Sunday, September 4, 2011

Editorial September 2011 e-issue #27

Compiled by Lisa Morton, Bill Breedlove, various members of Horror Writers Association
and Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

In Memoriam

Mark Worthen

As some folks may already know, Mark Worthen passed away on 19 September, 2011. He suffered a seizure at work and died shortly thereafter.

Mark was many things to many people—he was a horror writer, an editor (DESOLATE SOULS, with J.P. Edwards) and, perhaps most importantly, a devoted husband to his wonderful wife Jeannie.

He had a “day job”—Mark often jokingly referred to himself as “cubicle denizen” and a very active life with writing, editing, reviewing as well as myriad responsibilities serving as the Webmaster for the Horror Writers Association.

HWA Treasurer, and also a friend of Mark’s (and BLACK GLOVE contributor), Lisa Morton wrote a very eloquent obituary here:, which also has links to Mark’s website and blog. On those, links, also provided below, you will find various FREE examples of his fiction and his thoughts on all things, great and small, in his life and the industry:

Official Live Journal Blog-- Official Website “The Renaissance Mind: The Omnidirectional Madness of Mark Worthen—

I have known Mark and Jeannie for several years, and two finer people you could never hope to meet. Mark was one of those individuals who consistently went out of his way to offer help and assistance to anyone and everyone he encountered. His love for great writing of any kind was obvious, as was his deep affection for the horror field in general.

Over time, I had the pleasure of corresponding with Mark quite a bit, and the honor of serving as a sounding board for some of his early drafts of various works. He was committed to his craft, extremely knowledgeable about the field and an excellent interlocutor on many subjects. Email exchanges that began on one topic could go very far afield, but were never less than interesting and entertaining.

His multiple talents, his affinity for fellow writers and his overall kindness will be greatly missed.

--Bill Breedlove

Nickolas Cook: When I heard of Mark's death, it stunned me. I sent out a call on my FaceBook page, offering to add anyone else's comments about him to what Bill had written above. To my utter dismay, on a social page where if you post that you stubbed your toe, you will almost instantly get 20 comments about how sorry someone is to hear that, another how it happened to another person, too, maybe another five or six stubbed toe stories...but what I did not get for over 24 hours was one single comment from around 800 "friends", easily 75% of which are horror related personalities about Mark's surprising sudden passing. I expressed my disgust and dismay in a mass email to my fellow BLACK GLOVE writers. Lisa Morton, being the kind and generous person she is, offered to also post the same offer to her own FaceBook page.

Well, needless to say, by the number of replies which she was able to capture below, you can see Mark was remembered, and fondly. It also happened to restore my belief in our community, which, to be truthful, folks, has as of late become pretty low for my own personal reasons.

So to all of you who found the time to comment and allow us to post your comments about Mark here as part of this small, but heartfelt, memorial for one of our own fallen Horrorheadsm, we thank you. I thank you.

But not only was Lisa Morton kind enough to forward all the comments she got on her page, she also allowed us to post the below obituary she wrote for Mark. So our supreme and loving thanks go to her, as well:

"As most of you probably know by now, HWA’s Webmaster Mark Worthen passed away on September 19, 2011. Mark suffered a seizure while at work and died shortly thereafter.

Mark was an integral part of HWA, and a list of all of the duties he performed for us on a daily basis would take up the entire page. He assigned user IDs and passwords, he kept the Web site current and clean, he moderated the message board, he compiled Bram Stoker Award recommendations, he wrote two monthly columns for the newsletter, and he did a lot of those behind-the-scenes things that you all thankfully never hear about, like resolving issues with our databases and domain host.

But Mark wasn’t just some cyber-janitor sweeping up around HWA’s Web presence. It was rare that Mark just answered a question; he usually answered it with good humor and maybe even advice.

In my capacity as HWA’s Treasurer, I had the pleasure of working closely with Mark since he took over as HWA’s Webmaster in 2007. We exchanged hundreds, maybe thousands of E-mails. We developed a friendship that spilled over into spending time together (along with Mark’s delightful wife Jeannie) whenever we were in the same physical location. Mark was known throughout the horror community as a generous, warm-hearted guy, always ready with words of support or suggestion.

He was also a fine writer, who I have no doubt would have continued to grow a following. His short fiction received “Honorable Mentions” in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best anthologies, and last year he garnered his first Bram Stoker Award nomination, for the story “Final Draft” (from Horror Library Volume IV). Mark was also a prolific reviewer (for ), and he co-edited (with J.P. Edwards) the acclaimed anthology Desolate Souls.

Mark was also an expert linguist who had lived in Peru and Korea. By day he was employed by Lincoln University, and lived in Missouri.

Mark is survived by his wife, Jeannie, and by his children. HWA wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to Jeannie and Mark’s family. Mark was part of HWA’s glue, and we’re going to miss him terribly."

And here are some those other outpourings of love and mourning for the loss of one of our own, from many HWA members, comments we collected to add to this memorial to Mark:

Jonathan Maberry commented: "Mark was a totally standup guy. Smart, funny and reliable. Definitely one of the good guys."

Donna K. Fitch wrote: "Mark and I got to know each other through HWA, when I was database administrator and he was web administrator. He was so helpful and friendly, and we shared a love of roleplaying games and Star Trek. I was so happy to finally meet him and Jeannie at the Stoker Awards in Berkeley. He was a warm and wonderful guy, and an inventive and powerful writer. It's hard to believe I won't get an email from him anymore."

“Mark Worthen was part of the backbone of the Horror Writers Association and I believe he truly loved it. We were in contact most every day of my presidency as he sought to deliver on the many things we needed from him and his teams in his dual roles as Webmaster and Stoker Co-Chair/Compiler. Two more important functions can hardly be imagined--in this day and age the HWA succeeds day to day via our Web site and its component services; and the Bram Stoker Awards are the most visible of our functions to the genre and the wide public.

For his work with the Web team Mark deservedly received the Richard Laymon President's Award for Service for 2007. Of course, Mark had a successful writing career and received a Bram Stoker nomination last year. We mourn his loss as a friend, a servant of HWA, and as a writer. The HWA Board is working to support Mark’s wife, Jeanne Eddy, at this difficult time. We will honor Mark’s memory by building on his great work on the Web site and the Bram Stoker Awards.”

Rocky Wood
President, Horror Writers Association

James E. Gurley wrote: "Mark and Jennie helped me many times with pitch sessions at conventions or we just sat around and shot the bull. I'll miss him."

Charles Day wrote: "I never had the chance to know him, but from everything I read, I could tell he was a wonderful man, who touched so many people in his life. My prayers are with his family."

Harry Shannon wrote: "Mark and I corresponded often, though we never met face to face. He seemed like a tremendously nice guy, intelligent and warm. He will clearly be missed."

Tracy DeVore wrote: "Mark and I had corresponded online regularly regarding HWA and writing in general, and I had the opportunity to get to know him better at the WHC/Stoker banquet in Salt Lake City, UT in 2008. He was a wonderful person, very friendly and helpful and encouraging. He will be missed."

Monica O'Rourke wrote: "Mark and I became friends when we worked together on the HWA Stoker committee. He was one of the kindest, warmest people I have ever met. He never had a disparaging word for anyone. I doubt I will ever know a gentler soul. My heart goes out to Jeannie and the rest of his family. He will be missed.”

Maria Alexander wrote: "Mark was always a caring colleague, endlessly supportive and effortless to work with on everything from HWA business to Blood Rose Magazine. He will be badly missed in many ways."

Gene O'Neill wrote: "No question Mark was an asset for HWA, but even more so as a friend. I'll miss him."

John R. Little wrote: "During my term as HWA Administrator, there was rarely a day that I didn't exchange emails with Mark. He ended up being a very close friend, and I miss him a great deal."

Brad C. Hodson wrote: "Mark was always the most kind, patient, funny guy when we'd have to write back and forth trying to solve some kind of issue. He had this wonderful attitude of "live life, don't stress about it."

Nancy Holder wrote: "Mark never, ever, EVER lost patience when I would email him about my password. What a kind, talented, gentle soul."

Michael Louis Calvillo wrote: "Mark was a great guy. We exchanged a number of emails about our hopes and dreams and our shared aspirations of becoming writers (though we both already were). I'm gonna miss his friendship, he really was one of the good guys. My love and prayers (and Pepsi and chocolate) to Jeanie (forgive the misspelling).
Sincerest warmth, Michael."

“I exchanged no more than three, maybe four emails with Mark over the last six months. He was warm and funny and went out of his way to welcome me to HWA and make me feel a part of the organization. I can't imagine how much he will be missed by those who knew him well. I'm just sorry I didn't get the chance to know him better. My deepest condolences to his family and close friends.
-Teresa Frohock

STOKER WINNERS 2008 (Mark's first on the left, top row)

The horror community has lost one of its own. We here at THE BLACK GLOVE MAGAZINE express our deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones. With all the words posted above from so many different individuals, it is obvious Mark was a friend, an inspiration, a consummate professional, a caring member within the HWA and a talented craftsman.
He will be missed.
In a community as small as ours, we cannot afford to lose even one, especially one as special as Mark.
Let’s all remember in the future, when we get aggravated with one of our peers, that we're a family, one built on creation and the power of imagination, and, strangely enough, given our chosen collective subject matter with which we create, we 're also a surprisingly humorous and life-affirming people.
We love one another.
We care for each other.
And we feel the pain of our fellowman/woman.
Writing horror, means also understanding the ultimate power of love and redemption, forgiveness and faith in the light at the end of the tunnel.
Because there has to be a light, people. Because this is one fucking dark tunnel we all travel together. Pick up a newspaper, watch the nightly news, read an online news spot. It is dark, dark, dark...
So let’s remember our extended family in our hopes and prayers each day. Because, folks, we are all in this together.
And to quote a man who probably would've fit in quite well with us, “No one here gets out alive…”

(My thanks goes out to all of you who took the time to comment, especially Bill and Lisa, who made sure that Mark's friends and loved ones will know how much we will miss him and how much he was loved and appreciated.)

--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 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 several new releases forthcoming from various publishers. Stay tuned for more news on his official website and his Facebook Page as listed below

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

Co-Editor: Brian M. Sammons has been writing reviews on all things horror for more years than he'd care to admit. 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, Monstrous, and Dead but Dreaming 2. Some of the magazines where you can find his twisted tales are Bare Bone, Cthulhu Sex, and Dark Animus. He co-edited the upcoming anthology Cthulhu Unbound 3, has his first novella coming out called The R'lyeh Singularity, co-written with David Conyers, and is currently editing other fright collections, including the soon to be release Undead & Unbound. For more about this guy whose neighbors describe as "such nice, quiet man" you can check out his very infrequently updated webpage here:

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.

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 first collection, MONSTERS OF L.A., will be published by Bad Moon Books for
Halloween 2011. She lives online at

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

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.

JW Schnarr is a writer from Claresholm, AB. He works as a reporter/photographer by day and a horror writer/publisher by night. He is the author of "Things Falling Apart" and Alice & Dorothy.  JW can be reached at

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:

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 While we can't pay for the content, I can promise horror fans around the world will read your stuff. Please, let me stress, this is for serious applicants only. You MUST know the genre. While I don't mind a certain amount of personalizing your content, I need it to be, at the end of the day, about the genre and not your personal life only.

--Nickolas Cook

Bloody Pages Book Reviews

NOWHERE HALL By Cate Gardner (2011)
Publisher: Spectral Press
Review written by Nickolas Cook

From the very first paragraph you can tell two things about this author, Cate Gardner: firstly, that she has a grasp of language, and knows its inherent power in the hands of a true craftsperson; and secondly, she’s taking no prisoners.

Her protagonist, Ron, immediately engenders sympathy, but she continues from almost the beginning of the story to heap both physical and emotional pain, a delusional uncertainty and mental turmoil upon him, with seeming glee.

But it’s not glee.

It is because she cares, that she puts him through the feelings and sensations that one would think a real human in such an unsure mental state must feel.

Ron’s environment, at first sight seems stable enough, but soon, like his own mental state, degenerates into chaos and ruin.

Remember what I said about a true craftsperson?

Newsflash, readers (especially those of you who fancy yourselves future scribes of any literature)!! Using environment to mirror the protagonist’s mental/emotional/physical state is one of the basic tricks of writing something with pathos, something of depth, because it takes on a weight when the animate and inanimate meet in the narrative.

Soon, as Ron wanders deeper into his ruined hotel (and we begin wonder if perhaps this is one of the mind?), he meets The Umbrella Man, a strange entity which seems to know the predetermined path by which Ron is bound to walk, and even the sights which he will soon observe. And while wandering these decayed, dusty, cobwebbed halls, the very environment continues to attack him in subtle ways (dust in his eyes, a spider crawling across his flesh), as subtle as the clues he is given as he moves from room to room.

Who is speaking to him? What are they trying to tell him?

All in all, NOWHERE HALL feels very much like a surreal nightmare, maybe one we’ve all shared at some time in the past, knowing the place, knowing you must find or do something, but having no idea how to do so.

Ron’s final fate is no less surreal, and, ultimately, no less terrifying for the implications of the narrative’s final sentence. After all, what are doorways? One may enter; one may leave.

I highly recommend not only giving Cate Gardener a try. And this new release from one of the most exciting, and truly literary, of the small press horror publishers to come out of the UK is a damned good place to start. Not only will you give yourself the treat of reading a carefully crafted piece of surreal nightmare horror, but you’ll help bring notice to a press that I think may be one of the great hopes this entire genre has right now.

If this release is any indication of what we can expect from Spectral Press in future, this genre may yet have a chance; we “horror authors” may not all go flying headlong in the proverbial basket to that always familiar, and always hated, dreaded literary ghetto Hell.

Thanks to Simon Marshall-Jones for the opportunity to read something of substance in a genre which has progressively become an embarrassment to those of us who still believe in the beauty of word and the true power of craftsmanship in horror fiction.

Visit Cate Gardner’s Official Web Site:

Visit Spectral Press’ Official Site and LIKE them at FaceBook:

--Nickolas Cook

TIME CAPSULES classic book reviews by Bill Lindblad

SCARS by Richard Christian Matheson

There is much being said about Joe Hill these days. He deserves it. He's not the first great horror writer to deal with the shadow of a famous father, though, and the most obvious example is Richard Christian Matheson.
RCM doesn't produce much horror fiction. His output tends toward one story per year, and his stories are often very short. He's primarily a writer of screenplays, and has many movie and television credits. But when he does write fiction it's often brilliant; it is common for him to contribute a short piece to an anthology only to have it repurchased for inclusion in one or more "best of the year" collections.
SCARS is a collection from an earlier, more prolific time of his fiction career. Produced in 1987, it was published in a limited edition from Scream Press and reissued in paperback the next year by Tor. The collection included most of his work from his early pieces in Whispers to stories original to the book. More than 25 stories are presented, and the collection is less than 180 pages in length. That is an average of about seven pages for story. That's all they need. Horror stories are supposed to be disturbing. These are. Good stories are supposed to be memorable. These are. Matheson also works to provide different styles of story; in The Good Always Comes Back, for example, the events could be interpreted quite innocently or with nefarious implications. Vampire is a story told in single word sentences. Cancelled is surreal, Mr. Right is a classic twist ending, and Red is simply a punch in the gut.
This collection isn't merely worth buying. It deserves a place on the shelf of any horror fan.

Five stars out of five.

THE TENANT by Roland Topor

I believe I may be one of ten people on the face of the Earth who loved this book and didn't know that Roman Polanski made a movie out of it.
I'm not a movie guy; that's Jen's department. I'm also not a big fan of Polanski due to his personal issues. Between that pairing of truths, it's not too amazing that I was unaware of the film. T he book, however, is an interesting rarity that can be recommended to anyone who enjoys literate horror.
The original novel was published in France in 1964, and it is very much a product of its time. The protagonist is thrust into a common scenario for a city-dweller: he is about to lose his current apartment, and goes hunting for a new place. He finds one as he's running low on money and luck and moves in despite minor concerns such as the inconvenient distance to the communal toilet, the prior neighbor's suicide and the aggression of the neighbors. The reader is provided simultaneously with a look at the the main character, Telkovsky, and the cities of France in the 1960s.
The book catalogues Trelkovsky's time in the apartment, carefully presenting the reader with each experience which moves him closer to his final moments as a tenant. Events which seem minor, primarily useful for developing character take greater significance as both the protagonist and the reader discover more about the apartment building's inhabitants.
Something is certainly happening, and Topor skillfully allows the reader to determine for themselves how much of the experience is real and how much is merely in the narrator's mind. The result is surreal and haunting, and a book worthy of its gorgeous Millipede Press reissue.

Five stars out of five.


Originally produced in a heavily edited format in Startling Stories, January 1948 under the title The Blue Flamingo, the novel was published in its full form as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in 1970.
The story is uneven, both in its characterization and its delivery. The reason for the main character to be involved in the story in the first place is contrived, with one of the other characters fulfilling the role of deus ex machina at the beginning, rather than the end, of the tale. This is inauspicious, to say the least. That said, the story contains many interesting ideas which are fairly well developed and Bok's descriptions of the fantastic are inspired. Bok fails in some ways, such as the love story which is at the center of the narrative or in the suspense which he tries, and generally fails, to infuse throughout the story. Despite his attempts to coax forth fear from the reader there is rarely more than interest. That said, interest is consistently maintained throughout, whether in the original novella or the uncut novel.
It is not a bad novel. It is, in fact, a better than average novel in many ways and great in some. It could be a very enjoyable way to pass some time for a fantasist, or for someone who likes their horror to never have any serious threat to the innocent characters.

Three stars out of five.

--Bill Lindblad

BLOODLINES: Serial Horror in Fiction #3 - Borderlands edited by Thomas and Elizabeth Monteleone

by Bill Lindblad

The easiest way to create a series in horror is to create an anthology series. The only things needed are a theme and a publisher. Whether it's a collection of the year's best examples of one type of horror or a gathering of stories about a specific creature type, anthology series are very reader-friendly. Their biggest flaw is that contemporary readers prefer novels, and that prevents many publishers from producing anthologies unless they address a known niche of fandom or the editor is a legend in the field with a proven track record.

Borderlands is a series produced by a highly respected editor... in the horror field. Anyone more than glancingly familiar with horror recognizes Thomas F. Monteleone, either from his years as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction or from his editorial work. And the series he (and now his wife) edit addresses a known niche of fandom... but again, one that's not likely to be a primary interest to the casual reader.

Specifically, the Borderlands series addresses what is intimated by the title... the borders of horror. Stories that use none of the traditional creatures or villains of horror, stories by new authors and atypical stories by established authors. The Monteleones insist on work that is different and work that is excellent, rather than "edgy", and the distinction pays off. There have only been five of these books produced over the course of the twenty-one years the anthology series has been in existence, and all five have garnered multiple award nominations for the stories included within.

The editors are accepting stories for the sixth book in the series over at Borderlands Press, until October 2011. I'm looking forward to seeing what stories eventually make the cut.

The books in the series are: Borderlands, Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3, Borderlands 4, and Borderlands 5, and were released as hardcovers from Borderlands Press. The first two books had paperback releases from Avon in the early 1990s, the first four were released in paperback by White Wolf in the late 1990s, and Borderlands 5 was released in paperback as From the Borderlands.

--Bill Lindblad

Movie vs. Book: ALTERED STATES


Director: Ken Russell
Cast: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Charles Haid, Thaao Penghlis and Drew Barrymore

I don’t want to like Altered States. Paddy Chayefsky disowned the movie because he felt like it went over the top. I haven’t read the book (although after reading Bill’s write-up, I want to) but I’m pretty sure he’s correct because the movie is way over the top. Out of loyalty to the author, I want to hate the movie. But I can’t; in fact, I love this movie.

Altered States was directed by Ken Russell (who also directed the Lair of the White Worm previously reviewed in this column) and introduced William Hurt to movie audiences. He is perfect as Eddie Jessup, a scientist using both sensory deprivation and hallucinogens in an attempt to reach deep into the subconscious and reach the genetic memory of early, pre-historic man. In the process he alters his DNA and physical makeup and starts becoming that pre-historic man in physical form. That part of the movie is very interesting, but really, not enough to make me love the movie as much as I do.



ALTERED STATES by Paddy Chayefsky (1978)

This book was a pleasant reminder of everything I liked about some of the literary fiction of the 1970s. The author challenged himself and the reader by incorporating his theories and viewpoints into the science of the day, and then trying to present that science within the story in a way that supplements the reader's appreciation of the novel rather than undermines it.

This story is science-heavy, and it is necessary to follow the science for an understanding of the action. It is not, however, necessary to truly comprehend the science. The reader merely needs to get a feel for what is happening and Chayefsky recognizes this fact and plays to it perfectly.

The story is written almost like a play, which makes sense considering the author's credentials as a successful playwright. We see the development of the character in stages through specific incidents in their adult life, with no growth established or even hinted at outside of those incidents.

That criticism aside, this is a brilliant piece of science fiction by someone who doesn't write science fiction, and a very good piece of horror fiction by someone who doesn't belong to the horror community.

Four stars out of five


Off Kilter TV: Where Horror Rears Its Ugly Head on Family Television

When we watch family television, we have certain expectations about our favorite programs past and present: In our comedies, like I Love Lucy, we expect Lucy to get into and out of trouble and make us laugh in the process; in our supernatural shows, like X-Files, we expect other-worldly creatures, science fiction dilemmas, and unexplained phenomena. What we don’t expect is Lucy taking on monsters or Mulder and Scully stealing John Wayne’s cement footprints from the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. But sometimes a show will surprise our expectations. These unexpected TV shows are what I call Off Kilter TV. We find them on all types of TV shows, from comedy to drama to supernatural, from the Golden Age of TV to today. Every other month or so, I will present to you readers some of my favorite OKTV shows. I welcome comments and suggestions about Off Kilter shows you like as well.

In today’s column, I give you the hit western TV show "Bonanza" and an episode called "Twilight Town". The first sign that this episode will be different from our usual western fare is that the story was written by Cy Chermak, who would later go on to produce "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" and write for "Star Trek: The Next Generation".

The story begins with Little Joe headed home with a large sum of money only to be bushwhacked by a highwayman who makes off with Joe’s horse and money. With a head injury Joe stumbles into the town of Martinville, a ghost town inhabited by tumbleweeds. There he collapses.

When he wakes, he is surrounded by townsfolk who are all staring at him. Next we see Joe being nursed by a young girl Louise Corman (with a nod to Roger Corman, perhaps) and her father. Joe still can’t believe these townsfolk are real and grabs Louise by the wrist. He is surprised to hold a solid wrist and releases it. Meanwhile, Mr. Corman talks to the town leaders and informs them that Joe has a gun. The others are skeptical, that a young man with a gun may not be enough.

It seems that the town leaders, in fact, the entire townsfolk, are seeking a person to replace the Sheriff, who we learn from his widow was gunned down by outlaws who will return to the town once more that very day. But not only do the residents of Martinville seek a Sheriff, they need someone who can stand up to the outlaws or they will keep returning to the town time and time again to wreak havoc.

Joe is nursed back to health and then forced to become the Sheriff. There are no horses anywhere in the town. The absence of livestock is blamed on the outlaws. Without a means to leave town, except on foot, Joe reluctantly accepts the law enforcer’s badge and confronts the outlaws, who warn that they will leave for now but when they return they will kill everyone in the town.

With the help of the men folk, Joe builds a barricade and organizes the men with weapons to fend off the outlaws. The ex-sheriff’s widow warns Joe that this isn’t the first time the townsfolk have tried to stand up to the outlaws, but when the outlaws appeared, the residents disappeared in fear, leaving the sheriff alone to face the dozen or so gunfighters and be gunned down. She also warns Joe that he isn’t the first since the death of her husband to be picked by the townsfolk to fight off the outlaws and that the townsfolk always abandon the person they pick when the outlaws arrive.

At first, the townsfolk do try to retreat, but Joe chastises them and leads them in an attack on the outlaws hiding behind some boulders. Both sides suffer losses. Joe confronts the leader of the outlaws, kills him, but is grazed by a bullet to the head and falls unconscious. His father, Ben Cartwright, and his two brothers, Adam and Hoss, revive him. They turn the dead outlaw leader over and it is the highwayman who bushwhacked Joe at the beginning of the episode. Martinville and the townsfolk have disappeared. The tumbleweeds have returned to the empty street of the town. Joe pleads with his family to believe him that he was not alone. Ben tells him that when a man knows something in his heart, he doesn’t have to convince anyone that it’s true. They ride home, but Joe takes a look back at the ghost town and sees Louise standing there emotionless and still for a second before vanishing.

Here’s why this episode is supernatural with horrific overtones in the big picture. This is basic metonymy 101, which means that by looking at a single puzzle piece, one can picture the entire puzzle. One day in Martinville for the TV viewer is the one piece to see the whole puzzle, that a gang of outlaws came to Martinville many, many years ago. They terrorized the town. The Sheriff gathered the men folk and planned to stand up to the gang. But they ran off in fear at the last second. When the outlaws arrived, the lawman faced them alone and was killed. To punish the town people for their futile attempt at defiance, the gang killed every man, then each man’s family, killing wives then children, in that order; before killing Louise, the gang leader raped her. Before the Sheriff’s wife was killed, she put a curse on the townsfolk to relive their moment of cowardice and its bloody consequences over and over again in a kind of Groundhog’s Day purgatory until a true leader came and risked his own life to turn these cowards to men. As Martinville became a ghost town, the townsfolk became ghosts, time shadows of that one fateful day. Men who passed by the ghost town who were capable of leading the town against the outlaws were able to see the ghosts as flesh and blood. Not one of these men survived the bullets of the phantom outlaws. Before Joe arrived, the ghosts of the residents of Martinville became flesh and blood again and again and relived this horrific day thousands and thousands of times: The rape, the murders of women and children and the deaths of the cowardly men (and also the livestock of the town). It was Joe who risked his life for them and ended their time warp in purgatory.
For Bonanza, this supernatural aspect to the episode Twilight Town is no doubt a wink to Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone. Cy Chermak doesn’t need to show us the gruesome details of the massacre. They are woven in the dialogue, the unfinished sentences, and the pregnant pauses. Even though we never see kids or horses in Martinville, there are several references by both outlaw and townsfolk referring to the killing of the children and livestock. We never see the killings, but we unweave the description of the cycle of murder, death, rebirth, and so forth as we relive the last day of their curse. Behind this story of heroism lies a chilling tale of supernatural revenge.

Off Kilter TV will see you readers soon with a look at "Gilligan’s Island". Don’t forget to leave the TV on before you go to sleep.

--Anthony Servante

Foreign Fears: Horror Rises from the Tomb (El espanto surge de la tumba) (1972)

review by Nickolas Cook

Director: Carlos Aured
Cast: Paul Naschy, Emma Cohen and Víctor Alcázar

In Medieval France a badly dubbed warlock is be-headed after watching his witchy wife tortured and executed. Fast forward a few hundred years or so and a quartet of post modern asshole cosmopolitan cityfolk decide it would be a heck of a lark to go check out one of their number's ancient inherited estate property, where supposedly these two evil satanists had been buried long ago.

So off they hop into their little Euro-car, only to meet up with a group of evil locals in the woods, who try to kill them and steal their vehicle. They're saved just in the nick of time by a posse out to find the evil mudering locals, who then to the dismay of the cityfolk take justice in their own hands and shoot and hang the murdering locals.

And that sets in motion the doom-laden mood for the rest of the picture, as the cityfolk find the old estate, order some greedy idiot locals to help uncover these buried heads. Once they find the buried chests filled with satanic heads, the owner of the estate orders the remains to put away until morning.

Well, the dummy locals have decided that the stories of satanists heads is a bad cover for treasure, so that night, while the cityfolk sleep, they break into the casks to find the still living heads of the evil warlock, who puts them under his spell (with some really creepy music and cinematogrpahy, by the way, some of the best for this sort of Euro-trash flick) and Naschy's warlock has them sacrifice some local virgins to the corpse of his dead witch wife, bringing her back to life.

From there, all Hell breaks loose in the little village.

Soon, the cityfolk find themselves stranded, with no one seeming all that interested in helping them escape. And before you know it, we've got zombies everywhere, flesheating, and lots of evil cackling, with red and green mood lighting. There's also lots of skin and softcore sex to see, along with some fairly well done gore effects, until the eventual demise of the warlock and his mate by religious iconography and sunlight.

This all sounds hocky, right? Like a typical Naschy horror flick?

Well, yes and no.

First of all, in my book, none of that is all that bad a thing to me. I love Naschy, even at his worst.

So I consider "Horror Rises From the Tomb" THE BEST of his horror movies outside his Count Waldemar Daninsky the Wolfman movies. I also consider this a must-own for anyone who is a serious Horrorhead and wants to have a killer collection.

I also suggest you ignore the typical bad dubbing, the so-so special effects, the sometimes iffy narrative logic, and get yourself one of the classic Euro-trash exploitation movies of the 70s, a movie which I'd gladly and proudly stack up against the best of the best of that much missed cinematic era.

So go forth, Horrorhead, and be frightened by Naschy's eyebrows and evil cackles.

(NOTE: To music lovers, especially those who keep up with the industrial music group FRONT 242, you will definitely recognize that trademark cackle.)

--Nickolas Cook

Brian Sammons Hi-Def Horror Hoedown!

SUPERNATURAL: SEASON 6 (2010-2011) – Blu-ray

Created by: Eric Kripke
Cast: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jim Beaver, Misha Collins

I like this show, so there, I said it. I know, it’s silly, but that’s what I like most about it; t’s funny. It is also well acted and the stories are well written…well in regards to that last one, at least until this season. Yeah, I must admit that Season 6 is easily the weakest of the SUPERNATURAL lot. Now that’s par for the course for television, so I’m not going to give this show too much grief for it. It’s hard to have a long running TV show where all the episodes are winners, I mean the last season of DEXTER was pretty lackluster and THE X-FILES gets all but unwatchable after Season 6. Oh man, just typing that I hope there’s not some sort of weird symmetry between that show all about exploring the unknown and this one, which just finished its 6th Season. Quickly, on with the review!

To be sure, Season 6 of this show staring the hunky Winchester brothers hunting monsters wasn’t horrible, it just wasn’t great. I think the problem was that it had to pick up where Season 5 left off, and that season ended with the brothers stopping the honest to goodness apocalypse. I mean, wow, that’s a hard act to follow. So the overarching plot of Season 6 is the continuing war in heaven; meaning hot angel on angel action, with demons thrown in for good measure, and the occasional standalone episode. But honestly, I’m sick of the whole angel thing, I’d like the show to go back to its original mandate of having two guys travel across America, investigating monsters and myths, as opposed to angles, God, biblical prophesies and all that. That was fine for one season, here it starts stretching pretty thin, and sadly Season 6 ends with a cliff hanger that makes it look like Season 7 is only going to continue that trend. Oh yay.

Ok, now that I’m pretty sure that I pissed off the “Jared and Jensen are so dreamy” fangirls, let me try to appease them by saying that by and large, this season of SUPERNATURAL was still pretty darn good, funny, enjoyable, and yes, sometimes creepy. Without spoiling any of the overall plot for Season 6, here are some of my favorite episodes. “Weekend at Bobby’s”, besides being directed by Jensen Ackles, it puts longtime adoptive father figure, Bobby, in the forefront and gives the Winchester brothers a break. It’s always nice when long running shows do something different, and this episode does that. “You Can’t Handle the Truth” takes a simple premise of a curse where people can only tell the truth and takes it to horrifying extremes. “Clap Your Hands if You Believe” is all about fairies on a quest to kidnap first-born sons. Ideas like that are the reason I keep watching this show. “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning”, despite having one of the best titles ever, is about killer mannequins. That’s. Just. Cool. But not as cool as “The French Mistake” where Sam and Dean get whisked into an alternate reality where their life is a TV show and they must replace the actors who play them on the TV show. Weird, I know, but pretty awesome too. And with “Frontierland” you get time travel and cowboys, two of my favorite things. There were other episodes that were pretty good too, but these should show a tread that my favorite shows in Season 6 were either the standalone episodes or the overtly funny ones, so keep that in mind when reading this review. If you are a fan of all the angelic angles in the last two seasons then my complaints will not be your complaints. That said, there was one episode of Season 6 that I thought all but dropped the ball completely, and that’s the one about H.P. Lovecraft.

Now I am a Lovecraft fanboy, I freely admit that, but my problems with the episode, “Let it Bleed” had nothing to do with all the cheap shots it took at my fellow Lovecraft fanboys. No, my problem was that HPL was all but wasted in the episode, and he could have just as easily been any other odd and weird writer. All the cosmic horrors he created, and the incredibly long and dark shadow he has cast over horror fiction, both in print and on celluloid, is all but ignored. HPL was just namedropped into this episode as the most blatant form of pandering fan service. It was as if after Cthulhu appeared on SOUTH PARK, and even Scooby Doo had an episode about a “H.P. Hatecraft” and his unpronounceable monsters, the writers of this show said, “hey, people seem to like this Lovecraft guy, let’s do something with him and maybe we’ll get some buzz on the internet.” What’s next, are they going to bump into the woman who wrote the TWILIGHT books, because you know, they seem to be popular too. Bah, getting all worked up about it again, so let’s move on quickly before I start frothing at the mouth again.

Unlike some TV shows that come out on barebones discs, the Blu-rays of the SUPERNATURAL show always have a few goodies for the fans, including some exclusives for the HD crowd. There are two examples of that this time, both of which I thought was pretty neat. First there is a trivia track for the episode, “The French Mistake” that was neat, but noting amazing. However the BD exclusive “Hunter’s Guide to Season Six” was very cool and is an example of why I like the Blu-ray format so much, other than just its amazing picture. This “guide” is a neat interactive toy to play with that has a bunch of short featurettes, interviews, stills from the set, oh and Easter Eggs, I love finding Easter Eggs. In addition to that, there are the “regular” special features, and by that I’m pretty sure they are also on the DVD edition of Season 6, such as a featurette on star Jensen Ackles taking his first turn at directing an episode, a couple of bonus episodes from the new SUPERNATURAL: THE ANIME SERIES, a producers commentary on two episodes, alternate takes, outtakes, a gag reel, and more. This Blu-ray set is a treasure trove of goodies for SUPERNATURAL fans and all TV shows should take lessons from it on how to include cool extras with your show, even if it’s six years old.

Wrap up time: SUPERNATURAL is a good show, Season 6 of it was still and ok season, and these Blu-rays are just awesome. Add that all together and you get something that you should get and have in your home library if you’re a fan of the off-kilter, horror-tinged-humor that makes this show so good. I may have been a little hard on this season, but that’s only because I like the show as a whole and I wasn’t thrilled with the overall direction it was taking. There’s still enough good in Season 6 to recommend it, and there’s always hope that in Season 7 they start steering the ship in the proper direction again. Hey, clap your hands if you believe…

FRINGE: SEASON 3 (2010-2011) – Blu-ray

Creators: J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci
Cast: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Nobel

I’ve said it before, but in many ways FRINGE seems like the spiritual successor to the amazing (well, at least the first 7 seasons) X-FILES. Sure there are no supernatural elements, on the contrary everything in FRINGE is based on science, no matter how crazy that seems, but the feel and vibe remain the same. You have a small group of investigators (in this case three instead of two), an engaging, over-arching story, crazy standalone episodes, some romantic tension, a few genuinely creepy moments, and some good old fashioned conspiracies to explore and uncover. But comparisons, no matter how good, will only get you so far. Unless a TV Show can not only stand on its own two feet, but run at a good clip, it isn’t worth the lengthy time investment of 24 hours for a season. So does this third season, brand new out on Blu-ray, of FRINGE sprint like a champ, or stumble and fall like a chump? Let’s find out.

Just in case you have yet to catch this show, let me give you the rundown. A female FBI agent named Olivia has some special powers that she can’t explain and is thrust into a world of weird, theoretical science that would be more at home in an old sci-fi pulp than a college textbook. To help her sail the rough seas of “what if” she gets some help from genuine mad scientist named Walter who has, unbeknownst to Olivia, a direct connection to the mysteries surrounding the woman’s life. But as I said, Walter is a bit mad, so to help control him, and make sense of his often insane ramblings, is his son Peter. And yes, as if you couldn’t guess, he plays a pivotal role in the unfolding story. Ok, now that you’re all caught up with the basics, let’s get on to Season 3.

Oh, and yes, there will be SPOILERS below.

At the end of Season 2, the Fringe team went to a parallel universe, to another Earth that is not only literally falling apart, but at war with our own world for survival. After some high action, sci-fi hijinks, the trio safely returns home…well almost. Olivia had been captured and replaced with her double (yes, everyone over here has a double over there) with Walter and Peter none the wiser. That is where Season 3 begins.

Now trying my best to not give too much away from this season, you could probably guess that Olivia won’t be enjoying her stay on the other side, nor will she remain their indefinitely. As for the “other” woman, she and Peter get a bit closer than the original Olivia ever thought possible. In addition to the dramatic flourishes, both the action and threat continue to mount with the discovery of a very real doomsday machine that has the power to wipe out one of the two universes once and for all. In addition to this season-spanning story, where every episode is set either in our universe or the alternate universe, there are several individual, stand-alone episodes that make this show really stand out. There’s the one about the mentally challenged man who can do terrible things through his unique understanding of cause and effect. The real world mystery of numbers stations is used as the jumping off point for a story of fatal code that kills anyone who tries to decipher it. A madman rips people’s hearts out of their chests while another sends creepy and deadly, dolls to his enemies. Bugs eat people from the inside out and cat burglars defy gravity, literally, to pull off their cappers. These are just some of the cool, strange, and most importantly; memorable stories to be found in FRINGE.

Complimenting this very good season of this very fine show are a nice selection of extras on this 4 disc Blu-ray set. While only two of the episodes have audio commentaries, that’s still two more then you’ll find on a lot of TV season collections. There are eight featurettes of various lengths covering special effects, plot elements, and best yet; exploring the deeper history of some of the mysterious factions in play on the show. While there always could have been more goodies collected here, these discs certainly weren’t lacking in the extras. In fact many TV shows could learn a thing or two from this collection. Yes I’m looking at you, DEXTER.

This is the part where I say how much I liked the show and that I highly recommend it, and while all that is true, I honestly can’t recommend it to neophytes to the series. Why? Because of the over-arching plot that makes this show so good, it may be a bit much to comprehend for those just dropped into the middle of the thing without previous background knowledge. But if you are up to date with your FRINGE viewing, then by all means pick these discs up, you will not be disappointed.

MANIAC COP (1988) – Blu-ray

Director: William Lustig
Cast: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Robert Z’Dar

MANIAC COP, tried and true horrorheads already know of this film, but those neophytes to the genre sometimes just go “huh” when this 1988 flick is brought up in conversation, even despite it starting Bruce EVIL DEAD Campbell. So it is with them in mind that I review the new Blu-ray release of COP from my friends over at SYNAPSE. So without further ado, let’s get to some good old fashioned police brutality.

If you’ve never seen MANIAC COP, then you’re in for a treat. The ever intimidating-looking Robert Z’Dar plays a good cop, sent to prison by a crooked system that wants him to just go away. Once inside the big house some of the criminals he had previously sent up the river shank him in the shower and carve up his face for good measure. However you can’t keep a good (or it seems, maniacal) cop down. So the big bad policeman returns from the dead to extract his revenge on the cops and good citizens of New York City by killing anyone who crosses his path. This sets off a city-wide panic as now no one can trust a cop, and some even start taking pot shots at the cops. Enter fanboy favorite Campbell as a cop framed for the murders done by the Maniac Cop. He is joined by another genre veteran, Tom Atkins as an inquisitive detective, and the two go looking for the truth behind the killings.

Unlike the typical slasher flicks, you get a pretty neat mystery behind at least half of this film, as a big cop, whose face is never shown until the end of the flick, just goes around killing people randomly without rhyme or reason. Later once the exposition fairy has paid a visit, it turns into a more basic urban slasher, but it’s still fun, largely thanks to the always entertaining Bruce Campbell. While his film doesn’t have the body count of say, a FRIDAY THE 13TH flick, it has good acting, a nice story, some black humor, and enough brutality and red stuff to keep the gorehounds happy. There’s really not much of a down side to this film. Sadly the same can’t be said for the new Blu-ray release.

When a movie makes the leap from DVD to Blu-ray, you have about a 50-50 shot that the new disc will have some new extras and special features on it. A lot of times it will be a direct port, moving the film and all the extras from DVD to BD and adding nothing new to it. That’s fine, it doesn’t make me all that happy, but I can live with it. After all, you buy a movie to watch the actually movie, the extras should just be icing on the cake. But what always gets my panties in a twist is when a new version of movie actually loses features. That is, in a word, inexcusable, especially in this case. The DVD of MANIAC COP had a great audio track with director Lustig, writer/producer Larry Cohen, and the lord of B-movies himself, Bruce f-ing Campbell, and the shiny new Blu-ray is completely missing it. Why? That sometimes happens when one company owned the DVD and another released the new Blu-ray, but here both were released by SYNAPSE, so the reason behind this decision is baffling, and yes, upsetting. I can only assume the lack of money changing hands was somehow involved, but still, I’ve don’t have to like it. To be fair, there are a couple of new featurettes on this disc that wasn’t on the DVD. One is a ten minuet interview with star Tom Atkins and the other is a very short interview with character actor Danny Hicks who had a blink and you miss it part in COP. While both of these were fine, they don’t even begin to make up for the missing feature commentary. The rest of the extras, like trailers, radio spots, and additional scenes shot for Japanese television (of all things) made the transition from DVD to Blu-ray, but still, boo-hiss for the absentee commentary track.

So MANIAC COP is a fun mystery slasher, well made and sporting some great genre vets acting their butts off. From start to finish it is an enjoyable, if sometimes cheesy, fright flick. The new Blu-ray from SYNAPSE looks great, as they always put a lot of effort into making their releases look good, but unfortunately it does get a failing grade in the extras department for the mysteriously missing commentary track. So if you already own this film on DVD then I can’t honestly recommend this new version to you. But if you don’t already have this flick in your home library, and you’re a fan of the HD format above all else, then by all means pick this one up when it comes out October 11th.

THE EXTERMINATOR (1980) – Blu-ray

Director: James Glickenhaus
Cast: Robert Ginty, Samantha Eggar, Christopher George

Now before you start whining that this isn’t a horror movie, and you’re right, it’s not, let me say two things. First, it’s got more gore and kills in it than your typical slasher flick, and second, it’s cool, and really, that second reason is all I need to watch, enjoy, and review a movie. So if 80s revenge flicks with brutal violence that wouldn’t even make it into a FRIDAY THE 13TH film isn’t your thing. Go ahead and stop reading, this movie isn’t for you.

Still here? Alright you must be a devotee of groovy movies regardless of genre and I can appreciate the hell out of that. So grab you gun and your sense of justice and let’s start walking the mean streets.

Robert Ginty plays John, a Vietnam vet whose best friend, and the man responsible for saving his life twice, both in and out of that war, is attacked by a street gang with the awesome name of Ghetto Ghouls and left a quadriplegic . The injured man is played by the perennial badass token black buddy of the 80s, Steve James who does his part well, for what little he’s in the film. As for Robert Ginty, he’s a great choice for a vigilantly death dealer, as he’s not an over-roided slab of beef with legs (yep, Stallone and Schwarzenegger, I’m looking at you) or a steely, cold type like Bronson or Eastwood. He’s just an average guy pushed too far by the maiming of his friend and he’s out for justice.

Our exterminator starts with the thugs who injured his friend, but simple bullets aren’t enough for them. Nope, he ties them up in a garbage filled basement and leaves them for the rats. Next, to help his wounded friend’s family out financially, he robs the local mob boss who has been extorting money from him for years. When the mob boss lies to him about the extent of the protection guarding his house, our vigilantly hero tosses the mobster into a meat grinder, slowly and feet first, and makes hamburger out of him. After that, John just sort of gets a taste for dispense rough justice and starts wasting any and all filth that cross his path. The exterminator’s visit to the scuzziest of S&M rape/torture joints, where he blows a pederast senator’s bait and tackle off with an exploding bullet has always been a favorite of mine.

THE EXTERMINATOR is great, semi-exploitation cinema from the era (late 70s to mid 80s) that did it best. There’s an overall feeling of sleaziness to everything that you just don’t get anymore and I for one miss that, at least in this kind of film. Now days when a filmmaker tires to be sleazy, it tends to just be over the top graphic, which isn’t the same thing. However, I don’t want to give you the impression that this is an exceptionally well-made film, because it’s kind of not. Take John’s journey to becoming a vigilantly; the movie literally goes from Steve James getting attacked, to Robert Ginty telling his friend’s wife at a playground that her husband has been crippled, to Ginty having a gang member tied up in an abandoned building and interrogating him with a flame thrower, then he’s off to waste some gang members. Literally, the movie jump cuts around that fast, and while on one hand it’s good that it doesn’t waste time getting to the titular exterminating, it’s sort of disjointed and basically makes the protagonist a cardboard cutout that flips the switch to DEATH WISH mode without any of the character development that made the earlier Charles Bronson movie so much better. There’s also a subplot about the detective who is trying to stop the vigilantly and his love life that adds absolutely nothing to the movie, other than padding, and a silly bit about the CIA getting involved that’s…well just silly. Still if you’re a fan of revenge flicks, then you’ll probably dig this movie. I sure did.

The new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Synapse Films looks, as always, great. Yeah it doesn’t look like a brand new HD movie, but it sure as hell looks a lot better than the last time I saw this movie, but that’s Synapse for you, they always go the extra mile when it comes to video presentation. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the special features. There’s a pretty good director’s commentary track, but that’s it, unless you count the usual (and boring) trailer and TV spots. While I wished there had been more goodies on this disc, this movie has been long out of print, so it’s great to just have it back on disc again.

For a good while this film had a cult following and it was popular enough to spawn a truly dreadful sequel, staring Mario Van Peebles as the heavy, no less, but it has basically been forgotten by most today. Well I still love this bit of retro revenge goodness and if you’re a fan of early 80s action movies then I’m betting you will too, There’s no better time, and no better way, to get acquainted with THE EXTERMINATOR then now and I can highly recommend fans of bloody revenge flicks to do so at once.

MIMIC (1997) – Blu-ray

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Charles S. Dutton

I love me some Guillermo del Toro movies. Not all of them reach the same level of greatness, for example, I thought the sequel to HELLBOY wasn’t as good as the original, but they all have little gems of brilliance in them, and that includes the del Toro flick that has easily been my least favorite; MIMIC. While it wasn’t a bad movie, it just didn’t feel like a del Toro movie. At first chalked that up to no one being perfect and everyone can swing and miss at times. Then sometime later I learned that, for the most part, this film was taken out of del Toro’s hands and suffered not only rewrite after rewrite, but recut after recut, many without any input from the director at all, and a ton of second unit material, shot by a revolving door of guest directors (including Robert Rodriguez), that was forced on del Toro by the Hollywood moneymen. Yeah, because as we all know only good things every happen when producers get it into their heads that they know best. Anyway, the end result was a very uneven movie that Guillermo all but disowned.

Then I heard that Lionsgate was not only going to release this flawed film for the first time on Blu-ray, but they were letting del Toro present it as a director’s cut, as close to his original vision as he could make it with the material he had at hand. So would Guillermo save the day and make an OK movie better, or would he turn out to be one of those “artists” who blame their mess-ups on others instead of owning them and prove that by making a director’s cut as bad, if not worse, than the original? Let’s find out.

The heart of MIMIC remains the same. In the near future a deadly plague is killing the children of New York City in droves and because it’s spread by cockroaches, and it is NYC, after all, there is no way to stop it. Enter a brilliant, beautiful entomologist named Susan Tyler, played by Mira Sorvino, who genetically splices a bunch of bug DNA together to make a bug killing bug that mimics its prey while it’s Murdering them. Five years later and…yeah can you guess where this is going?

Dr Tyler must return to stop her monster (a la Dr Frankenstein), or in this case; monsters. Lots and lots of monsters as the bad bugs have been busy breeding…and evolving. Now the bugs are as big as men, and arguably nearly as smart. They are still murderous mimics, only now they have evolved to blend in with their new prey; man. A motley crew is assembled to look into matters, but they go into the investigation under prepared and not expecting to find the horrors they will eventually face. This ensemble cast is one of the best things about this movie. All the actors turn in solid performances and keep an eye out for small, but memorable roles played by Charles S. Dutton, Josh Brolin, and F. Murray Abraham. Also, as a del Toro film, it looks just amazing, even when the majority of the action takes place in the dark, dank sewers and subway tunnels underneath New York.

I am reluctant to say too much more about this film. I mean, it is about 14 years old now, so chances are you’ve seen it, but just in case you haven’t, I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises. So here’s the Cliffs Notes version: people go into the tunnels to look for bugs, end up finding huge killer bugs they never expected, get trapped down below, and have to find a way to survive and escape some very unique creatures. Essentially a B-grade monster movie, it is well-acted, looks amazing and is a fun monster romp that has a few effective twists and turns along the way. There, short, sweet, and spoiler free.

The new Blu-ray of Mimic from Lionsgate not only looks good but is chock full of extras including a video introduction by Guillermo where he basically says this version of the movie was the best he could do with what he had…ouch. To further illustrate this point, there’s a very revealing featurette called “Reclaiming Mimic” and a director’s commentary track that both go into great, and surprisingly honest detail, on how the original theatrical cut of this movie was taken out of his hands and how he wasn’t all that happy with it. These two extras are the highlight of the show here, you just don’t get this kind of honest insider view in both the creative process and the movie making business about big budget films and I really enjoyed both the both the commentary and the featurette. In addition to those extras, there are specials highlighting the creation of the creatures and a general behind the scenes kind of documentary. Deleted scenes, storyboard animatics, trailers and a gag real round out the extras, complete with the now compulsory digital copy of the movie for your portable movie needs.

Whereas the original cut of MIMIC was an ok big bug movie, this version flirts with being a downright good film in its own right. I think it is much improved, if just a little sad with the glimpses at what could have been. It looks impeccable in HD, the disc has a nice selection of interesting extras, a director’s commentary that’s one of the best ones I’ve ever heard, and is more enjoyable now than ever before. So consider this one a hearty recommendation for fright film fans everywhere.

THE OTHERS (2001) – Blu-ray

Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan

It’s funny how some movies just sort of fade away, almost like ghosts. Take this film, THE OTHERS, for example. When it first came out it got a lot of good press, the horrorheads by and large gave it the thumbs up, and while I don’t know the actual numbers, I think it made a pretty penny too. And yet today, if you ask a question like, “name some good haunted house flicks” to a bunch of genre fans, it is rare anyone mentions or remembers this film, and that’s a crying shame. Well thankfully, Lionsgate is doing their part to rectify that grievous injustice by bringing this movie back out and on Blu-ray for the very first time. So is this new disc worth a purchase, or should it be allowed to fade away? Let’s find out.

In case you forgot, THE OTHERS takes place just after World War Two in a large, spooky English manor house (naturally). There a beleaguered, recently war-widowed mother is taking care of her two small kids who have very special needs, and by that I mean that they have a severe allergy to light that could kill them. To help her run the big old house and tend to her housebound children, she hires three servants who just happen to wander up to her home one day out of the blue. Hmm, what could be wrong with that? Oh well, that’s nothing compared to the little boy, and the rest of his family, that the young daughter keeps saying are sharing the family’s house. Could such things just be a child’s over active imagination? Possibly, but when the mother starts seeing and hearing odd things, like voices and people who shouldn’t be there…well who you gonna call?

And that’s about where I want to leave the general overview of this film, because if I say too much more I might ruin the mystery behind this haunted house, not to mention a pretty neat-o ending that would make M. Night Shyamalan proud. Hmm, maybe just saying that was saying too much, but oh well, guess I’m a stinker. Anyway, this is a great, creepy, and moody fright film is there ever was one. It is what I would call quiet horror, quiet, but damn effective. Furthermore, all the acting is top notch, especially Nicole Kidman as the stressed to the breaking point mother, and surprisingly even the kids do a fair to good job, and I’m normally not a fan of child actors. Writer and director Alejandro Amenábar proves that he knows both how to make a good movie and what’s honestly scary, as opposed to just what’s shocking, like the overused jump scares that populate most other “horror” films. If you are a fan of atmospheric ghost stories and you have yet to see THE OTHERS, then you’re missing out.

Unfortunately, while the new Blu-ray looks great, with plenty of deep, dark shadows to fill up the gloomy house in this movie, there are no new extras on this disc that wasn’t already on the older DVD version. That said, if you don’t already own this movie on disc, then they’re all new to you, and the good news is that there are three different featurettes of various length on visual effects, the director of the film, and Xeroderma Pigmentosum, the fatal to light affliction showcased in this movie. Additionally there is a sizable documentary on the film and then the usual suspects like trailers and a still gallery.

So is THE OTHERS a must buy on Blu-ray? Well if you don’t already own this movie then hell yes it is! It’s a great creepy film and I enjoyed watching it again after almost forgetting it myself. However if you already own this flick on DVD then there’s really not much of a reason to upgrade to BD, unless you’re a High-Def snob, as the prettied up picture will be the only new thing to be found on this disc. Still, sometimes that alone is worth it.

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) – Blu-ray

Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Dee Wallace

Please tell me that you already know about this movie? I mean, not only is it old enough to be a certified a classic (but then, sadly so am I), not only has it been paid homage to (read as: ripped off) in countless other horror films, not only was it one of horror master Wes Craven’s early (and very well regarded) movies, not only did it have the remake business put to it (which was surprisingly not all that bad), but it has one of the best titles ever with, THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Yes that’s a bit goofy, but it is memorable. So if you somehow have never seen this movie, then shame on you. Well the good news is that Image Entertainment has just released a bunch of old horror flicks under the banner of the MIDNIGHT MADNESS SERIES and this is not only one of them, but easily the best in the bunch. But just in case you have yet to see this awesomely effective fright film, allow me to give you the nickel tour.

A typical white bread family called the Carters is driving through the desert, towing a camper along with them, on their way to California. While passing through one particular desolate spot, their car breaks down. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the titular eyes of the titular hills belong to a wild family of psychotic cannibals and the nice little family from the Midwest has just been put on their menu. What follows is not your typical stalk and slash, but more of a desperate survival tale as Carter family is assailed and tormented, time and again, by the cannibal clan led by the intimidating Papa Jupiter, but best remembered for the iconic Pluto, played by the distinctive looking Michael Berryman. Believe me; if you’ve ever seen this movie, then you know who I’m talking about.

What makes this movie truly horrifying is the way it relishes in an unblinking fashion on the violence and brutality. This was Wes Craven’s second movie, after LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and he still had plenty of demons to exorcise himself of, using film as his personal Father Merrin. This was Craven still at his darkest and nastiest, a director who wasn’t afraid to “go there” in any way, shape, or form. This is clearly evident in this film which features murder, rape, torture, cannibalism, immolation, kidnapping, probable inbreeding, and more. Even now, watching it again after quite a few years, this movie has loss none of its punch. At its core, THE HILLS HAVE EYES examines the idea of what “normal” people are capable of doing when confronted by true evil and pushed to the edge to survive. This becomes manifest when after the Carters has been horribly savaged by the cannibals, and lost most of their family, the survivors must face down Papa Jupiter and his clan of crazies in a bloody battle to the last.

Now I’ve purposely been vague in regards to the horrors enacted in this film, because if you watch it for the first time, I don’t want to weaken any of its shock value by forewarning you any more than I already have. But I will stress that this is pretty brutal, and yes, horrific stuff. This is not the current trend teen-friendly PG-13 horror, nor is it gore for the sake of gore, like the (thankfully over?) torture porn trend. No, THE HILLS HAVE EYES seems far more real, and therefore it is far more disturbing.

Released for the first time on Blu-ray, Image does a decent job. There’s a nice collection of extras, but sadly they are all from the previous DVD version of the movie. No new material has been added here, but at least nothing has been left off this disc from the previous one. Sadly the same can’t be said about most of the others discs in this MIDNIGHT MADNESS SERIES, but I digress. Here you will find a commentary track by director Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke. There’s a sizable documentary about the making of this movie at nearly an hour in length. There’s also an hour long special called “The Directors: The Films of Wes Craven” and both of these featurettes were informative and entertaining, I liked them. There’s even an alternate ending, but it honestly brings nothing new to the table and is basically just a rearranging of the events in the original climax. The usual trailers, TV spots, and still galleries round out the extras and all of these things present a nice, if not new, package of goodies for fans of this film. However, as far as how good this movie looks in HD, I really can’t remark on, is it looks pretty much just like my old DVD copy on the screen. Maybe it has been enhanced a little bit, but if so it wasn’t that noticeable. Don’t get me wrong, this version of the movie doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t look like how a real Blu-ray ought to look, either.

If you do not already have this film in your home library, you need to rectify that oversight at once, and this new Blu-ray is a great way to do that. This disc is out now for a must have price all over the place, so you really have no reason not to get this film if you are any kind of horror fan. Do yourself a favor and do so at once, but only if you have a strong stomach for the unpleasant and the truly dark.

DRESSED TO KILL (1980) – Blu-ray

Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen

Am I the only one to notice that this film is basically an unofficial remake of PSYCHO? Sure I have seen mention in the past of director De Palma being a big admirer of Hitchcock, and that he makes Hitchcockian films, but no one has come out and said the plain old truth that DRESSED TO KILL is PSYCHO set in the 1980s, or at least, I’ve never seen anyone say as much. Well some SPOLIERS are to follow, but only if you haven’t already seen this 30+ year old movie, or god forbid the 50+ year old PSYCHO. And seriously, if you haven’t seen both of these already, what the hell are you doing here? Go right now and watch them, I’ll wait.

Welcome back, now let’s play Name the Movie, complete with SPOILERS!

So a famous and recognizable woman is the star of the show. The unhappy lady has an affair and then gets slashed to death suddenly and without warning in a confined space about a third of the way through the film. The movie then switches to two others to both continue the story and investigate the murder, with one of the characters being related to the woman. The killer turns out to be a very tall and mannish woman, but really turns out to be a gentle, meek and mild man who likes to cross dress and has a split personality. Whenever a woman gets this guy aroused, his evil and crazy feminine side comes out to kill the object of his desire. Oh and there’s a very memorable shower scene in the film. Ok, so what movie am I talking about?

Ha, trick question; that description works for both films. So don’t even begin to tell me DRESSED TO KILL wasn’t PSYCHO 2.0. Anyway, the recognizable woman mentioned above would be Angie Dickinson and DRESSED TO KILL begins with her taking that memorable shower I talked about. Only this time it is not only more sexy than scary, but also kind of silly as there is no way that the body they linger on so lovingly, some could say gratuitously, belongs to Angie Dickinson. Sure she’s an attractive woman, I would even go as far as she she’s a total MILF, but the obviously twenty-something flesh shown in the shower is not even a close match to Ms. Dickinson. But I digress, and perhaps obsess. Angie soon meets the business end of a straight razor in an elevator and the only witness to the crime is a young prostitute played by Nancy Allen. The hooker with the heart of gold is the psycho’s (ha, get it) next victim, but she is saved from a razor attack by the son of Angie’s murdered mommy, who just so happens to be a techo-nerd of the first degree. The unlikely duo soon team up to uncover the mystery of the large lethal lady with the razor. Surprise, surprise, it turns out to be Michael freakin’ Caine! Yes the sizable British actor who made his bones playing tough guys in films like ZULU and GET CARTER, the man who turned Bat-man’s butler into a soft spoken badass, puts on makeup, pumps, and a skirt to do the Norman Bates thing. Now if that’s not enough to get you to watch this movie, I don’t know what is.

Ok, so DRESSED TO KILL is derivative as all get out, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. On the contrary, I really enjoy this flick. It is well acted, plotted, and directed. Sure at times it’s over stylized, but that can be said of most (all) of De Palma’s films. It is a thrilling, bloody, sexy, fun and at times funny film and watching it again for the first time in years, I really enjoyed it. Too bad the Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox is a bit of a disappointment.

No by that I don’t mean that the High-Def upgrade was done poorly. In fact this movie looks better than ever. Nor is it a dreaded bare bones release, but it is a straight up re-release of the previous DVD edition. All the extras found on that disc from some years back are found here, so thankfully nothing was left off, as is sometimes the case, but then nothing new was added. That means if you already own the DVD of this film, there’s no real reason to upgrade unless you just a complete videophile. But if you don’t already have your own copy of DRESSED TO KILL then by all means pick this sucker up. This is the unrated version of the film, so you get all the bloody, fleshy bits the director wanted. There’s a making of documentary, a featurette that compares the unrated, R-rated, and TV edited versions of this film, a special by actor Keith Gordon who played the avenging son, trailers, photo galleries, and more. So it’s a nice collection of special features, I just wish there was some new stuffed in there somewhere.

DRESSED TO KILL comes out September 6th on Blu-ray for the first time. It is a thoroughly well-made and enjoyable film, and one that should be in the collection of any horror or mystery thriller fan. It gets a very high recommendation from me, you could even say it gets 4 skirt wearing psychos out of 5.

TORSO (1973) – Blu-ray

Director: Sergio Martino
Cast: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda

This was a rare treat for me, I got to review a new Blu-ray release of a horror movie (ok, to be precise, a giallo film) that I’ve never seen before. Do you know how rare that is for me? So I was absolutely giddy when I popped this disc into my player. Was I still giddy when the credits rolled, or did I say to myself, “so that’s why I never bothered to watch this flick?” Well grab your hacksaw and your Italian to English dictionary and let’s find out.

First let’s talk about the title; TORSO is not only silly, but worse, a misleading title. I can live with silly titles, hell with giallos they are almost par for the course. Don’t believe me? Yeah, you’re right, NAKED YOU DIE, THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE, and my personal favorite; YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY are all perfectly sensible titles. However here, with TORSO…well I’ll tell you that the only link between this title and the film is that way late in the flick someone is murdered and the killer uses a hacksaw to dismember the corpse. That’s it, that’s all the explanation you get for the title and the cover image of the saw. So yeah, wasn’t a fan of it’s name sort of felt like a bait and switch to me, but a rose by any other name and all that, so on we go.

Now if you’re not familiar with Italian giallos, then think of a Hitchcockian murder mystery, but with the gore and sensibilities of a slasher flick. That’s a crude definition, to be sure, but it will suffice. In this film you have lovely, usually nude, ladies getting bumped off one by one. The motive and identity of the killer are both mysterious, although there are plenty of suspects to choose from, including one red herring so obvious that it all but rules him out as a suspect. Sorry to rain on that parade, but it’s true. Anyway, some coeds from a college in Perugia look to get away from it all, and that includes the killings, by getting together in a cliff side villa is a small Italian town. Unfortunately for them, the murderer follows.

Now what follows are some SPOILERS. I won’t give away the identity of the psycho, but if you want maximum surprise when seeing this film for the first time, perhaps skip this paragraph and continue on with the one following it. Still here? Ok, you were warned. So the girls go to the small town and this is the real highlight of the movie. Not only is the town absolutely beautiful to look at, and as someone who has never been to Italy, I’ll settle for vicarious “ohhhs” and “ahhhs” if I must, but the four lovely ladies seem to have a pathological aversion to clothing, which also provides plenty of natural beauty, but of a different sort. In addition to great amounts of girlie ogling, there is a wonderful third act to this movie when the killer invades the villa one night and kills three of the girls, but not the forth lady who arrived late, and largely undetected the night before. That woman had broken her ankle only that day and was drugged out on pain meds in a room upstairs, thus she was not disturbed by the mayhem happening in the rest of the building. When she awakes the next day she finds all her friends dead, is forced to silently witness their mutilation with the aforementioned hacksaw or else give herself away, and try to escape from the fortress-like villa. That last bit won’t be easy, as not only is she hobbled, but the windows all have bars on them and the killer keeps all the doors locked as he disposes of the mess he made. So the last third or so of this film has this poor woman limping around the place, hiding in closets and under beds every time the psychopath draws near, and trying to figure out a way to either escape the house or alert the far away town to her plight. This part of the movie is really good and suspenseful and more than makes up for the lackluster motivations of the killer once they are revealed in the climax. Sadly, that is the case for many giallos, so I really don’t hold it against this film.

As for extras on this disc, this Blu-ray has a few. First and foremost, there are two versions of this film here, an uncut English version and a director’s cut Italian version, with the much better name of CARNAL VIOLENCE that runs three minutes longer. The Italian cut is, surprise, surprise, in Italian, but thankfully there are English subtitles for it. In addition to the two cuts of this film, there is an introduction to the movie by Eli Roth (the director of CABIN FEVER and HOSTEL), an interview with director Sergio Martino, and the usual collections of trailers, TV and radio spots, and posters and behind the scenes photos. So the actual extras aren’t that great, but the real stars of this show are the two versions of the film, uncut for the first time ever. Those alone are easily worth the price of admission.

TORSO has a nice mystery that chugs along at a brisk pace, some pretty bloody kills for the gorehounds like me, lots of naked females for the perverts like me, capable acting, more than capable direction, and beautifully shot scenes set in gorgeous locations. While this film doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, it is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, and I can easily recommend it to anyone who is a fan of bloody murder movies as only the Italians can make them.

VAMP (1986) – Blu-ray

Director: Richard Wenk
Cast: Grace Jones, Chris Makepeace, Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer

I do not like writing bad reviews, I’d rather use my time pointing out things to people I think they should check out, instead of warning them away from others, but sometime you just have to do it. Such is the case here. Now, I’m not slamming the movie; that is fine. In fact, VAMP is one of my favorite silly guilty pleasures form the 80s. No, I’m talking about the travesty of a Blu-ray fresh out from Image Entertainment. It’s as bare bones as bare bones can get. Now if this was some old, all but forgotten film that’s never been on any disc before, like the 80s-tastic KILLER PARTY I wish someone would bring out someday, that would be one thing. Then I would just be happy to have it in any form. But this movie has already been on DVD and it had special features on that, so the fact that they’re completely missing here is just insulting. The fact that Arrow Video from the UK also brought this movie out on Blu-ray just about a month back, stuffed with extras and region free, so that it can be played on any BD player in the world, is just embarrassing. So should you buy this? Well what do you think? But let’s make it official and let’s get to it.

Oh, and since Image gave us a bare bones disc, consider this a bare bones plot recap.

A couple of cool college guys are looking to get into a fraternity but to do so they must hire a striper for an upcoming party. Unfortunately for them, the make the huge mistake when they go to the After Dark Club in the big, scary city and try to hire an exotic stripper played by Grace Jones, who just so happens to be the queen of all the vampires in town. And boy, are there are a bunch of vamps in that place. Soon things turn bloody and get hip deep in hot ladies, bad teeth, bug eating, killer tow trucks, albino street gangs, murderous elevators, and yes, lots of undead fiends thirsting for your blood.

VAMP is one of their rare movies that mix horror and comedy well. Additionally there’s a whole bunch of weird WTF moments in it from start to finish, and I really loved that about this flick, as do a lot of others. This movie has garnered quite the cult film status and for good reason, it really does things you wouldn’t expect and it does that a lot. It is well directed with a great, and unique, sense of visual style and all the actors do their jobs well. Chris Makepeace is the embodiment of the nice guy, Robert Rusler is the quintessential cool guy, Dedee Pfeiffer is great as the ditzy blond, and Gedde Watanabe (of SIXTEEN CANDLES fame) is perfect as the nerdy comic relief. Even Grace Jones, who I never really liked in earlier roles like CONAN THE DESTROYER and A VIEW TO A KILL, is really good here as the titular VAMP. Hmm, maybe that’s because she never once utters a single word? Yep, if I was a betting man, I’d put money on that being the reason.

So the movie is a great slice of 80s comedy-tinged horror and as such it deserves better than a bare bones release. That said, to be honest, this new Blu-ray from Image did look great and it is bargained priced to move. So if you’re on a budget (and who isn’t these days?) and you want to get VAMP in HD and just don’t care about special features, this disc will do that for you. However if you’re a fan of this film and can come up with some extra scratch, do yourself a favor, pass on this no thrills disc and get the deluxe edition from Arrow Video. You can thank me later.

BASKET CASE (1982) - Blu ray

Director: Frank Henenlotter
Cast: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner

This new Blu-ray from Image Entertainment and Something Weird Video was quiet a surprise. I mean the 80s no-budget, schlock-fest that is BASKET CASE, filmed in 16mm no less, in High-Def? To quote Rowdy Roddy Piper from THEY LIVE, “that’s like putting perfume on a pig”. Oh and if you think I’m being mean, even director Frank Henenlotter says as much. So while this film may seem like an odd choice to get the Blu-ray treatment, it does make a sort of sense, since this entire film could be called odd. But you know what? Not only do I love this flick, but the BD treatment works. I know, I’d find that hard to believe too, so let me try to prove it to you.

I will begin by saying that I hate the cover of this Blu-ray. Not that it looks bad, but just that it gives too much away. Now I know that chances are, if you are a horrorhead of any sort, then you know all about this flick, as it’s pretty famous…or would that be infamous? Still, just in case this is your first time seeing this movie, that cover is a crying shame because Mr. Henenlotter really does a good job keeping the monster in the dark, just like JAWS, and like that much more famous movie, the big reveal of the baddie really works here. And yes, I did just compare BASKET CASE favorable to JAWS, deal with it. So if you are one of the lucky few to watch this movie for the first time, try not to look at the cover when buying it or putting the disc into you Blu-ray player.

Oh and consider what I’m about to say below as SPOILERS.

As the movie starts, a young man is wandering the mean streets of New York City, with a wide-eyed look on his face, and a large wicker basket in his arms. That is the titular basket and inside it is the surprise, a small, deformed thing that was once this young man’s conjoined twin. This murderous, Muppet-looking mutant was cut off from his normal sibling by an abrasive but well-meaning father, who literally tosses the deformed twin out in the trash. However the bond of brotherhood between normal Duane and the monstrous Belial is not so easily severed, especially when they share a psychic link, and soon daddy dearest pays the price for separating the two boys. Not content to just punishing their father, the brothers travel to the big city some years later to find the three doctors who performed the back alley separation surgery to get vengeance on them too. And thus we are brought up to date as Duane tracks the docs down one by one. He then takes Belial to the doctors in his little basket to let the surprisingly strong and mobile lump of twisted flesh do the dirty work. But when young Duane starts making goo-goo eyes at a pretty lady, Belial does not like the idea of being left out of the action, or of having someone coming between him and his brother, so the midget mutant murdering maniac really loses his marbles.

Highlights of this favorite of cult film fanatics include a wonderfully sleazy and dirty urban feel, fun, over the top gore scenes, lots of puppet on person violence, and the best bit of all; a hilarious bit of stop motion animation when Belial gets out of his basket to trash an apartment in an epic hissy fit. Some not so good moments is the acting abilities of many of the extras, some puppet on person rape (eww) and some unnecessary full frontal male nudity as Duane has a dream of running around New York City completely stark naked. Yeah, I really didn’t need to see that, but I guess that’s one for the ladies. Perhaps my biggest gripe was that the movie was presented in full-frame instead of widescreen. Frank Henenlotter does address that fact in his intro and says that if the film, which wasn’t originally shot in widescreen, was stretched to fit those dimensions, it would have looked like hell. So I guess, begrudgingly, I’m glade the kept the original aspect ratio in order to make the flick look as good as possible, but it still looked funny on my big, wide television.

As far as extras go, there is a new video introduction by director Frank Henenlotter and a director’s commentary track with Frank, the film’s producer, and actress Beverly Bonner. There is a collection of outtakes and behind the scenes footage from Henenlotter’s personal collection, some trailers, radio spots, and a gallery of art based on the movie and pictures taken while filming it. There’s even a short featurette about finding the Hotel Broslin where the majority of this movie takes place. So while the extras are nothing to scream about, they’re nothing to sneeze at, either.

BASKET CASE is a crazy, weird, “you’ve got to see it to believe it” flick. Sure this film isn’t art, but I do love it so. It was followed by a couple of sequels, none of which were as good as the original, so your mileage may vary with those, but as far as the first BASKET CASE goes, it is one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures and I highly recommend it.

FRANKENHOOKER (1990) – Blu-ray

Director: Frank Henenlotter
Cast: James Lorinz, Joanne Ritchie, Patty Mullen

FRANKENHOOKER, the name sort of says it all. Just from the title I’m sure you’ve got a pretty good idea of what this movie’s all about, and you would be right. But just in case you can’t puzzle it out, let me explain one of the weirdest, goofiest, sexiest, and goriest splatstick comedies ever, and a personal favorite of mine for a long, long time.

Written and directed by Frank Henenlotter, the mad mind behind BASKET CASE, this is a simple, and silly, story, but one that’s well told. Jeffrey Franken is a young med school dropout living with his folks with a nice, plump fiancée. All in all young, mad-but-not-quite-doctor Franken has a pretty good, if ho-hum, life. All that changes when his lady love dies in a tragic (read as hilarious) lawnmower accident. With only her head left intact, Jeffrey vows to rebuild her shredded body so that she will live again. Not just wanting to kill anyone for spare parts, he decides to use hookers. Yeah, makes sense to me.

Unfortunately things don’t go as planned, but when do they ever in these kinds of movies? A mix up with some explosive crack (yeah, really) causes a whole gaggle of hookers to get blown apart into gooey, bloody bits. Looking to make lemonade out of the lemons he was handed, Jeffery scoops up the parts, runs back home, and stitches together a suitable and sexy body for his dead gal, Elizabeth Shelley. Ha, get it? Unfortunately (part 2), now that Liz is more hooker than not, she starts wandering the streets, looking for customers. Unfortunately (part 3D) she’s also built with an electrified labia, a real killer cooch that murders anyone she does the nasty with. And if that wasn’t enough (darn, should have called this Unfortunately part 4: the final chapter), there’s a big, muscle-bound pimp named Zorro who’s looking to find the creep that blew up all his hoes. With all this going on, will our lovesick, young Franken get back the girl of his dreams, or will she continue screwing and slaying her way through New York?

Well there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to watch this freaky flick. Unfortunately (ha, I knew I could work another one in there somewhere) this movie has been out of print for a long time. Fortunately the good men and women over at Synapse Films has just released this movie for the first time on Blu-ray. Not only does the video transfer look surprisingly great, but there’s a nice selection of special features for the extra fans out there, like me. Director Henenlotter and special makeup creator, Gabe Bartalos turn in an entertaining audio commentary. There are a couple of interviews here including a nine minuet one with Patty Mullen, the former Penthouse Pet turned actress who played the titular piecemeal hooker, and a twenty minuet interview with actress Jennifer Deloria, who played one of the dead hookers used as parts to make Frankenhooker. Why the co-star of the movie only talked for nine minutes and someone who was, if we’re being generous, a supporting character at best went on for twenty, I couldn’t tell you, but Jennifer is entertaining enough to all but steal the special feature show and she was refreshingly candid and honest. This lady needs to do more special features; I would sure love to see more of her. Oh and there’s one featurette included in this package, also at about twenty minutes in length, about the makeup effects in the film and it comes complete with a lot of behind the scenes photos and videos tossed in for good measure. The typical trailer and photo gallery bring the nice collection of extras to a close.

FRANKENHOOKER is a fun film, period. It is chock full of silliness, nudity, and blood and guts. It never takes itself, or anything else, seriously and if that sounds like your kind of flick then be sure to get your copy when it comes out on November 8th.

SCARY MOVIE 2 and SCARY MOVIE 3 – Blu-ray Double Disc Set

SCARY MOVIE 2 (2001)
Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans
Cast: Anna Faris, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans

SCARY MOVIE 3 (2003)
Director: David Zucker
Cast: Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Regina Hall

This September 20th Lionsgate is all set to bring these two spoofs of spooky flicks to Blu-ray for the first time. Since they are essentially the same film; that being a collection of comedy skits based on horror movies only strung together by the barest of threads, I thought I’d cover them both in one go. So, without further ado, here they are.

The idea behind all the SCARY MOVIE movies is to take whatever horror films were popular the year or so before and cheery-pick some bits to spoof and satirize. While the original movie largely focused on the SCREAM series of neo-slashers, starting with part two, the SCARY films would incorporate any and all remotely genre based movie in a scatter shot approach to comedy. That is, by throwing enough stuff at the wall from various sources, the hope is something is bound to be funny. Maybe it is because of that more narrow focus that the first SCARY MOVIE was easily the funniest and best of the lot, or maybe the creators took their time making it, whereas after it, the studio that owned the property was just concerned with churning out a new flick ever year. That said, there were still enough good, if oftentimes silly or sick (or both), bits in these two sequels to give them a watch. Ok, overview over, let’s get to specifics.

SCARY MOVIE 2 begins with some fun at the expense of THE EXORCIST, because you know, that classic film from 1973 was so hot and current back in 2001. Whatever, this bit was easily the funniest part of the film, with James Woods knocking it out of the park lampooning the Father Merrin part. After that, the majority of the movie takes on the truly awful THE HAUNTING. No, not the amazing 1963 original haunted house film, although with them first covering THE EXORCIST, I guess it could have been possible, but the truly abhorrent waste of time and celluloid that was the 1999 remake. And honestly, I think that was a huge mistake, because THE HAUNTING remake was so damn spirit-crushing bad, that no amount of funny could be wrung from the pain that film inflicted on horrorheads. Anyway, there are other bits tossed in (like I said, scatter shot) including jibes at HOLLOW MAN, WHAT LIES BENEATH, HANNIBAL and even the blink-and-you-missed-it news story of Firestone tires blowing out. Yeah because that doesn’t date this movie at all!

With all that said, I did get some giggles out of SCARY MOVIE 2. The original creative team behind the first SCARY MOVIE was also behind this one and it shows. Not only is there a plethora of Wayans brothers in it, but the same juvenile, over the top gross-out humor is evident from scene one. As someone who can appreciate gross-out comedy when it’s done well, I applaud its hard R approach to humor. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the following sequel, which not only ditched the Wayans brothers from the writing, directing, and acting positions, but totally revealed that this series was nothing more than a cynical cash grab when they played it safe and completely neutered the adult humor in an effort to obtain the far more lucrative PG-13 rating. Oh well, at least they put David “one third of the team that gave us the amazing AIRPLANE! films” Zucker into the director’s chair. I can only guess that his involvement is the only reason that the third film is even somewhat watchable. Ok, we’re in the home stretch now, so on with part three.

SCARY MOVIE 3 has Anna Faris and Regina Hall returning as Cindy and Brenda, the only two recurring characters since the aforementioned Wayans brothers walked away from the project. That left a big hole in the cast, so luckily they had a big A-hole (zing) on hand to fill it; Charlie Sheen, who played the Mel Gibson role from the alien invasion flick, SIGNS. THE RING is the other horror film they pull large bits from for this movie, and that makes sense since the movie is called *SCARY* MOVIE, but then they also include bits on THE MATRIX, THE HULK in an alternate ending, and Eminem’s 8 MILE. Why? Either there wasn’t any other fright films to make fun of from the year before, which wasn’t the case, or the creators just took the lazy way out to pad the film with whatever came to mind the easiest. Hmm, considering that the “brains” behind this movie (and yes those are ironic finger quotation marks) went on the make the hodgepodge messes that were DATE MOVIE, EPIC MOVIE, DISASTER MOVIE, and other cinematic eyesores, I’d bet it was the latter reason. But hey, they do promote this movie on the Blu-ray cover as the “exclusive unrated” edition, even going as far as to give it a subtitle of “Scary Movie 3.5”, so there is that. But honestly, I didn’t see any differences between this version and the last time I saw this movie.

The good news is that both of these Blu-rays from Miramax and Lionsgate have had a bit of visual polish added to them and they look great. Additionally they each have a nice collection of special features and extras, with the lion’s share of goodies being on part three. However all these extras were on the earlier DVD editions of these films, so if already own these movies on disc, there’s no real reason to upgrade. But if you don’t have these and you like lowbrow, gross-out humor, then I can give a partial recommendation for SCARY MOVIE 2 but only a limp, lukewarm “I didn’t really hate it” recommendation for SCARY MOVIE 3.

SCRE4M (aka SCREAM 4) (2011) – Blu-ray

Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette

SCREAM 4, or as they insist on marketing it, SCRE4M, has been a long time coming. The last time we saw the Ghost Face killer was back in 2000, and that movie, while far from great, did sort of wrap up the overarching plot of the SCREAM slasher trilogy. So why do another one now, after more than a decade? Why money, of course! Why else does Hollywood ever do anything? Well I’ve got to give them some credit; at least this is an honest to goodness sequel and not another lame-ass remake. But then, that’s part of the joke that runs through this entire flick, and that does get pretty old pretty fast. Hmm, I guess that could be said about many aspects of the SCREAM movies, so I’m not going to hold it against this film. Anyhow, on with the show.

Sidney, Gale and Dewey are all back for this fourth stab (heh heh) at things. Unfortunately so are a bunch of young pretty people, the so called “next generation” this movie was obviously attempting to pass the torch to. And while the new crew doesn’t do anything bad, pretty much whenever they are on the screen, I’m wishing it would be the old trio. Neve, Courteney, and David are what made the SCREAM flicks so good (yeah I guess the writer and director might have had something to do with it too) and while I was happy to see them here at all, I just wish they played a bigger part in this film.

That bit of misplaced priorities aside, the story here is basically right out of SCREAM 101. Sid returns to her home town where the first flick took place to promote a new book she’s written about all the craziness she’s survived. There she bumps into old friends Dewey, who’s now the sheriff, and his wife Gale, who’s trying her hand at writing fiction, but the old investigative reporter blood still burns inside her. Naturally the fourth member of that “old gang” is the masked murder maniac, Ghost Face, and it isn’t long before he/she/they pop up to make some spooky phone calls and spread some carnage around.

From the opening “kill a celebrity” thing, which they take to such an extent in this film that it is both awesome and ridiculous, to the guess who’s the killer game as the assembled cast gets bumped off one by one, from tonsils to toenails this is undoubtedly a SCREAM movie. That includes all the humor, the perhaps a bit too pithy dialog, the memorable kills, some decent shock scares, and the unmasking of the killer(s) at the end. And honestly, that last part that was probably my biggest gripe with this film; who the killer(s) was and their motivation for murder. I thought it was pretty weak sauce, even weaker than the motivation of Mickey from SCREAM 2 (gee, I hope I didn’t spoil that 14 year old movie for anyone) and it was more than a bit silly. Oh, and for long time fans of the series that have yet to see SCRE4M, that’s a bit of a hint for this flick, but I will say no more.

The new Blu-ray from Anchor Bay and The Weinstein Company is one of those neat tri-combo packs, which includes the movie on Blu-ray, DVD, and a downloadable digital copy. I only watched the BD version for this review, because I’m not going to sit through it back to back to back, so I can only comment on how it looked in HD, and that was damn good. As far as the extras go, they’re not bad, but they’re also nothing to scream about. Ha, ha, get it? Anyway, first and foremost there’s a director’s commentary track, with actors Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere joining in. Even Neve Campbell makes a “special guest appearance”, which is a polite way of saying that she could hardly be bothered to say a few things for a very few minutes. But then Courteney Cox and David Arquette couldn’t be bothered to stop in at all, so good on her for doing anything. Honestly, I would have much rather had a commentary track by Wes Craven, writer Kevin Williamson, and the trio of actors who have been with this series from the start, but the effort put for here was still ok. Anyway, there’s a collection of 20 deleted and extended scenes, all with commentary from director Craven, if you wish it. Sadly, the remaining extras are pretty lackluster and they include a nine minuet gag reel and a ten minuet “making of” piece that pretty much just reeks of the usual promo piece and doesn’t really show anything behind the scenes, or anything even remotely interesting.

SCREAM 4 was a fine continuation of the SCREAM series. If you liked those other movies, you’ll probably like this one as it pretty much is more of the same. In fact, I thought it was much better than the third flick, which could be proof that writer Kevin Williamson did add something to these movies, as the third movie was not penned by him and this one was a return to the Ghost Face shenanigans for him. I only mention that because there has been some debate among horrorheads on just how much skill he has as a terror scribe, probably based on his association with the woeful I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER flicks. Anyway, while this movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel, or really doing anything new at all, it was a fun, popcorn muncher, stalk and slash flick and if that’s what you’re looking for, then SCREAM 4 will do that for you just fine.

CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 (2011) – Blu-ray

Director: Robert Hall
Cast: Nick Principe, Angelina Armani, Thomas Dekker

LAID TO REST was a direct to DVD (or Blu-ray, if you prefer) slasher film from 2010. It had love for the old classic slashers of the 80s, and to a lesser extent the 90s, but it was a thoroughly modern movie, and that was probably for the best. Some new fright flicks try to cash in on the nostalgia horrorheads have for the masked maniac movies of yesteryear and say stuff like “this is so gonna be like those 80s horror films you loved” but usually they fall far short of their empty promises. LAID TO REST was its own film from start to finish, and while it paid tribute to the slashers that came before it, it never ripped them off, or worse yet, mocked them. It didn’t reinvent the wheel, it wasn’t the next great horror movie that fright fans have been praying for, but it was a fun, bloody slasher flick. So naturally they had to make a sequel. So was this second time out as good as the first, or was it like many sequels, and just a quick and dirty cash grab and not worth anyone’s time? Well grab your chromed-out skull mask and your ridiculously jagged knives and let’s get to it.

This film picks up exactly where the first one ended, with the two survivors driving away from the previous night’s slaughter, and the titular murder machine laid out and left for dead. The killer in these films does have a great, unique look and gets his moniker from a striking chrome skull mask he wears. He also videotapes his kills with a shoulder mounted camera, reminiscent of the famous PREDATOR and the alien’s shoulder laser blaster. Anyway, when last we saw poor Mr. Skull, he had his face melted off with acid and was beaten with a baseball bat repeatedly over the head. So it was looking like that was it for Chromy, well unless his last name was Voorhees. But then enter a super-secret squad of people, naturally all dressed in black, who kill the cops on the scene and whisk Chromeskull away to the doctors to save his life and try, in vain, to repair his ruined face with a series of skin grafts.

And therein lies my biggest problem with this film; Chromskull’s virtual army of willing henchmen. When I first saw them in action, shades of the Cult of Thorn that all ruined the latter HALLOWEEN films filled my head. Then I thought they may be the even more silly “vast governmental conspiracy” a la the illuminate in the completely dreadful THE RETURN OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. But then perhaps Mr. Skull was just some freaky rich guy, sort of like a psychotic Bill Gates? Worst of all, no explanation is ever given, not that any of them would really make any sense. All you get are people in black referring to “the organization” and calling Chromeskull “boss”. This includes a small part by modern scream queen Danielle Harris as the perfect personal assistant any psychopath could wish for, and Brian Austin Green as Skull’s right hand man, looking to replace his boss in the killing business. Bah, whatever, the whole thing was just stupid, stupid, stupid and completely unbelievable to the point that it actually aggravated me every time the army of sociopathic sycophants was on screen. I’d much rather have Chromeskull as the lone killer he was in the first film then some sort of Donald Trump type with a taste for slaughter.

The second thing about this movie that really got to me was just how dull and boring it was. While the first film was a nice bit of classic stalk and slash, here the two leads get kidnapped, dropped into a warehouse turned murder playground right out of a SAW film, and then a whole bunch of nothing happens for far too long until an unintentional funny ending where Chromeskull takes on up to three armed cops at a time with some knife-fu and wins. Sure there are a few kills sprinkled here and there, but such things are just gore candy and neither thrilling or terrifying in the least. But the vast majority of this film has policemen doing police things, Skull’s army of toadies doing the toady thing, and the pair of main victims whimpering, crying, and little else. Instead of building tension, all this beating around the bush accomplishes is to pad the runtime with tiresome tedium.

The highlight of this flick is easily the gore. This is where director Robert Hall really shines, but that’s only natural, as he got his start in the movie biz by doing special makeup effects. So the gorehounds will have a lot to howl about, but even some of these had the dread stink of silliness on them. Case in point, a young girl gets stabbed in the face, but only in the side of the face, that is the knife just pierces the flesh. The killer then rips the knife up, peeling the flesh off of left side of the woman’s head. Sure it’s gory as all get out, but it is in no way fatal, and yet she dies from it. Now I give slashers a lot of leeway when it comes to that sort of thing. Every time Michael Myers stabbed someone in the gut and they fell over dead, I never said anything, but this was just…yes you guessed it…silly. It’s gore for the sake of gore and nothing more. Oh and don’t get me started on the “sawing through a skull, lengthwise, with a knife” bit.

Now the new Blu-ray from Image did look great visually, and there were a nice collection of special features, but all the extras in the world could not make me like this boring, and unbelievable to the point of being stupid, film. Very rarely have I been so disappointed in a sequel and as such I just can’t recommend this film in the slightest.

--Brian M. Sammons