As with the innocence of the school years and the measured hope of young adulthood, Britannia Hospital seems to be the adult that finally realizes he will never get to be an astronaut. The same doctor that was performing experiments in O Lucky Man (and played by the same actor, Graham Crowden) is a leading reasearcher at Britannia Hospital, and Mick Travis is now an investigative reporter, looking into the doctor’s experiments at the hospital. As with O Lucky Man, the movie is made of a handful of small stories, but this time they all occur simultaneously. Protesters outside are furious that the state-run hospital is housing an African dictator infamous for eating babies and small children. The hospital’s unions are striking. The wealthy patients are furious they are being treated the same as the commoners. To top it all off, the Queen is coming for a visit. While there are some great moments in those bits, it’s the story of Professor Millar and his quest to perfect mankind that is the most fascinating. He believes that humans have wasted their potential and it is up to him to perfect it. One of his experiments involves harvesting various body parts from patients (living or otherwise) to build his own Frankenstein’s Monster, a living quilt of the most perfect pieces he can find. When that fails (in a scene so gruesome and bloody it makes Re-Animator look like an episode of Hannah Montana), he faults the failings of the human body, and creates a frighteningly icy creature that is pure brain. Unlike the gleeful violence of If.... or the joyous celebration of O Lucky Man, Britannia Hospital ends with the disturbing brain-creature reciting the “What a piece of work is man” soliloquy in the most disturbingly robotic voice since Demon Seed. Those two moments of absolute bliss stand in stark contrast with the quiet melancholy of the last ending.

There are rumors that there was supposed to be an If....2 made, filmed for a 20th reunion of the students. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Not just because Travis was brutally decapitated in Britannia Hospital, because if anyone could have made it work, Anderson could. But personally, I prefer the strange optimism of the first two films, and judging from the evolution, I could picture If...2 being more pessimistic than Britannia Hospital. Sadly, we will never know, because director Lindsay Anderson passed away in 1994. And with his passing we lost an incredible director who was an absolute master at creating multi-layered movies totally unique from the work of any other filmmaker out there. Still, at least we have this trilogy (along with a handful of other fantastic films) to celebrate him by.

--Jenny Orosel


By Brian M. Sammons

The reason I began Hidden Horrors oh so long ago was to shine a spotlight on horror related news/products/ services that might otherwise slip under a horrorhead’s radar in these busy, chaotic times. The recent announcement that Echo Bridge, a company that I honestly didn’t know a lot about before this, would be handling the re-releases of many of Miramax’s back catalog of genre titles on DVD is just such news I like to spread the word about because it means a lot of movies that may have been out of print are once again seeing the light of day. Also, for those fans operating on a tight budget in these economically woeful times, Echo Bridge just loves to put out compilation DVDs, so you can get up to four movies for one low price. What’s not to love about that? But are these movies going to be the flicks fright fans want, or just filler? Let’s find out.

Well since this column is all about hidden horrors, I’ll begin with probably the most hidden little gem of the first crop of releases; 1998’s THE FACULTY. Essentially INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS set in high school, it is filled with the usual teen angst and far-too-pretty-to-be-real-twenty-somethings-playing- teens that you find in flicks of this type, but it has enough going for it to make it an enjoyable experience and not a groan-inducing one. Probably the chief reason for that is director Robert Rodriguez who, in addition to his kid-friendly flicks, has proven to be a genre fan with MACHETE, SIN CITY, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and overseeing the new PREDATORS movie. Also, THE FACULTY has a more than competent cast with both up and coming actors and others already known, like Clea DuVall, Josh Hartnett, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Elijah Wood, Jon Stewart and Robert Patrick. Third, there’s quite a bit of the red stuff splashed around for the gorehounds. Lastly, the story takes a few interesting twist and turns to keep the audience guessing and for the most part, they work. Oh, and there’s a very Cthulhu-oid critter at the end, which always gets big points from me. So all in all it’s a pretty cool flick and one I’m happy to see back out on DVD.

On to FROM DUSK TILL DAWN that I previously mentioned briefly. Sure, it spawned a few sequels, each more ridiculous and insipid than the last, but the original was a funny, action packed, over the top gorefest that was the first successful teaming up of director Robert Rodriguez and writer (and no fooling; actor) Quentin Tarantino. Add to that mix George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and genre favorites like Danny Trejo, Tom Savini and Fred Williamson and you’ve got an eclectic cast for one wild film. If you have yet to see this vampires, strippers, and bank robbers flick then you’re long overdue. As an extra bonus, this new DVD also has the feature length documentary on the making of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN called FULL-TILT BOOGIE.

As I said from the start, Echo Bridge loves to put out multi-movie combo packs and one of the best is the one that collects the killer angel THE PROPHECY films. The first movie, starring Christopher Walken as Archangel Gabriel looking to destroy humanity, was pretty darn good. No it’s wasn’t great by a long shot, but it had enough good ideas, and yes, Walken at his scene-chewing best, to make it entertaining. Oh and not to mention a pre-famous Viggo Mortensen doing one kickass take on Lucifer. There is also Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen and Eric Stoltz to round out this more than capable cast. The movie was written and directed by the man who wrote the original HIGHLANDER film. All that means that this flick about a war between angles to decide the fate of mankind has quite a bit of talent behind it and it shows. Sadly, as is often the case, the sequels provided diminishing returns in that department as time went on, with Christopher Walken being the only constant throughout the series and even he is seen very little come the third movie. So for the low price on one DVD you get a pretty good movie, an ok second movie, and a forgettable third movie, all chockfull of hot angel on angel action and violence on a biblical scale.

So what’s better than three movies for the price of one? Four movies for the price of one, naturally. Well, that’s usually the case, but perhaps not so here. You see, Echo Bridge decided to bundle some of the HALLOWEEN movies together and while normally I’d be all for that, the choices they made here are questionable at best . On this DVD you get HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MEYERS, HALLOWEEN H20, and the one that all but killed the unkillable franchise, the Busta Rhymes-rific HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION. However it seems odd to me that Echo Bridge would start their run with the legendary HALLOWEEN movies with the last three of the original series. What’s also odd is that instead of having a fourth HALLOWEN movie on this four-pack, they instead tossed in the forgettable thriller film; MOTHER’S BOYS. Uhm…why? Sure it’s got Jamie Lee Curtis in it, but its inclusion here just seems wrong. But if you’re missing some of the latter-day Michael Meyers murder movies, this is a good and cheap way to pick them up.

The last combo pack I want to discuss is a double feature of THE CROW films. However, for some inexplicable reason, this DVD has the second and fourth movies, but not the first or third. Now I can see holding back on the original, and best by far, CROW movie for maybe a special edition or better yet, a Blu-ray release, but why skip the third movie? I mean, it wasn’t good or anything, but then neither was the fourth flick, THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER staring Edward Furlong as the titular undead avenger and that one made the cut to get on this disc. As for the second CROW movie, CITY OF ANGELS, it is also deeply flawed, but still has enough good parts in it to warrant a watch. So if you happen to believe that the old law of STAR TREK movies (that only even number ones are good) applies to THE CROW series, then this is the two-pack for you.

All of the movies that I’ve just mentioned as being part of multi-film combo DVDs are also available as stand along, single title DVDs. But oddly, none of the single title DVDs has any extra features on them. Now I can understand the multi-packs not offering bonus content. After all, they are squishing sometimes up to four feature length films onto a single DVD so some things are going to have to be cut out for lack of disc space. But when you have just one movie on one DVD, there’s no good reason for the bare bones treatment. So with that in mind this is one of the few times where I’d recommend the combo DVDs over the singles since you’re not getting any extras no matter how you slice it (outside of FULL-TILT BOOGIE on the FROM DUSK TILL DAWN disc) you might as well save a few bucks.

Regardless of the lack of bonus content, I’m more than happy to see these movies back out and widely available for the first time in a long time. If you’re missing some of these titles from your own home horror library, then this is your chance to rectify that and I look forward to seeing what the new Miramax, Echo Bridge partnership brings out next.

--Brian M. Sammons

It Came From The Back Issue Bins #16 - Zombies and Lizard Monsters!

Star Trek - Infestation! #1-2
IDW Publishing
Written by Scott Tipton and David Tipton
Art by Casey Maloney and Gary Erskine

This two-issue miniseries was part of a company wide crossover called Infestation. The basic premise is that a zombie infestation has spread across the four IDW dimensions - Star Trek, Ghostbusters, GI Joe and Transformers. None of these dimensions actually interact, but they face a similar thread.

How could they go wrong bringing together two of my loves - Star Trek and Zombies.

I loved how they set this story in the pre-Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The story is rather straight forward drawing from the usual zombie tropes, with a great scene when they first encounter a zombie and Doctor McCoy drops his classic line “He’s Dead, Jim” and of course, the zombie jumps to life.

Unfortunately, there’s a goofy robot in the story that seems to pull all the tension and fun out of the story. You have to see it to understand. Sigh.

You’ve got to give the creators some credit at tackling this idea, especially with these franchise characters that you know can’t be killed or radically changed during this event.

The ending is quite good and successfully blends both great endings of Star Trek episodes and zombie movies.

# # #

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #1
IDW Publishing
Written: Eric Powell/Tracy Marsh
Art by Phil Hester and Bruce McCorkindale

Wow. Talk about shitty timing. Let me clarify that a comic book is usually produced 3-6 months before it hits the stands. However, the timing of this Godzilla comic book probably couldn’t be any worse.

With that aside, I saw this as yet another reboot of the Godzilla franchise in comic book form. I loved the Marvel series from the last 1970s (which give me a good idea for a future review), but didn’t have high hopes. Seeing that this issue was co-written by Eric Powell, creator of The Goon, and featured art by Phil Hester (Green Arrow and Firebreather) did convince me to pick it up. What did as well was a clever promotion offering to feature your comic book store on a variant version of the cover if your comic book store pre-ordered 500 copies.

Hester’s art does a wonderful job of moving the story alone without any narration, captions, or minimal dialog. However, I found a few pages a bit confusing as he tries something new on these one-panel pages, capturing in one panel what should be conveyed by a few. While he innovatively tries to use clever breaks to split up the art into its parts, I felt that it pulled me out of the comic book to figure out what was going on.

So, while I expected a lot worse, it wasn’t bad. Another problem was that it was such a quick read that the overall story didn’t get much traction and didn’t leave a lot of hooks in my mind to remind me to pick up issue #2. Perhaps it will read better when the story arc is reprinted in a trade paperback format.

--Jason Shayer

Graphic Horror: Game Reviews

Another very slow month for fans of horror games comes and goes with not much to show for it. There is one notable exception for hand-held gamers, a blast from the past, but that’s it. Luckily the future does look a bit brighter for scary games, but for right now we’ve got to be happy with what we get. Good thing then that what we got this time was pretty darn spiffy.

THE 3RD BIRTHDAY, by Square Enix, Rated M, PSP

THE 3RD BIRTHDAY is the third game of the PARASITE EVE series. If you’re not familiar with the PE games that could be because the first one was released for the original PlayStation back in 1998 and the series has been in hibernation for two generations of game consoles. But does this much anticipated and all but forgotten threequel live up to the expectations? For the most part that’s a big old yes.

Square Enix’s cinematic survival horror RPG has New York City under siege by mitochondria that have turned against mankind. What are mitochondria? Remember the groan-inducing midi-chlorians from the STAR WARS prequels? Yep they’re sort of like that, only real. Well these intelligent and angry cells mutate people and animals into monsters, and some get as huge as buildings. Into this horrific world a young, beautiful female cop named Aya Brea comes. Ok, not really comes, as she’s already been here twice before. Anyway, in addition to her good looks and handy skill with guns, Aya has genetically mutated mitochondria of her own, only hers is a bit friendlier with her then most people with the tainted cells. This means that Aya has lost her memory (that’s bad) but has the amazing ability to “dive into” the bodies of her enemies and explode them all over the place if she wishes (and that’s very good). Doing this is a great way to get rid of the twisted monsters (called aptly enough, The Twisted) that she must constantly put down.

As Aya had done battle with these mushy, mutating beasties before and beat them back to save previous days, this game starts off with everything normal. Then on Christmas Eve huge tentacles burst out of the ground all over New York City. The slimy appendages wrap around skyscrapers, block streets and even take over the Statue of Liberty. Luckily since this world is sort of used to these Lovecraftian monstrosities, NYC has the Counter Twisted Unit, of which Aya is the star agent.

There is perhaps one more thing about Aya I should tell you. While she never gets out and out naked, she is often running around in skimpy, strategically torn clothes or takes nice long showers with the clouds of steam just barely covering up her naughty bits. Now while I didn’t have a problem with any of this, I know some gamers, especially female or those who would describe themselves as feminists, have. While I can somewhat see their point, as Aya is often more cheesecake than brainy, I also think such grievances are much ado about nothing. But then again, I have a Y chromosome, so what do I know?

Oh well, on to the game play. The shooting action is in third person and is surprisingly good and tight for a hand held game. The graphics are as good as they can be on the PSP, but that means they are about on par with last generation’s PS2. The RPG elements include a very customizable skill/power tree to play around with and a nice selection of weapons to blast critters with. The story can be labyrinthine at times, even to vets of the previous two games, but with bit of extra effort most things become clear. The boss battles are lengthy, intense, and memorable. Also, as I hinted at before, the baddies have more than a touch of H.P. Lovecraft in them, so if you’re a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos you can squint a bit while playing this game and pretend it’s a high octane, two gun take on one of HPL’s stories. While that definitely had me grinning on more than one occasion, the real star of this show is Aya’s Overdrive ability she can use from time to time to jump into the bodies of the infected monsters and explode them in satisfyingly gory ways. No matter how many times you do it, it just never gets old.

I was quite happy to spend some time with Aya and her genetically freaky friends and I’d like to see some more of the same on a more powerful platform, like say the PS3 or the Xbox 360. Until then, this little game for the little PSP portable will have to do. Thankfully it does do it well.

I give THE 3RD BIRTHDAY 4 B-day presents out of 5.

--Brian M. Sammons