Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Editorial August 2011 e-issue #26

"That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die."--The Necronomicon

Loving Lovecraft and Cuddling Cthulhu (How I Spent My Early Twenties Believing in The Great Old Ones and The Necronomicon)

By Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

First off, just so you know, this isn’t going to be another dry impersonal history of Lovecraft and his various legendary writing disciples.


The only history contained herein this editorial will be personal history, and how I was affected and influenced by one of the greatest horror authors who ever lived.

I can still remember the first time I fell (Horror)head over heels in love with Howard Phillips Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos, and strangely enough, it wasn't even through Lovecraft that I "discovered" them. A friend of mine, Clayton Townsend, who had such a huge impact on me, first as a horror reader, and then later, as a horror writer, gave me a copy of a book which I still consider one of the best collections of Mythos fiction ever published, Ramsey Campbell's "Cold Print" from 1985, an amazing collection of horrifying, chilling stories in the vein of Lovecraft and his early fellow Mythos writers, authors such as August Derleth and Robert Bloch. But even then, Campbell was taking the mythos to whole new level of cosmic and psychological terror. No one living, at that time, was writing anything near as literate and frightening as Campbell, with the exceptions of Thomas Ligotti and Peter Straub.

So, having said that, it really should go without saying that Ramsey Campbell still is required reading for anyone serious about writing great horror fiction.

The man is a genius. No exaggeration, folks. He's just simply one of the greatest living masters of this genre. He deserves every single award he's ever won in this industry, including the many World Fantasy, Bram Stoker and British Fantasy awards he's received in his long brilliant career as writer, editor and critic. And at the risk of running off at the keyboard in this editorial about another author altogether, I implore you to get any and everything Ramsey Campbell you can, sit down and read it; and if you're a writer, especially a horror writer, learn from his work. He's a great model for any aspiring craftsperson in this industry. I met him in 2004, at the Phoenix, AZ. World Horror Convention. He was one of the nicest people I've ever met. He even remembered me when we met again in 2005 at the next World Horror Convention. Yeah, I know. He was probably just being nice, but what a great guy to at least make an effort to make a friend and fellow horror scribe feel like he was one of the gang.

And don't let that kindly smile fool you...he is a man who understands personal Hell as a reality. His childhood was not bright sun and flowers--as if you couldn't tell by the insidious nature of his fiction, the way the normal can suddenly implode around one and leave you struggling in a world that is no longer recognizable. It's easy to see he has dealt with madness on many levels.

But back to Lovecraft lovin'...

So, after my friend Clay gave me this book, along with some other choice books from the likes of Joe R. Lansdale ("By Bizarre Hands"), Charles L. Grant ("The Hour of the Ox-Run Dead") and a collection from David J. Schow ("Seeing Red"), it was like being thrown headlong into Horror Fiction 101. Up to that point, I hadn't been real serious about branching away from the bestseller horror stuff. Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Saul were my mainstay horror picks until that time. Sure, I had read a few things earlier in my life which had stuck with me. "The Dark" by James Herbert, "Wolfen" by Whitley Streiber, "Floating Dragon" by Peter Straub and "The Cellar" by Richard Laymon are a few very strong remembrances and influences from childhood that come immediately to mind. But even at age 22, I still had yet to dig into the really esoteric, lesser known horror authors and their fantastic works. I had started writing by the time I was 13, but I didn't get a lot of encouragement, so I hadn't stuck with it, and I was still playing at the idea of writing this stuff for real.

Even now, as silly as it may sound to some of you, I think there must have been some greater power at work when Clay handed me that stack of incredible books and implored me to read them, and I still believe that same dark cosmic power must have been at work when I actually did as he told me and started with Campbell's "Cold Print".

Clay had this very cool thing he did with most of the books he gave me: he would hand write short essays about the stories, authors and/or history of horror on these little sticky notes and put them at the beginning of whichever stories he felt were especially great, or had something new to say in the genre. I still have every book the guy gave me, with all those cool little mini-essays still marvelously intact within their pages. Sometimes I go back and read through them, and think how lucky I am to have had such a friend in my life, such an influence that pushed me and encouraged me when I needed it the most. Not everyone gets that sort of person in their life. Thank the gods, both light and dark, for Clay.

Our friendship lasted several years, during which we both became serious about writing as a career. We even started a fairly successful little writing group in our hometown of Fernandina Beach, Florida, which at one point had a couple dozen members of varying ages and skill, that met once a week for a few months. During this time, he went through a crappy marriage, the birth of his two children with her, and eventually a nasty divorce; while I went through two girlfriends, a marriage; I moved four hundred miles away to Orlando, to pursue a phantom screenwriting career for horror films; went through my own divorce, and eventually moved even further away to Tucson, Arizona (2,200 miles from home) to marry my best friend and soul mate.

Through that all these things me and Clay had the writing, the books and we had Lovecraft--the one hugely unifying force that super-glued two absolutely disparate personalities together, to the point that we sometimes read the same books and stories without knowing what the other was doing, and even sometimes wrote very similar stories, again, without prior consultation. I still think it eerie how close our passion for horror fiction, especially H.P. Lovecraft, and his Cthulhuian creations, brought we two brothers of the blood soaked pen together.

And I still believe my having "discovered" Lovecraft through Ramsey Campbell's "Cold Print" when I did truly informed me as a writer from that day forward. It was because of the powerful influence of those "cosmic horrors" that I began the first true step to becoming a real horror writer. Yes, you know it...I copied the be-jesus out of Lovecraft's style, cribbing him unmercifully as so many others did before me. I know it's a horror tradition practiced even today.
Right now, there's undoubtedly scores and scores of young Horrorhead author wannabes out there who are writing in that stilted, clinical, high-handed Lovecraftian style, going apeshit with the largest, dustiest dictionary/thesaurus they can lay their sweaty, shaky hands upon. It has been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. If that's so, then Lovecraft has to be the most flattered horror author in the genre.

Most of us move on from this phase, having learned both what made Lovecraft classic and what makes his style so stifling and unrealistic. And if you don't which is which yet, then you're either just beginning this particular phase of your writing evolution, or you're hopelessly mired in the swamp that the Cthulhuian Mythos can become, if you're not careful to eventual carry on to other movements and other styles (even other imitative phases). Or, if it's possible, you've never read any of Lovecraft or his disciples...

But I refuse to contemplate any self-proclaimed Horrorhead who hasn't at least dipped his or her toe into the Cthulhu Mythos pool. I mean, hell, even if you've only stuck with the most accessible of the mainstream horror, then surely you must've at least read Stephen King or Peter Straub stories in which they riff on the cosmic horror master. And I won't even start naming names of the lesser known (but still extraordinarily talented) horror, fantasy and science fiction writers who've added their own inkings to the Mythos Cycle. I won't, mostly because we don't have all day. If you're interested in finding just a handful of such talents, there are plenty of resources, both in print and online, with which you may do so.

For now, let's start wrapping this up, shall we?

I started this editorial with the rather pithy title above, a joking little smartass dig. Mostly it was an almost unconscious attempt to perhaps keep myself from sounding so serious about something about which I am most very earnest, and that's Lovecraft's tremendous influence on my own craft and evolution. Maybe I’m a little embarrassed by how much my own writer’s evolution owes to a craftsman whom more than a few too-cool-for-school horror professionals have decided isn’t worthy of their respect and take every opportunity to make disdainful and disrespectful cracks about everything from the man’s descriptive powers to how he dressed. Sometimes, if you squeak loudly enough, you get thrown in with the rest of the rats, whether it’s fair or not.

But I have to ask myself: Where would I be without having fallen for his overly descriptive clinically stilted stories of ancient god monsters who want to enslave mankind and take back a world which they once held when the dinosaurs roamed the planet? Where would more than a few bestselling horror writers be? Or for that matter, where would the entire genre be? To me, that's like asking where would we be without Poe, Hawthorne, Universal Monsters, Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Hammer Studios, Famous Monsters of Filmland, AIP, Vincent Price, those 42nd Street Grindhouse theaters, drive-ins, slasher movies, Romero's undead movies, Fangoria Magazine or Stephen King; because even the most short sighted of industry pros have to admit Lovecraft's tremendous importance and influence on all things horror. His weight and bearing on the entire genre is as important as all of those things above...maybe even all of those things above combined, depending on whom you're speaking with about the man and his works. It's true he has some serious racist comments in his works, and it's pretty clear he was a man who some rather emotionally crippling views on the fairer sex--hell, read the various descriptions he uses to give his readers a vague idea of what exactly makes his creations so terrifying. Tentacle sex, anyone? I'm not here to defend his antiquated views on women or other races; but I think any intelligent person has to at least concede he was a product of his time, cultural pressures and social environment.

Personally, I prefer to read his stories without doing an in depth psychological examination of the man. To do so truly does his genre-defining catalogue of work very little justice. Besides, any author can't help but yell his own personal emotional and psychological horrors, stupidities and prejudices in just about anything he puts to paper. I'd hate to see an expert do a psychological breakdown of some of my own stories, especially "A SOFT PINK MELODY", "JESUS' GHOSTS" or "BLIND BOY". Talk about your issues...sheesh. And I think the best horror authors in the history of the genre do put themselves, body and soul, into their work. It's the only way some of us survive this world, or can contemplate the darkness at the end of the tunnel, the final dying of the light, as it were.

In any case, I think it easy enough to say that, without Lovecraft's particularly, and peculiarly, personal cosmic terrors we would be a poorer fiction for those "things which go bump in the night". In his case, and perhaps most telling and fitting, Lovecraft's "night" just happens to be the entire known universe.
Fitting and telling, indeed.

Besides, ask yourself this disturbing question: What if everything Lovecraft wrote was based on real life events, on real life horrors, cosmic terrors that truly are attempting to break back through to our world?

Think about that tonight, as you're lying in bed, in the dark, and the cold wind is blowing outside your window, and the world feels less safe, less sure, all around you. Think about those Great Old Ones tap-tap-tapping at our species' chamber door. Think about what waits for us in the unknowable depths of space and time. Can you really say Cthulhu and his hellish brethren don't exist?

Well...can you?

--Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

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 Shocklines.com 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 (late 2011 from Dailey Swan Press).

Personal Info: Nickolas lives in the beautiful Southwestern desert with his wife and four 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 Nickolasecook@aol.com

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 Breedlove is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in publications such as RedEye, Chicago Tribune, Metazen, InSider, The Fortune News, Encyclopedia of Actuarial Science, Bluefood, and Playboy Online. Some of his stories can be found in the books TALES OF FORBIDDEN PASSION, STRANGE CREATURES, TAILS FROM THE PET SHOP, BOOK OF DEAD THINGS, CTHULHU & THE COEDs and BLOOD AND DONUTS. He is also the editor of the anthologies CANDY IN THE DUMPSTER, WAITING FOR OCTOBER, LIKE A CHINESE TATTOO, MIGHTY UNCLEAN, WHEN THE NIGHT COMES DOWN and (with John Everson) SWALLOWED BY THE CRACKS. He lives in Chicago.

Barb Breese:
I live in The Middle of Nowhere, FL with my husband, two children, and a couple of troublemaker cats. I'm a stay at home mother, so I enjoy all of the things that come along with that on a daily basis. However, once a week, I'm a co-host of the nationally broadcast radio talk show, Delamorte's Dungeon of Deadly Delights, where we get the chance to speak to some of the biggest monsters, maniacs and heroes of horror.

Along with living and breathing all that's horror, I enjoy reading and listening to lots of music. I also dabble in crafts...not witchcraft so much, more like making candles and such. :)

Come say hi: https://www.facebook.com/ZombieSmacker

MyMiserys (aka Kim Cook)
Personal Info: Kim lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, Nickolas Cook, and a pack of Pugs. She met Nick in 1997 in an old AOL Horror chat room and they married a year later on Halloween 1998. She has had a passion for horror novels since the tender age of 12, when she read The Exorcist (before it was made into a movie). Her favorite author, other than Nick, is Stephen King, and she truly considers herself his “Number One Fan”. She has been reading and collecting King’s books since “Carrie” was first published. When she is not reading, Kim bakes …and bakes and bakes. You can see pictures of her wonderful cakes on her MySpace page and Facebook. Each month Kim asks a featured author “13 Questions” so Black Glove readers can get to know a little about the person behind the books.
Guilty pleasure? MeatLoaf...the man...not the entrée.
Facebook Page

Carey M Copeland has worked in television, radio and film. He has been a special effects artist on several film and TV productions, through The Joe Blasco Makeup Academy of Orlando Florida. Having worked at Sally Industries (now Sally Corp) , he helped design dark ride exhibits around the world, including the E.T. ride at Universal Studios Florida. Carey has been a lifelong horror fan and knew after seeing a rerun of “NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD” that he wanted to make monsters for a living. Carey says, “I love the creativity of the movies from 1930’s to 1990’s. It seems that with the creation of more affordable computers, the solid effects artist has become almost extinct. When you see a movie now, it’s almost all CGI, with practically no hands-on sculpting and molding. ”

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 four-time winner of
the Bram Stoker award, a recipient of the Black Quill Award, and has
published fifty works of short fiction. Her first novel, THE CASTLE OF
LOS ANGELES, was released by Gray Friar Press in 2010 (Gray Friar Press), and her newest novella, THE SAMHANACH), and her first
collection, MONSTERS OF L.A., will be published by Bad Moon Books for
Halloween 2011. She lives online at http://www.lisamorton.com

Karen L. Newman lives in Kentucky where she's a Kentucky Colonel and an active member of Horror Writers Association. She edits the magazines Illumen and Cosmic Crime Stories. She’s also a book editor for Morrigan Books. She’s been named Chair of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award jury for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection and is the 2011-2012 East Regional Director for the Kentucky State Poetry Society. She edited the online magazine, Afterburn SF for over four years before the market closed. Over four hundred of her short stories and poems have been published both online and in print in places such as Dark Tales of Terror, Kentucky Monthly, and The Pedestal Magazine. Her poetry collections include EEKU (Sam’s Dot, 2005), ChemICKals (Naked Snake Press, 2007), Toward Absolute Zero (Sam’s Dot, 2009), and ChemICKal Reactions (Naked Snake Press, 2010). 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 http://home.zoomnet.net/~karennew.

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: http://www.freewebs.com/brian_sammons/

Anthony Servante is a college professor who teaches languages and literature. He has Masters degrees in English Literature and Political Science. His Master's thesis described the Grotesque in German and English Romantic novels and short stories. He has written music and book reviews for the campus newspapers where he studied and where he has taught. When he is not teaching, he sells horror, sf, fantasy, and mystery books at Science Fiction Conventions across Southern California. He has followed horror in all forms since he was a kid.

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.
URL: http://marvel1980s.blogspot.com/
Contact info: jshayer@yahoo.com

Wanna Write for The Black Glove?

If you're interested in writing your very own column, or just want to write reviews for your favorite horror movies and/or books, send me an email at Nickolasecook@aol.com. While we can't pay for the content, I can promise horror fans around the world will read your stuff.

--Nickolas Cook

TIME CAPSULES classic book reviews by Bill Lindblad

THE COVEN by E. Howard Hunt

Bookstore shelves are riddled with bad writing by famous people. Publishers realize that fame alone will entice many people to buy a book, and they take advantage of that fact. The worst abuses are found in the children's book section, but the phenomenon is not exclusive to that area.

The usual workaround is the ghostwriter. A professional writer gets a story kernel from the famous person and produces the book either as billed co-author or with an appreciative nod in the book's dedication. Another is to have the book actually co-authored, allowing the experienced professional to serve as a both editor and teacher to the celebrity.

In very rare instances, the famous person is competent by themselves. Rarer still, they are good. E. Howard Hunt is one of those least common of examples.
Hunt produced the genre-crossing novel The Coven in 1972 under his pseudonym of David St. John. In it, a Washington lawyer works his way through solving multiple murders associated with a charismatic young singer at a Blues club. As he delves more deeply into matters he discovers that a witch's coven is involved, complete with effective magical curses.

His handling of Washington intrigue is believable because it's what Hunt knew from his life. At the time of this book's publication, Hunt was in the national spotlight because of his involvement in the Watergate break-in, for which he eventually served almost three years. He was also rumored to have had information about the Kennedy assassination and the Bay of Pigs invasion. He was one of the most notorious American spies of the twentieth century... and he was a horror writer. A surprisingly good one at that.

Four stars out of five.

THE GHOSTS OF MANACLE by Charles G. Finney

The Weird Western has become a popular subgenre over the past ten years, after a decade of being nearly the exclusive domain of Joe R. Lansdale. Prior to Hisownself, there were occasional stories produced which crossed the horror and western genres, but almost no books.

The Ghosts of Manacle is an exception. Produced in 1964 by Pinnacle, it presents seven short stories and a novella set in the western town of Manacle, Arizona. Unfortunately for any horror lover, it's a book by Charles Finney. That means great writing with hooks that could launch great horror stories, but will instead produce gentler thoughtful fantasies.

The back offers great promise: "Manacle, Arizona is in the heart of the old cowpoke country... but Manacle harbors far stranger creatures than ranchers and rustlers. What about the lady who turns into a dog... and those puritanical flying monsters? And why is it dangerous to do someone a favor in Manacle?"

As mentioned before, the writing is exemplary. I wish only that Finney would have made the most of his horror ideas.

Two out of five stars as a horror book, four out of five as a fantasy.

THE VAMPYRE by John Polidori

This is a short novel from 1819 which was misattributed to Lord Byron for years. The history of its publication makes for interesting reading, as the author was a contemporary and associate of Lord Byron and wrote the story based on a story fragment Byron had developed during the famous writing challenge which spawned Frankenstein. (Polidori was one of the four attendees, the others being Mary Shelly and Percy Bysshe Shelley.) The novel would be considered a novella today, but holds the distinction of being the first vampire story published in English.

In its construction and detail the story is adequate, and while it is dated the fundamental story works fairly well. It follows the dissolution of a well-heeled but innocent protagonist due to his association with a vampire. As with many works of that era, it is as much travelogue as fiction, but it is a successful short piece which has bridged two centuries.

Three stars out of five.

-- William Lindblad

BLOODLINES: Serial Fiction in Horror #2 -- The Crabs by Guy N. Smith

By Bill Lindblad

Authors don't approach every story in the same fashion. Even when an author gravitates to the same stylistic tendencies they will keep in mind the demands of the tale. Sometimes the pacing might be intentionally slow or fast, to highlight character development or action. Some works may focus on verbal content. Some stories skew toward the absurd.

With the Crabs, Guy N. Smith aimed for a cinematic storytelling style, and he succeeds beyond any reasonable expectation. The books resemble nothing so much as horror movie novelizations produced by an experienced pro. They generally follow the morality play aspects of 1970s and 1980s horror movies: evil, venal and criminal characters will die in horrible ways, while the truly innocent will usually survive. They are full of moments where a character is foolishly approaching their demise, the literary equivalents of movie scenes where patrons might yell at an actress not to open a door behind which waits a murderer.

Everything about the series is reminiscent of a cross between 80s slasher films and 1950s giant creature movies. There are crabs, ranging from as small as a cat to as large as a car, driven onto land and mutated by underwater nuclear testing. The crabs have developed intelligence and shells which are virtually invulnerable. No good scientific reason is ever provided - not merely because none could reasonably exist, but because it would interfere with the story. Rather than dealing excessively with biology or material construction, Smith wisely focuses on finding ways to describe amputations in interesting ways.

Smith plays with a different concept for each book: crabs vs. a villainous landowner, crabs vs. the military, crabs on a tourist beach, and even a duel between a heroic action-hero type and a mass murderer who just happens to worship the crabs.

The characters are not fully founded, but neither are they complete caricatures. Call them two-and-a-half dimensional. If you're looking for a B-movie between two covers, the Crabs series is ideal.
The books are: Night of the Crabs, Killer Crabs, Origin of the Crabs, Crabs on the Rampage, Crabs' Moon, and Crabs: the Human Sacrifice.

--Bill Lindblad



Yep, I’m a sucker for Ken Russell films. I’ll admit straight off the bat that before popping this DVD in I was already predisposed to enjoy it. I’m pretty sure his version of “Lair of the White Worm” (1988) has little to do with the book even without reading it. Aside from things like cars (which it’s safe to assume weren’t around during Stoker’s time) and the gratuitous nun rape, it’s stylistically too much of his for there to be much room for the original story. And, not going into this looking for a loyal adaptation, I had fun with this absurd bit of film.

Russell is famous for directing hyper-stylized movies like “Tommy” and “The Devils”, both of which make a lot more sense than “Lair of the White Worm”. The plot is that, at a Scottish castle, the skull of a large snake is unearthed. Then the next-door-neighbor turns into a snakewoman and starts eating townsfolk, save for one blonde virgin who is to eventually be a human sacrifice for a large worm. How does this gel with his spontaneous images of nuns being raped by Romans while a giant snake wraps around Jesus on the crucifix? Or how or why playing bagpipes can hypnotize the snake people? Probably best not to ask these questions. I honestly don’t know if Russell himself knows the answer. As far as I can tell he just had fun putting these images together. In fact, he paid more attention to the visual details of the random scenes that make no sense whatsoever than he did to the parts advancing the story.

Can I recommend “Lair of the White Worm”? Probably not to fans of the book because they will not be happy. And definitely not to people who like their movies to stay linear. But if you like to look at strange things then absolutely, get a hold of this movie and have fun. Same goes for if you are currently intoxicated, or will be by the time you get your hands on the DVD.
-- Jenny

BOOK: The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker (1911)

Now I know where Dark Shadows got its start.

The book centers on a young, wealthy Australian who is encouraged to visit his ancestral British home by his Great-Uncle. Simultaneously, the inheritor of the nearby castle is arriving to take his own ancestral home.

Enter the Lady Arabella March and her hatred of mongooses. Her previous marriage went south and she's desperate for money. She intends to get that money by marrying the very eligible Lord Caswall. Our hero, Adam Salton, is in love with local girl Mimi. Mimi is very protective of her sister, who has drawn the attention of Lord Caswell.

Like I said, Dark Shadows. But this is a Dark Shadows where one of the characters can turn into a giant serpent. Unfortunately for the reader, that supernatural element isn't properly addressed; instead it's treated like a natural evolutionary development. Giant snakes would obviously develop intelligence and from there the ability to transform themselves between reptillian and human forms. Of course.

Stoker also drops the "N bomb" a number of times in the story, particularly toward the center and end of the book. While it is true that the term was more commonly used and often without intentional malice back at the turn of the 20th century, Stoker here shows some prescience because he treats the word like one of the most terrible insults available. It does jar the reader out of the story, though.

Most of the story focuses on the interaction and interplay of the main characters, followed by a relatively quick denouement. It's not a bad story, but it's barely memorable.

Three stars out of five.

-- Bill

Fresh Blood: New Releases In the World of Horror

In Movie Theaters:

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Release date: Aug 26, 2011

Starring: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson

This film has generated much buzz in the horror community and with Guillermo Del Toro involvement in the production of the film, there good reason to be excited.

Apollo 18
Release date: Sept 2, 2011

Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego

The found footage genre continues to strive with what can be considered a cross between Alien and the Blair Witch project. Originally this film was delayed till 2012 but then magically appeared on the schedule for this fall. Here’s hoping that was just a minor blip and that there was nothing majorly wrong with the final product.

Shark Night 3D
Release date: Sept 2, 2011

Starring: Sinqua Walls, Chris Carmack, Alyssa Diaz, Joel David Moore, Sara Paxton

The 3D horror genre continues to live on with Shark Night 3D. In what appears to be a cash in on Piranha 3D we take to the water with Sharks as the hunters. What really worries me is the PG-13 rating the film has. Not sure how effective man eating sharks will be when you cripple them with this rating.

--Steven M. Duarte

Celluloid Horrors Movie Reviews

STAKE LAND (2010)– DVD review
By Brian M. Sammons

Director: Jim Mickle
Cast: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Kelly McGillis, Danielle Harris

This film came out of nowhere and smacked me upside the head. Before watching it I had heard of it only in passing, but nothing more than that. Based on the title alone, I was sort of expecting an action-y flick with most likely lots of laughs tossed in for good measure. You know, sort of like ZOMBIELAND. However, this film could not be further from that zomedy as you can get. Now I loved ZOMBIELAND, so does that mean I hated STAKE LAND? Let’s find out.

In a world far more I AM LEGEND than that Will Smith movie of that name, we are introduced to a boy named Martin (in joke for George Romero fans?) living in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by vampires. Thankfully these bloodsuckers aren’t moody, sexy, lovesick, brooding, misunderstood or sparkling. They are nasty, animalistic, ugly, and completely horrific. In short, they are my kind of vampires. Martin’s family meets the business end of a vamp’s fangs and he almost does the same, when a man known only as Mister saves him. So begin the adoptive father and son’s journey from the Deep South to the promised safety of New Eden in the north.

The pair goes on an epic road trip, along the way coming to isolated communities of survivors and buying their way in by showing off the fangs they’ve taken from the vamps they’ve wasted. They continually meet (and often lose) new allies on a regular basis, including a motherly nun, a pregnant young woman, and (I hate to say it) a token black guy. Come on, it’s pretty obvious, especially when at a town full of survivors the only other black person you see in the entire film seeks him out through a crowd to dance with him. Good thing too, because if we start allowing “their kind” to mix… Sorry, but I did think that was kind of creepy. That questionable bit of casting and/or writing aside, the film rarely missteps anywhere else. Well…except maybe for the stereotypical crazy Christian cult who worships the vampires and act as the films main antagonists. Yep, in a world full of killer undead monsters, Christians are worse. Just once, can’t the overly religious crazies be Jewish? Or how about Buddhists? You never hear anything about evil, crazy Buddhists, what gives? Oh and I would have included Muslims in this, but then I’m sure they just would have been the stereotypical Hollywood terrorists.

As for my feelings that this would be an action/comedy flick, I could not have been more wrong. STAKE LAND is a somber, morose, and at times almost a depressing film. Feel good movie of the year, it is not. Bad things happen and sometimes they happen to good people. Also I don’t think there was a single joke, ironic or otherwise, in this entire film. It very much reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, but with more vampires. So if that bit of sunny cinema got you down then this movie may very likely do the same. However, if you’re looking for a film that takes the idea of a world overrun by the thirsty undead seriously and does it’s best to provide plenty of dread and jumps, then this refreshingly old take on vampires may be exactly what you need. Lastly, the overall quality of this movie was a totally nice surprise. Going into STAKE LAND I was expecting cheesy direct to DVD efforts, but instead got an honest to goodness real movie, with believable acting, more than capable direction, memorable characters, good special effects, and a nicely understated apocalyptic world to explore that looked broken and dying without cribbing from THE ROAD WARRIOR or A BOY AND HIS DOG.

If you have yet to see STAKE LAND during its very limited theatrical run then rejoice, for Dark Sky Films has just brought it out on DVD. I thoroughly enjoyed this new vampire film and I honestly can’t remember when the last time I could say that was. Consider this one highly recommended.

--Brian M. Sammons

[REC] 2 (2009)- DVD review
By Brian M. Sammons

Directors: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Cast: Jonathan Mellor, Manuela Velasco, Óscar Zafra

Before I get started, let me say that in order to talk at all about this movie, I will have to spoil the amazing ending of the first [REC]. Even if you saw the so-so American remake, QUARANTINE, you still did see the ending from the original film. That is because the US remake completely wussed out and kept the threat totally definable by scientific means and thus, became just another 28 DAYS LATER rip off. On the other hand [REC], well let’s just say that they took a chance and it really paid off. So if you haven’t watched the original Spanish fright film then do so as soon as you can. When you’re done, come back here and continue reading. But until then…


Ok, in [REC] a female reporter, some firefighters, and a bunch of regular folks get quarantined in a multileveled apartment building once a nasty infection gets loose, turning everyone into blood-eyed, drooling, screaming, and sprinting rage zombies right out of the afore mentioned 28 DAYS LATER. The movie was shot in 1st person, shaky-cam style, a la THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, CLOVERFIELD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, and (far too) many more. It was a competent horror film with plenty of blood and shocking jumps, but what really sold this movie was the ending when things took a frightening turn to the supernatural world. You see, this was no ordinary zombie virus, but one caused by a priest/scientist experimenting on a little possessed girl (yes, like Linda Blair in EXORCIST possessed) looking for a scientific answer, and hopefully an antidote, to evil. That sudden, and completely unexpected twist, was handled masterfully and what could have been silly or cheesy, was instead scary as hell.

Honestly, M. Night Shyamalan should watch that film to see how a twist should be handled, because it looks like he’s totally forgotten. Anway…

[REC] 2 picks up exactly where the first film left off, not only on the same night, but within the same couple of minutes. Once more, directors Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza show that they know how to not only make a good movie and pull off an effective twist, but tell a great horror story. While many sequels would have just had more angry infected action and little else, [REC] 2 delves further into the supernatural side of things. Sure the shrieking, biting baddies are still around, but now they can get shot multiple times without going down, walk on the ceiling if they feel so inclined, and can be held at bay by crucifixes. The critters are far more NIGHT OF THE DEMONS than NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and the weird doesn’t stop there, but I don’t want to give away some of the more creepy cool moments. I will give this hint; sometimes darkness can be your buddy.

Furthermore, unlike many sequels, the events, and even the cast, of the first film are not conveniently forgotten. This time a number of new people enter the same plastic wrapped apartment building. Some, like a quartet of SAWT guys, led by a mysterious expect, enter the quarantine zone in an official capacity. Others, like a firefighter, a scared husband, and some nosy teens, sneak looking for lost friends from the first film without the slightest clue of what they’re about to get into. And just as there are more people, there are more video cameras. In fact, maybe a bit too many. Yeah everyone is running around with a camera in this movie and it does get close to the point of silliness. However, as that was my only complaint I had with this movie, and a very minor one at that, that should give you a pretty good idea on how much I liked [REC] 2. In nearly every way this movie works, and sadly I don’t say that about most new movies.

Even though this movie is presented in North America only in DVD format, and not my much preferred Blu-ray, Sony did manage to squeeze in quite a few extras for the fans. There’s a tour of the quarantined apartment building and various set pieces, behind the scenes segments on three key scenes from the film, a collection of deleted and extended scenes, a mini-doc on [REC] 2 being shown at various European film festivals, and finally there’s outtakes from a press conference about the movie at one of those afore mentioned festivals. Unfortunately, like many foreign films, there’s no commentary track. You know, even if they had to use interrupters, I’d really like to hear the inside scoop from the filmmakers, but what are you going to do?

Now before you all start jumping for joy that after a good long while of crappy remakes and weak sauce horror, we finally have a damn good spooky movie made for adults, I think I should mention that the only audio track you will find on this DVD is the original Spanish. So if you don’t understand that language, you will have to rely on the subtitles. Now for many fans that isn’t a big deal, but I do know some that bristle at the idea of watching a subtitled film. I pity them, because then they’ll miss out on great foreign fright flicks like this. Anyway, I always try to point out when subtitles are the only option for English-only types so they know beforehand. As for me, the subtitles didn’t bother me a bit and I thoroughly enjoyed this great horror movie. If you can read and watch a movie at the same time, I’m sure you will to.

--Brian M. Sammons


Director: George A. Romero

Cast: Alan van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Rodie Sana, Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis, Stefano Collaciti, Joris Jarsky, Eric Woolfe, Julian Richings and Wayne Robson

review written by Nickolas Cook

Let me start by saying: I am a huge Ronmero fan. I can usually find something worth admiring in even his worst flicks. But I haven't been too impressed with the last two films in his ongoing (and hopefully not retired) 'dead' series. To me, they weren't up to his strong take on the zombie that his previous classic movies were. I mean, when most people think zombie movie, they're thinking of his landmark trilogy, Night, Dawn and Day of the (Living) Dead (1968-1985). I'm glad to see he's still pushing at the series, personally, but when I sat down to finally watch SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, it was with high hopes, but realistic expectations. I'd been avoiding seeing it because no one I know who had seen had anything good to say.

So for those of you who saw Romero's DIARY OF THE DEAD (2007), you'll see the tie-in to this new movie's cast of characters during the scene where the young videographers are stopped by a group of AWOL soldiers, who scavanged what they can and move on. This is all given in a clever bit of narration with the clip from the earlier movie. Which gives us the true beginning of the film: these AWOL National Guard soldiers trying to find a way where there are no zombies. Apparently they find it on a small isolated island, off the coast of Delaware, Plum Island, where there are less dead, but its home to two warring clans of Irishmen led by the O'Flynns and the Muldoons. The former family, led by Patrick O'Flynn, round up a posse and kill the undead of the island, learning that the Muldoons, led by Seamus Muldoon are keeping their undead loved ones "alive" until a cure is found. The two men have a short verbal showdown in which we learn Muldoon's strong religious beliefs won't allow him to accept the undead are truly mindless killing machines and are dangerous to keep around, while O'Flynn, despite his hatred for the job, knows they must be destroyed for the safety of the remaining survivors who call the island home.

Okay, to me, this seemed like a clever thing to do storywise. After all, Romero has pretty much mined all he can from the US vs. THEM scenario and wants to illustrate how man can always find a way to fuck up an already fucked up situation by acting greedy and divisive when it's most likely to get him killed. Maybe I'm trying too hard to find good things to say about the film, but as a storyteller I always wonder how Romero keeps finding new angles to approach what has become a fairly played out sub genre of horror, thanks to the tons of lesser talents who have used his undead world to tell their own stories.

Muldoon forces O'Flynn off the island in lieu of killing him outright.

Three weeks later we catch up with the AWOL soldiers, now led by van Sprang, whon tends to have some serious anger issues. They happen across a pack of scavangers like themselves with less firepower and no brains, who they quickly kill in sort of self-defense. With them they find a smart ass kid, who tends towards a neutrel sort of evil--not actively evil, but not a great moral person either. I hated him right away and wanted to punch his face in. Which is probably some good casting on their part since my guess is you're supposed to hate the little prick. The teenager convinces them to head for Plum Island. They come across the ousted O'Flynn and company hiding out in a dockside shack, hijacking strangers for their goods. After some shooting and shouting, some dynamite and explosions, the soldiers and O'Flynn escape on a barge and head for Plum Island.

Once they land on the island, it's not too long before the Muldoons and O'Flynn and the soldiers are going at it, each trying to gain control of the island and the undead.

I thought there were some decent gore scenes; maybe a little over the top at times, but that's what Romero dead flicks are made for, in my opinion. The CGI isn't too out of hand. His movies make you think; they make you cringe. Although it does disappoint in the fact that after all these years of making big budget films here and there, Romero still makes this feel like a low budget indie flick. And I will also admit that there are moments when the dialogue falls firmly in the immature, under thought camp. And there are times when the characters act like complete idiots, against type, and do some really stupid shit--i.e., no one seems to remember to lock doors or windows; no one seems to remember there are zombies all around them during crisis moments; trained soldiers acting like idiot civilians the guy who is willing to kill living people to protect his undead relatives is shooting them in the head before long for little things like eating his cowboy hat or grabbing his shirt or 'not showing promise'. Some of those things are to keep the story moving along, but still somewhat unforgivable when you consider this is the same man who wrote DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). The word for this is CONTRIVED.

And that last shootout...well, even I can't come up with something good to say about that.

There are moments of levity which tend to grate against my Romero fanboy love. They just don't seem to fit the enormous apocalyptic situation.
Another thing I did not like was that the zombies are now called 'Deadheads'. That got on my nerves a bit. But who knows? Maybe that's exactly what we would call zombies if the zombie apocalypse finally comes about.

Good grief...I said IF. The Great Pumpkin might have heard that. I mean WHEN, WHEN! the zombie apocalypse happens.

Okay, bottom line, and this tough for a fan to admit: this could have been a hell of a lot better. But was it as bad as everyone told me?

No. Not by a long shot.

I laughed, despite myself, and felt the suspense build up when I was supposed to. I enjoyed the gore effects; several of them were very cleverly done. Which we have the master Greg Nicotero as head special effects consultant to thank for those, no doubt.

I also enjoyed the feel of the old westerns in the film's narrative. Of course, I found out later that Romero used William Wyler's 1958 western classic, THE BIG COUNTRY, as his template for the story; another clever turn from the master, in my opinion.

But I certainly understand why most people hated this Romero undeas flick. Stacked against his other movies in the series it doesn't even come close. But stacked against most of the bad zombie flicks since his "NOTLD" this one is still better than a good number of them. I just wish it had been like the old Romero days. But perhaps those days are gone for good and all. Still, there was a lot to like about SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, if not love. But here's to hoping Romero has at least one or two more dead movies left in him before he calls it quits on the zombies.

--Nickolas Cook

By Brian M. Sammons

Director: Andrew Fleming
Cast: Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott, Richard Lynch

Director: Jean-Claude Lord
Cast: Michael Ironside, Lee Grant, Linda Purl

I actually love little collections like this. You see, neither of these films are what you would call great. Hell, a lot of people would say that neither of these films are what you would call good. And to some degree or another, I can see their point. BAD DREAMS is pretty much a poor man’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and VISITING HOURS is really a suspense/thriller melodrama masquerading as a slasher film. However both these movies have enough going for them, if only just enough, to warrant a watch, but both have been out of print and pretty hard to find for a good long time. And honestly, I don’t know if you would want to pay full DVD price for either one of these. But both together for a reasonable price? Sure, why the hell not get them.

What, you don’t believe me? Ok, I’ll prove it.

First let me describe something to you and see what you come up with. There’s a burnt-faced killer that stalks teens in their dreams, including a group of troubled kids in an insane asylum. Sound familiar? Could that be A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, or more specifically Part 3 of that series? Well surprise, that’s actually a little remember fright flick from 1988 called BAD DREAMS. Yeah I know, it’s weird, and perhaps a bit slimy, and things only get more muddled when the start of the DREAMS film was first in THE DREAM WARRIORS as the badass punker chick, Taryn. So if you experience a sense of déjà vu while watching this movie, don’t worry, that’s intentional.

Anyway, standing in for Freddy Kruger, you get psycho cult leader Harris, played well by perennial villain, Richard Lynch. Harris led a doomsday cult some years back who got it into their heads that dousing themselves in gasoline and flicking a Bic would be a great idea. Only one young girl, Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin) survived the inferno. Too bad for her that fried-faced Harris still wants her to burn, and he begins to haunt her dreams, and the dreams of her new friends in a teen-centric asylum. One by one the kids start to off themselves thanks to Harris’ scare tactics, until it’s just Cynthia and the bogyman remains. But things may not all be what it seems. There is a neat little twist to this tale that some people either love or hate. Me, I liked it because at least it doesn’t appear to be a total rip off of the ELM STREET movies.

BAD DREAMS is a fun little film, not great, but enjoyable. The direction is competent, the story moves along at a brisk pace, and the characters are fun. Jennifer Rubin is great as frightened little bunny Cynthia, but my favorite is Ralph, played by Dean Cameron, perhaps best known as the horror loving Chainsaw in the Mark Harmon 1987 vehicle; SUMMER SCHOOL. He plays the same kind of whacky and “crazy” guy here and in both films I really dug him. The special effects are effective and should make the gore hounds happy, and as I mentioned before, the twist at the end is pretty good, or at least better than the last four M. Night Shyamalan films combined. Oh, and it has just the right amount of cheesy 80s horror flavor that I always love, so BAD DREAMS gets a nod of approval from me.

On to VISITING HOURS, which frankly I don’t like as much. It’s not a bad film, it just drags a bit and isn’t anywhere as fun as BAD DREAMS. It’s about a woman hating psycho with anger issues attacking an opinionated female journalist. When he hears later that she survived his attack and is now resting in a hospital, the nut job goes to the hospital time and time again to finish what he started.

The highlight in his film is easily gravely-voiced, steely-eyed, professional bad guy; Michael Ironside. He growls, snarls, spits, and chews his way through the scenery whenever he’s on screen and is totally believable as an unhinged madman. What’s not as good are the other actors, including William…Shatner…who…plays…the…reporter’s…boyfriend. Other than Ironside, they all appear content to phone in their performances, or perhaps just really bored, and if that’s the case, I really can’t blame them all that much because I too was bored through much of this movie. When things happen in this film they’re usually good, if a bit weak on the gore for a slasher film (which this movie really is not, despite pretending to be) but the problem is that there are long stretches of nothing between the good stuff. Still, this one is worth watching, if just to see Michael Ironside do what he does best, and that’s be bad.

Now unlike most combo DVDs, Shout! Factory actually included a few special features on this 2-disc set, if sadly just for BAD DREAMS, which comes with a director’s commentary, interviews with four of the actors, a featurette on the special effects, an alternate ending, and trailers. VISITING HOURS just gets a trailer and that’s it. That is a bit disappointing, but hey, at least the film is back out on DVD.

If you are missing either, or most likely both, of these 80s fright flicks in your library, then you can pick them both up, in one nice package, and for a reasonable price, when they become available on September 13.

--Brian M. Sammons


Director: J. Lee Thompson

Cast: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane, Sharon Acker, Frances Hyland, Tracey E. Bregman, Lisa Langlois and others

review written by Nickolas Cook

This is one of my favorite slasher flicks of the 80s. In fact, it made our Top 13: Best Horror Films of 1981 in last month's 2nd anniversary issue. But it's also one that appears on a lot of other horror fans' fave lists.

This is an anomoly of the early days of slasher flicks, as it was financed in Canada by a large US studio, which meant it to make a ton of money. Attached, there was also a very well known director J. Lee Thompson (the man responsible for some classic films in cinema, including The Guns of Navarone (1961), Cape Fear (1962), Eye of the Devil (1967) and about 30 others). It also starred some fairly big names in the late 70s and early 80s of television and cinema, who helped add a credibility in this burdgeoning new sub-genre of an up and coming genre of film, a genre which for many years prior had been overlooked and ridiculed by critics and tangential cinema fans alike.

It is the story of insanity and murder in an exclusive private high school in New England. When young Virginia is taken under the wing of an elite group of young rich people in this exclusive private high school, she becomes the center of a violent series of murders, which seem to be committed by a mysterious stranger who has it out to get the Top Ten snobby students, who all seem to come from a very well off background, one we find out later she had been previously shunned when she was a little girl, much to her mother's shame and anger.

But it seems Virginia has a secret of her own, a secret which may be the cause of all the terrible deaths taking place at Crawford Academy. By the film's end, the twists and turns will keep even the most jaded horror fan on his toes. Nothing is what it seems...

At the center of this well produced and acted little slasher is the gore. It's the first time a big studio was to let loose with the blood and guts in a slasher film, but it would not be the last...although it would certainly be one of the best attempts at lending the blood spattered genre legitimacy. It would not happen again for several years.

The money and time put into this production comes through in a professional looking flick, with some awesome, and before then, unseen death scenes, including death by shish-kabob, motorcyle wheel, barbells, fire poker and other instruments of death, something which we see time and time in the 'holiday' slasher catalogue of horror movies. You know the ones from back then, when any occasion was worth a killing or two: Christmas, Valentine's Day, April Fool's Day, Halloween, New Year's Eve and on and on.

It's not surprising that over the years this drive-in classic has sustained its ability to shock and frighten. It regularly turns up on best of lists, including the critics who back then ripped it apart.

Go figure.

It is still my hope that one of the studios involved will one day make an uncut version of this one available to a hungry Horrorhead fanbase, which values the hard work that went into making this one of the best slashers to come out of the 80s.

--Nickolas Cook

I AM NANCY (2011)– DVD review
By Brian M. Sammons

Director: Arlene Marechal
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Wes Craven

Quite some months back, the best documentary on a horror film franchise came out. It was called NEVER SLEEP AGAIN, and it was about the NIGHTMARE OF ELM STREET flicks. To say that it was extensive would be a huge understatement. It was over six hours long! It covered all the NIGHTMARE films, FREDDY VS. JASON, the TV show, the video games, even the old 1980s 1-900 number where for just $1.99 a minute you could talk to Freddy himself. Also it had plenty of interviews, including many with Heather Langenkamp, who played Nancy in the first and third ELM STREET films. It was in one such interview that she mentioned that she was working on her own documentary on the Freddy phenomena and her part in it. At the time I remember thinking why? I mean, what insights could she bring that wasn’t already covered in the six-plus hour long doc she was speaking in?

Surprisingly as it turns out, quite a lot.

I AM NANCY is that doc Heather was talking about and in it a camera follows Heather around in her life, to conventions, her friends’ homes, and even tattoo parlors, to give you a more personal look at how the famous horror movies changed and shaped her life. It does this by and large by focusing on the fans, something the humongo NEVER SLEEP AGAIN only just touched on. So you get a lot of reactions, remembrances, and good times from regular people. They tell stories about how the movies affected them, some in major ways, thankfully usually for the better, and some tales were honestly very touching. This film is far more personal than most other documentaries, and that includes Heather’s story about being known as Nancy and almost nothing more.

The other half of this documentary is how Heather Langenkamp deals with her celebrity, or possibly the lack of it. This is done with tongue firmly in cheek and always with a smile. She laments to the camera over her character always being in the burnt shadow of Freddy. After all, there are no posters of just Nancy, no T-shirts, no one tattoos her face into their flesh, and while she may have two toys of her character (and yet don’t look a think like her), Freddy collectibles could probably fill an entire TOYS R US store. This is brought into crystal clear focus when both Heather and Robert “Freddy Kruger” Englund attend the same horror convention and there is a five our wait to get Robert’s autograph and there is hardly even a line in front of Heather’s booth.

The last things of note on this documentary are the interviews with Robert Englund, Wes Craven, and even Wes’ daughter, who reportedly played a surprisingly influential role in the creation of the first ELM STREET movie. And because Heather knows both Wes and Robert first hand, the interviews she gets with them are far more personal and candid then I’ve seen before, and that includes the other doc on the Freddy films. These interviews are explored in greater length as extras on the DVD, along with a music video. Yes, really, a music video.

Now I AM NANCY is a very short documentary. At just over an hour, it is over before you know it, which is sad as I wanted more, but is also good as it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Light and breezy at times, candid and informative at others, and always fun and funny, I AM NANCY was a great different take on some of the most influential horror movies of all time. If you are a fan of the NIGHTMARE films then you can get a copy of this cool little doc straight from the source here: www.iamnancy.net and I highly recommend doing so.

--Brian M. Sammons

By Brian M. Sammons

Director (of original film): Harold P. Warren
Cast: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy and others

Yes! I loves me some MST3K and this horrible stinker, MANOS THE HANDS OF FATE, is one of the worst movies ever made and therefore one of the best episodes of the much missed comedy show. Seriously, if you Google “Top 10 MST3K episodes” this will always be in the top five no matter who did the list. Considering that there are almost 200 episodes, that’s saying something. Well the fine folks over at Shout! Factory has given this horrible movie/horribly brilliant episode its due by putting out a two disc DVD and I guess by now you can tell that I loved it. So if you’re in a hurry, then you can stop reading now and go get this when it comes out Sept. 13. But hey, if you’ve got more time to kill, please by all means; keep reading.

I’m assuming you know what MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 was. If not, stop reading, give yourself a good smack for missing out on comedic greatness for all these years, and by god, start watching them. You can find a ton of episodes on DVD, if you have NetFlix then there’s a bunch available for instant streaming, and there are even some just floating around the internet, wild and free. When you’re done with that, come back and we’ll continue.

Ok, so you are now, or always have been, familiar with MST3K. Good. Then you know it was an amazing show where a guy trapped in outer space on the Satellite of Love was forced to watch horribly cheese-tastic flicks until driven mad as part of an insane experiment. Luckily for the victim (first Joel and later Mike, and in this episode’s case it’s Joel) he made some robots to help him deal with the relentless onslaught of schlock by making fun of them. And thus movie riffing was, if not born, at least brought to the masses and it was good. The show was hugely popular for a time because it was very good and it ran for 11 years.

As for MANOS THE HANDS OF FATE, it is a dreadfully made, acted, shot, and everything else piece of cinematic waste made as a bet. No really, this movie was made as a bet, and it shows. In it, a man, woman, child and poodle travel (for far, far too long) through some empty landscape before coming to a rundown house that I guess they were looking to stay in. The questions why and how are left vague. There they meet the caretaker, the wonderfully weird and over the top Torgo who steals the show every second he’s on screen. He tells the travelers that “the Master” isn’t going to be happy about this, but sure they can stay there. Then the poodle gets eaten by a devil dog, just before the daughter adopts said hell hound. Torgo tries hitting on the wife in his own hilariously awkward way and dad’s in denial about everything. By the time the Master shows up as some undead wizard type with his bevy of undying brides, you are far beyond carrying in this dreadfully dull and inept flick. That is, unless you were watching it with the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 guys. Then you would be laughing yourself silly as Joel and the bots are in top form slicing this stinker up and taking it down. Rarely was MST3K ever better than this, and as a big and longtime Mistie (as we fans of the show call ourselves) that’s high praise indeed.

Being one of MST3K’s best episodes, Shout! has done it justice with a nice 2-disc DVD set. Disk one includes the original episode of the TV show, a featurette called “Group Therapy” with many (but sadly not all) of the people involved with the episode. Yeah there seems to be a very noticeable rift in the once happy MST3K family where one half doesn’t want anything to do with the other. So here you get Joel, both of the classic “mad doctors” and Mary Jo Pehl who would later play the comedic villainess “Pearl”. Oh and there are some commercial bumpers tossed in for good measure. The second DVD has the original, un-riffed MANOS movie, although why on God’s green earth you would want to watch it that way is beyond me. There’s a half hour doc on the making of MANOS called “Hotel Torgo”, a short, weird, and funny little film called “Jam Handy to the Rescue” about a guy who did educational films that actually has its own set of special features (no, really). And in that vein the educational film “Hired!” is also found here. Why? Because, as they say on the DVD case, they could.

If you’re a fan of MST3K then you already know how good this episode is, so what are you waiting for, go get it! If you’re new to MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 and want to see what all the hubbub was about, then this is a great place to start.

--Brian M. Sammons

Bill Breedlove's Horror Column #4: AN OPEN LETTER TO HAMMER STUDIOS

Dear Friends,

First of all, let me offer you my much-belated congratulations on resurrecting the great and beloved Hammer mantle from the dusty crypt of history. Like many people on both sides of the big pond, I spent a great deal of my formative years watching classic Hammer productions, and thrilling to the exploits of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Bryant Haliday, Hazel Court and many, many others. I knew Freddie Francis as a great director before David Lynch ever made him a cinematographer. I more rabidly followed Terence Fisher’s filmography than Martin Scorsese’s. And, I loved the work of Jimmy Sangster (R.I.P.) much more avidly than that output of Robert Towne or William Goldman.

But, enough about me, this letter is about YOU, and although it’s difficult to separate my intense fondness for the Hammer of my childhood with my clear-eyed adult appreciation of cinematic and literary endeavors, I will do my best.

I know the entertainment business is a harsh place, and success is very difficult—not only to achieve, but also to maintain. I am sorry that things turned difficult for Hammer in the 1970’s, but the marketplace changes over time as we all know. I don’t care what anyone says, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and CAPTAIN KRONOS, VAMPIRE HUNTER still remain awesome.

Being a resident of the U.S., I unfortunately did not get to see the original runs of “Hammer House of Horror” and “Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense” (we got “Tales from the Darkside” and “Monsters!” not fair!). Maybe its just as well—in those heady years of the 1980s, when it seemed everyone with $20 and a video camera was making a movie (anyone remember THE BEING? From…Idaho??? This was a good example of “WTF” before “WTF” had been coined)—the ability to appreciate all of those Hammer virtues was probably clouded.

But, again, no one was more thrilled than I to hear that Hammer was “back in the game” again. It certainly has to be a difficult balancing act, being a good steward of the incredible bank of fond memories that people feel towards Hammer and it’s classic productions on one hand and trying to create contemporary, competitive productions in this modern, very different marketplace on the other.

With that in mind, I have a couple of suggestions that you may find helpful, or you may find useless. Either way, they are my gift to you, free of charge. (Although, if anyone digging through old boxes comes across an old “Eff you, Amicus!” t-shirt, keep me in mind).

First and most important—DON’T FUCK WITH THE OLD CLASSICS. I am sure this doesn’t really need to be said, but, just in case I thought I would helpfully put it out here in all caps so it doesn’t get overlooked.

This single biggest asset that Hammer has is the accumulated love and goodwill accrued from all those horror-loving people, who, most likely, started out watching classic Hammer films as children. We all tend to romanticize and attribute outsize importance to our happy memories from childhood. Not only does that warm and happy feeling make the Hammer film library a valuable asset, but it also guarantees that when people see the “Hammer” logo on a new piece of entertainment, they will fondly smile and at least consider taking a peek at something that is a kissing cousin to “Curse of Frankenstein.”

I’m sure it isn’t lost on you that George Lucas didn’t cast Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in the original STAR WARS because he liked “Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.” And Peter Jackson didn’t want Christopher Lee to take on the role of Sauron in the LOTR trilogy because of “Man with the Golden Gun.”

No, you know that both little George and little (or, perhaps better put, “smaller”) Pete remembered those two pros fondly from watching their favorite Hammer productions while still in short pants, in front of the family TV on a Saturday afternoon.

Much like the oath all doctors must swear to before becoming a physician: “first do no harm,” that should similarly be your mantra with respect (and r-e-s-p-e-c-t is the key word here) to those beloved classic films. HANDS OFF.

Reissue them with multiple DVD outtakes, tons of “special features” on Blu-Ray and however else you can figure out to repackage them—it’s your right. Folks will dutifully collect them as a precious, lost part of their childhoods, but for the sake of all that is holy—DO NOT REMAKE, REBOOT or RE-IMAGINE any of those Hammer classics.

And since we’re on the topics of “remakes,” we might at get this out of the way right now. LET THE RIGHT ME IN. WTF? You open up one of the most beloved, respected horror film studios in the world, and one of your first projects is a remake of an-almost perfect Swedish vampire film (from a even-more-almost-perfect novel) with the title dumbed down for American audiences? With the setting moved from snowy 1970s Sweden to…New Mexico? Really?


Sure, the resulting movie was not bad at all. But it wasn’t as good as the original, and more importantly, with ALL of the possible projects to make in the world of horror, you chose THAT ONE?


Whether it made it’s money back on international and DVD/home audience is not important. Whether Stephen King liked it is not important. What is important is that it was UNNECESSARY.

The dedicated fans of vampires, great writing and all things Sweden had already sought the novel and original film out. Hence, the idea to remake it, “Americanized” to hit a broader audience, could only be considered a failure, since the small U.S. box office indicates that the ticket buyers were probably mainly the folks who already liked the original.

But more importantly that the merits of one version vs the other is the fact that this production was the CHOICE to start the era of the fledgling “new” Hammer studios. Again, the remake, in 2010, of a 2008 film. Really? There wasn’t anything more promising?

At least there was no immediate remake of, say, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, but still.

Just in the U.K., there are numerous exceptionally talented horror writers, both established old war horses and young up and comers. Hammer has already signed up both, with novels from Graham Masterson and Mark Morris coming up. With Hammer’s new book line, it’s a great opportunity to not only publish superb horror stories, but also a perfect place to find optionable material for the next film production. With folks like Sarah Pinborough, Gary McMahon and Jospeh D’Lacey happily writing away in Hammer’s own backyard, there should be plenty of top-notch material being generated SO THERE’S NO NEED TO DO ANOTHER REMAKE.

Good, I am glad we are clear on that.

HOWEVER, if you must, have-to, it’s either-a-remake-or-we-blow-everything-up-kind-of-day, then might I suggest looking back at some of the material in the Hammer library which you already own the rights to, and which perhaps could be improved upon with another attempt?

We’ve already covered the sanctity of the “classics” in the Hammer library. But what about those films that—while also beloved in their own right—were not entirely successful in their original incarnation?

No better example comes to mind that THE REPTILE.

For me, and a bunch of other American kids, this movie has one of the most iconic monsters ever, thanks to FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND repeatedly running photos of the eponymous creature on the cover.

It’s a great little story—scares, pathos and a “surprise” twist that makes it a memorable film that somehow seems lacking. It feels like it just misses “classic” status, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

But, a remake—either keeping the same setting or updating it to contemporary time—might be able to improve upon the already rock solid bones of the original.

And, did I mention you already own the rights as part of the Hammer library?

Or how about THE GORGON? That one had both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and still need some help. A modern day Medusa? One how perhaps changes into a snake-headed monster at certain times because of a curse? Tell me that doesn’t sound intriguing!

Or THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS! Admittedly, this is a pretty good film already, but an update? The pro-environment/animal-rights subtext from the original with Peter Cushing vs the callous hunter Forest Tucker would really resonate today. And, the definitive Abominable Snowman film has yet to be made.

Anyway, the point is, that if you feel you MUST remake something, please feel free to first look at the large and fertile field provided by the impressive Hammer Library.

But, more importantly, what will the “new” Hammer productions look like? Let’s look at the two films already released that aren’t remakes of Swedish vampire thrillers: THE RESIDENT and WAKE WOOD.

THE RESIDENT looks to continue the oft-overlook subset of Hammer films in the “psychological thriller” genre, following in the footsteps of such cleverly titled movies as MANIAC, PARANOIAC, HYSTERIA and FANATIC. The cast has Hillary Swank(?), Jeffrey Dean Morgan and even Christopher Lee. So far, so good.

OK, so the movie stinks. It’s completely unbelievable and in fact makes no sense whatsoever. Even worse, putting the creepy photo of Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the cover makes it painfully obvious who the villain is, even though it’s supposed to be a big surprise. That’s kinda like having the opening credits of THE USUAL SUSPECTS read “with Kevin Spacey as Keyser Soze.”

It was such a hot mess that it was sentenced to straight-to-DVD hell in the US. Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank in a direct-to-DVD release? Really?

Poor Jeffrey Dean Morgan deserves better. Between this one, THE LOSERS and JONAH HEX, if the remake of RED DAWN bombs, he is gonna be stuck in that “hybrid of Javier Bardem and Gerard Butler second rate beefcake” category forever.

But anyway, let’s turn to happier things, namely WAKE WOOD. Now THIS is exactly what I would expect from the “new” Hammer films! Let’s break it down:
1. Creepy premise (small village where your loved one can be resurrected for three days).
2. Cast of unknowns except for one hammy supporting turn by a familiar face (Hello, Timothy Spall!)
3. Creepy setting, preferably in England, Ireland or Scotland. (Check)
4. Suspicious acting, and quite possibly evil villagers. (Check)
5. Gratuitous violence. (Check)
6. Gratuitous gore. (Check, check and check!)

And you know what? This was a perfectly adequate creepy little horror film. The script probably could have used one or two more rewrites, and there are too many similarities to PET SEMATARY, but overall it’s enjoyable.

And, most importantly from a “Hammer brand” standpoint, it has ATMOSPHERE. The village is creepy, the townspeople are creepy, even Timothy Spall’s tweed hat is creepy somehow. The wind turbines that surround the village and their oddly disconcerting “whump-whump-whump” are great background visuals and soundtrack help.

If you ask most people to apply one adjective to describe “Hammer” I would guess that aficionados would overwhelmingly select “atmosphere.” The older Hammer classics had it, and this film has it in spades. It not a great film, but it is a great start on the rebirth of the Hammer name.

It’s exactly the kind of “little” film that major studios wouldn’t make, with a small budget and zero explosions. This is Hammer’s sweet spot. Making small, creepily atmospheric movies that can trade on the existing expectations of Hammer’s audience. If later it seems smart to branch out to do “bigger things,” then so be it, but let’s nail down the “core values” first.

So, to recap, the world is so glad you’re back, it’s great to see you again, you’ve been away too long. You’ve got a movie line, a book line and game too, so you should be able to be a generator of great content to the horror community.

Leave the remakes/reboots alone, leave Hilary Swank alone, let the Hollywood studios take care of those expensive things like re-imaginings and big-star vehicles, and instead concentrate on little moody, atmospheric and quaint pictures.

With Timothy Spall.

Love & Kisses to your ongoing and future success,

Bill B.