Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Editorial May 2011 e-issue #23

By Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

So, here I am, finishing up the last of the edits for this month's issue of The Black Glove. While doing so, I'm watching one of my all time favorite movies, George A. Romero's original genre exploding zombie flick, "Night of the Living Dead" (1968). Between editing and watching, I keep trying to count to myself how many times I’ve actually seen my beloved “NotLD”. Somewhere around 50 is my best estimate. But to be honest I keep losing track when I try to remember any younger than 15. I do know I’ll probably see it at least that many times again, God willing I stay alive for another twenty or thirty years, cognizant and with my mind intact.

Does that seem like a lot of time spent watching the same movie? Maybe not to some of you Horrorheads who know what I mean when call Romero’s film a “comfort film”.

I define a good “comfort film” as one that makes me feel better about the world, one that centers me when I feel out of balance with the rest of humanity and me. It soothes me, gives me a sense that all is well…even when it’s not.

The movies on my own particular list of “comfort films” have remained fairly consistent since my young adulthood; I’ve done very little editing over the years. Just about all of them are considered classics by most genre fans and critics. My list of “comfort films” certainly has plenty of titles which aren’t genre films to be sure. But it’s the horror ones we came here to talk about, right?

Below you’ll find a fairly complete list of the horror and sci-fi movies which are on my own “comfort films” list. I saw quite a few of them as a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, and since those long ago days, they’ve played a part in my creative life. They give me joy every time I watch them. It’s probably not a coincidence that most of the movies I get comfort from are from my childhood, seen during my formative years, with my parents at the local drive-in. Those were some good years for me as a little Horrorhead, as I got to live through a very important phase in the horror genre.

The list isn’t in any kind of order or anything. And just an FYI: “Night of the Living Dead” isn’t even the movie I’ve seen the most on the list. There are some titles on the list I’ve seen probably a hundred times by now. You’ll find movies on my list that stretch back as far as the silent era, up to as recent as 1986 or so. Sorry, but I haven’t seen too many horror films since the late 80s for which I feel much of an emotional attachment. You’ll find some of the films that give me such comfort are pure exploitative schlock, while others are classics; but all of them mean something to me as a human being, as a writer, and as a feeling, thinking animal just trying to make it through this world full of too many real horrors to catalogue.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Phantasm (1979)
Zombie (1980)
Gates of Hell (1981)
Suspiria (1977)
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
The Wolfman (1941)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Day of the Dead (1985)
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Grizzly (1976)
Halloween (1978)
The Fog (1980)
Escape From New York (1981)
Dracula (1931)
Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman (1971)
Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973)
It Conquered the World (1956)
The Terror (1963)
The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Demons (1985)
Frankenstein (1933)
The Return of the Vampire (1944)
The Vampire Bat (1933)
This Island Earth (1955)
Mark of the Vampire (1935)
Nosferatu (1922)
Prom Night (1980)
My Bloody Valentine (1981)

I’m sure later on I’ll think of more movies that should have been listed here, but that gives you a good idea of what I mean.

By the way, how many do you see on my list that have been remade, or are in the process of being remade? Is it any wonder why I go off about remakes every chance I get in these editorials? These movies mean something to me, but it seems that’s there no shortage of Hollywood douche bags, most of them probably no older than some of the scars I carry on my body, keep taking my beloved “comfort films” and turning them into cookie cutter, PG13, near bloodless, violent-less, ball-less exercises in pandering to the lowest common denominator.

But, to be fair, I suppose one could argue (and rightfully so) that I should be grateful for the movies I do have from which to get a little comfort. It could be worse; I could be one of the younger generation of horror fans who have nothing better than Wes Craven’s “Scream” (1996) in which to find some comfort. Not that there’s much wrong with “Scream”, but let’s be honest: it isn’t a “Phantasm”. While it was funny in parts, it just doesn’t have that same sense of experimental, cheesy fun about it that you get with “Phantasm”. A movie like “Scream” is a polished big studio film that’s meant to make money, not to tell a story, not expected to bring anything new to the genre (hence, why we see sequel after sequel in the franchise hitting the theaters and no one says ‘boo’ that each one looks and feels exactly like the ones before them). In fact, the damn film actually makes the whole genre look silly and purposely accentuates the whole post modern malaise which most teens were wallowing in by that point in American horror cinema history. Because of the surfeit of brainless sequels that had flooded the genre by the end of the 80s, it was little wonder they felt such malaise. The gore was being censored by an ever more restrictive MPAA, led by an ever more vocal and controlling segment of the population labeled by the media as the Moral Majority (and as the old joke goes: they were neither). These Rightwing Christian organizations never missed an opportunity to harangue and financially threaten sweating bottom line studio execs into making exactly the same shitty horror crapola we see today.

So I guess they won, huh?

But did they win the battle or did they win the war?

I mean, after all, I can’t live on “comfort films” alone, now can I? I need new movies to love, to embrace and hopefully find a new “comfort film” along the way.

I keep getting little spikes on the horror radar from time to time. For me, they’re few and far between. Unlike some fans, who will tolerate something as ridiculous and lousy as “The Human Centipede” (2009), and try to convince others that the film is better than it really is, I am more exacting when it comes to good horror. And I don’t mean every film must be the caliber of something like “Aliens” (1986) because I can take cheesy and I can take shitty production values. What I cannot forgive at this point is the total lack of respect that some studio heads, and so-called ‘horror’ directors, have for their supposed target audience. These assholes may think they’re making these abysmal flicks for ‘horror fans’, but they sure as hell aren’t making movies for this Horrorhead. Not by a longshot, folks.

Above, I mentioned how I’m always looking for those little spikes on the radar that give me hope for the genre’s resurgence to box office power. Well, one such movie came along for me about a week ago. It took me a while to finally sit down and watch Tommy Wirkola’s 2009 gore-packed, creepy-scary, utterly hilarious “Dead Snow”, but when I finally did so, it knocked me on my ass by how much respect and love it shows for the genre and its fans, true Horrorheads like myself.

So what, if it’s not an American made movie. I don’t even care. The fact that this little movie made it so big here in the United States gives me some much needed hope for American horror cinema. Seeing it actually got me pretty excited about the possibilities inherent in modern horror.

But let’s back up a little and take a look at why this movie works so well on all the levels listed above. There were homages to several genre classics, including “Evil Dead” (1984), “Dead Alive” (1992), “Friday the 13th” (1980) and “Shock Waves” (1977), to name a few. The dialogue was sharp and quirky enough to remind one of a young Tarantino. The cast was talented and took the material seriously. The gore factor was turned all the up way to 11. And, most importantly, it did not talk down to horror fans. It was obviously made by a man who has a love and respect for the genre. One could easily see how much fun he had telling the story of a sadistic platoon of undead Nazi soldiers who goose step their way across a bleak snowy landscape, killing anyone who crosses their zombie path. I laughed and gasped in equal measure. Hell, I almost stood up and applauded in the middle of my living room when it was done. “Dead Snow” was a hell of a ride. I hope like hell it’s a spearhead for a new wave of better made, more respectful horror films to come.

So, that being said, I sit here, watching the end of my beloved “Night of the Living Dead”, waiting for the next spike on the radar. It’s been a while since I was actually looking forward to what was coming down the line for the genre. And, let me tell you, fellow Horrorheads, it’s a damn fine feeling. It makes me feel as if the war isn’t over yet.

--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 two new releases forthcoming: PAINT IT BLACK (early 2011 from Dailey Swan Press).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stabbed in Stanzas Book Review: "A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock" Edited by Christopher Conlon

A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock (2011)
Edited by Christopher Conlon

Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

A while back I reviewed Starkweather Dreams and Midnight on Mourn Street: A Play in Two Acts, both by Christopher Conlon. I became a fan of his work, feeling that Starkweather Dreams was worthy of a Bram Stoker Award. Therefore, I had high expectations for his poetry anthology, A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock, published by Dark Scribe Press. Sadly I was disappointed. This book is good, but not great.
This collection is filled with work by well-known writers to the point where the selling point seems to be based on their name recognition instead of outstanding poetic talent, since a large number of them are better known as novelists or short story authors. Most poems are not memorable. There are flashes of poetic talent, lost in a sea of birds or shower scenes.
More than one of the poems based on the film, The Birds, relies on repetition, such as Marge Simon’s “The Bird’s Lullaby” and Rich Ristow’s “Acceptance Speech”. This makes sense for a lullaby, but I certainly didn’t want to see anymore use of repetitions, especially for the same film reference. Andrew J. Wilson repeats the word, ‘corn’ over and over again in his poem “crop duster”.
The anthology seemed to be a celebration of just a few films, I guess to make the book more appealing to the average reader who might have only seen those Hitchcock movies. Instead this makes the book tiresome to read in one setting as the poems blend into each other to mask the talent of the contributors. If the reader hasn’t seen a film, the poem loses all meaning.
The standout poem is “Alfred” by G.O. Clark. This poem isn’t about a movie, but Hitchcock himself when he has cameos in his films. The work is simplistic, yet draws the reader in to make Hitchcock relatable.
A Sea of Alone is a must-have for any serious Alfred Hitchcock fan who knows all the films referenced in the anthology.

--Karen L. Newman

Bloody Pages Book Reviews: Two new selections from Spectral Press

"Abolisher of Roses” by Gary Fry

"What They Hear in the Dark” by Gary McMahon

By Lisa Morton

There’ve been some superb new small presses opening up in the U.K. recently, mainly focusing on small-run chapbooks from contemporary British horror writers. Last year I reviewed two chapbooks from Nightjar Press, and now Spectral Press comes along, emphasizing contemporary ghostly supernatural tales.
Spectral’s first two offerings are a pair of Garys: Gary McMahon’s “What They Hear in the Dark” and Gary Fry’s “Abolisher of Roses”. Both tales are novelettes centered on failing marriages, but – beyond the fact that both are superb – they each depend on their authors’ individual styles and tell quite different stories.
In McMahon’s piece, Rob and Becky have recently purchased a house in serious need of renovation – as is their marriage. They’ve suffered a tragedy involving their young son, but McMahon doesn’t reveal the full extent or nature of the tragedy immediately, leaving the details to unwind as part of the story’s building, fateful doom. While pulling down old wallpaper, they recently discovered a room they couldn’t explain – it wasn’t on the blueprints, has only the one door and no windows, and contains absolutely nothing. The room doesn’t even echo sounds; Rob sits inside it, and realizes he can’t even hear himself. “There was always the sound of you: your blood, your spit, your seed...and the subtle sounds of decay as your body died second by second, turning to rot as you whittled your life down to the bone.” The “Quiet Room”, as Rob and Becky have named it, means very different things to the couple: For Becky, it offers a spark of hope, but Rob feels a malevolent presence there. As Rob’s own unease builds to a head, so do his experiences in the Quiet Room. The story ends on anything but a soft note.
Gary Fry’s “Abolisher of Roses” focuses on Peter and Pat, a successful, late-middle-aged couple just arriving at an art show. Pat has recently taken up painting, and the show will represent her first exhibition; the gallery, however, will actually be an outdoors trail winding through dense woods, with various artists set up along the way. Peter eyes Pat’s artist comrades with suspicion, and Fry deftly sketches his protagonist’s psychology with wry, brisk sentences – “Peter had been running a successful carpet manufacturing business for the last twenty-five years; he knew at a glance that these weren’t his kind of people at all.” After an argument, Peter leaves Pat to venture further along the trail into the woods, and he discovers that the last installations of the exhibition are all dedicated to him – or, more specifically, to his extra-marital affair with his vapid mistress of ten years. The installations became more gruesome, but act as shock therapy for Peter, who is finally forced to acknowledge the real power of art (the story’s title derives from a quote by poet James Russell Lowell, who suggests that those who ask what purpose art serves would also abolish the rose). “Abolisher” builds to a strange, distinctively visual, and authentically cathartic ending.
Both works are beautifully written and attractively presented by Spectral. McMahon fills his piece with luscious description and deft similes (“Tiredness clung to him like a needy child”); in his rich evocation of the decaying, sinister house, he evokes the plaster dust, the smell of turpentine, even the taste of a salad. Fry’s specialty is digging into the core of his characters and laying those cores bare, sometimes with shocking results. His dissection of Peter, the businessman with a mistress and a disdain for anything that doesn’t involve money or sex, is keen and beautifully observed, and Peter (who still loves his wife) is a compelling, three-dimensional character. This is no simple story of comeuppance against a cad, but rather a disturbing meditation on the ultimate meaning of art.

--Lisa Morton

TIME CAPSULES classic book reviews by Bill Lindblad

HOGG by Samuel R. Delany (1995)

It's easy to dislike this book. It is repulsive in its sexuality and casually grotesque in its violence. Worse for the casual reader, there is nothing supernatural or even physically abnormal about the denizens of Delany's world. These are simply horrific people doing horrific things.
If you have ever put aside a work by Carlton Mellick because it was too extreme, or felt that the perverse carnality of Ed Lee was over the top, you shouldn't even pick this book up. Unlike many books, this title was not banned. This is because no publishers would produce the book until Black Ice released it in 1994, more than two decades after its completion.
The main character is an eleven year old boy whose official name is never revealed throughout the story; he is the narrator, telling of events from his youth. The story splits into two halves, the first focusing on rape and the second focusing on murder. That barely skims the surface of the book's depravity. There are voyeurism, racial epithets, male-female sex, male-male sex, urolagnia, an incestuous relationship between brother and sister, sex between father and daughter, underage prostitution and gang rape in this book. That's in the thirteen page first chapter, before the narrator meets the titular Hogg and things start getting brutal.
This book was intended as a commentary on what lay just outside of the borders of our civil society in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is excessive, sometimes annoyingly so. When Hogg gets into a discussion about his personal philosophy, I found myself wanting more just to provide an insight into the author's reasoning. Delany refuses to hand us the answers he wants us to have, though; instead he maneuvers the story into a path which illustrates the results of Hogg's philosophy and in so doing encourages the reader toward a conclusion.
This is the type of literary sleight-of-hand at which the best authors excel: guide the reader through a story toward a conclusion which the reader thinks they reached by themselves. It is indicative of Delany's skill that he manages to tell what is fundamentally an excruciatingly repetitive tale of a few days' violence in an artistic fashion.
The book embraces nightmare without condemnation or judgment, and in so doing pushes the reader toward a conscious refutation of that nightmare. Wonderfully done, and not for the easily offended.
Five stars out of five.

KEEPERS OF THE BEAST by Jack Maclane (1988)

I have a love/hate relationship with Zebra covers of the 1980s. Mostly hate. They loved their glossy black with raised lettering, they loved their skulls, their skeletons, children in peril, and holograms. What they didn't love was matching the cover to the book.
Case in point: Keepers of the Beast has a cover which shows a child trapped in a cage of giant alphabet blocks, the bars of which are arm bones. This might be appropriate for a child-in-peril novel, particularly one which involves animate, evil toys. It is not appropriate for the book, which follows a CIA assassin as he seeks revenge upon his brother's killers.
Cover aside, the book is fairly well written, and I'd likely rate it as above average but for the author. The concept is solid and obviously competent research was done for the novel (not a necessity in the horror-glutted 1980s, particularly for writers at Leisure or Zebra). We've got a bit of demonic summoning and some debased humanity as people are influenced by the demon. There are a couple of obvious problems (such as occasional ham-fisted foreshadowing, or the group of acolytes who have been warped by the demon's influence: it's a small college town in the middle of Nowhere, TX. The people here are unable and unwilling to go back into normal society, and would therefore be considered "disappearances". Between them and the human sacrifices wouldn't someone notice a sudden spike in vanishing people?) but overall the book works well.
It is, however, an early book not by Jack Maclane but by Anthony award winning mystery writer Bill Crider, working under his Maclane pseudonym. I've read enough of his other work to know how satisfying a Crider novel can be, and this one falls short of the high mark I expect of his work.
On the positive side of things, while this 1988 release isn't an easy book to find in paperback (though it also isn't expensive when you do find it) it has been recently re-released as an e-book by Crossroads Press. And the e-book has a real cover, something far more appropriate to the story.
Three stars out of five.


There are other books I could have chosen from the six book series of de Grandin stories issued by Popular Library in the mid-1970s, but this one featured an affectionate recollection by Manly Wade Wellman. In it he talks of his friend both on the personal and professional level. It provides the reader with a good feeling for the author.
That's important, because Quinn is among the most maligned of the Weird Tales authors. While contemporary writers complain about Lovecraft's purple prose, they do so cautiously, very aware of the gent's large and loyal fan base and their devotion to the ideas and creatures he popularized. When they talk negatively about Robert E. Howard, they know they risk getting an earful from the people who love the energy and originality Howard brought to the pulps. When they talk smack about Quinn, they get nods of appreciation for their awareness of lesser authors.
I find this a shame. Quinn's stories, as both his fans and detractors love to point out, were consistently among the most popular in Weird Tales and typically beat Lovecraft and Howard in the fan polling. This did not happen because he was a bad writer. This happened because he was able to stir a sense of weird menace within the confines of an adventure story, and managed to avoid repeating himself despite his desire to keep most of the supernatural detective Jules de Grandin's cases within the confines of the same rural New Jersey city.
His stories are often derided as racist, repetitive, and pulpy. The racist allegation is the least appropriate; while foreigners were often the source of the troubles in the de Grandin stories, they were also often the noble victims. The use of foreign villains occurred because Quinn drew from his own experiences and research, and many of the more interesting monsters and supernatural powers originated in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Staying true to his research, the antagonists in his stories would originate appropriately, often alongside gentle folk of a similar persuasion whom de Grandin would be defending.
Quinn's research and his story format were the sources of repetition. It is barely noticeable in the individual Popular Library books but becomes obvious as more stories are read in succession. In the bulk of the stories, Quinn followed the format popularized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: a caller would request aid from de Grandin, the intrepid Frenchman would investigate, and with aid from his doctor friend they would vanquish the evil. More often than not their foe would be from Southern Europe or the East. The format was the established one for the consulting detective, and Quinn's knowledge of mythology leaned heavily upon the European and Eastern tales.
Pulpy? Yes. There is more action than characterization here. But the same holds true for most other stories from the pulps. It was what was demanded by the publishers.
If this sounds more like a defense of Quinn's famous supernatural detective than a review, I'm not disturbed. I enjoyed these stories, just as I enjoyed most of the other de Grandin works, and I wanted to explain why before I recommended them. If you want to take a walk through the world of the supernatural detective of the 1930s, it's difficult to do better than these six.
Four stars out of five.

--Bill Lindblad

Movie vs. Book: 7 Faces if Dr. Lao


"7 Faces of Dr. Lao" (1964)

I read the novel The Circus of Dr. Lao a good fifteen years or so ago. Right now, I’m really wishing I hadn’t. After sitting through the film adaptation, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, I can see it was a beautifully crafted movie, amazingly well made for its time, but with the spirit of the novel still in my mind, I’m having a difficult time accepting it.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao is set in a small western town probably around the turn of the century. It is inhabited by all sorts of archetypes—the lying tycoon, the idealistic journalist, the strong yet guarded widow, drunks, layabouts, the vain and the bitter. In the midst of the town trying to decide whether to sell out to the tycoon, a mysterious Chinese man arrives and sets up a circus. The attractions reveal secret truths to the townspeople, sometimes truer than they ever wanted to know. However, with the revealing of these truths the townsfolk learn their inner strength and the town is saved, the widow melts in her iciness, she and the idealistic journalist fall in love and all is well with the world.

There are extraordinary things in this movie. The main one is the performance of Tony Randal as Dr. Lao and his many faces (he transformed into every attraction in his circus, from the serpent to the god Pan) and can go from whimsical to sinister and be completely believable anywhere in between. The director was George Pal, famous for his stop-motion Puppetoons and for being the mentor to Ray Harryhausen. His special effects were groundbreaking for 1964. And there was a well-written, fantastically paced screenplay by one of my favorites, Charles Beaumont (known to most for his “Twilight Zone” scripts). All in all, it was a very well-made movie.

However, it was a crappy adaptation. The thing I remember most about the novel, and what I adored the most, was its quietly sad tone, the sense of having once had hope in the human race but, after witnessing too much pettiness and vanity, having given up and seeing mostly the dark side. The movie had a whimsy often found in Ray Bradbury stories; a sense of wonder through a young boy’s eyes and, although the darkness is there, the light will eventually win out. While watching 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, it occurred to me that the movie adaptation of Something Wicked This Way Comes was more loyal to the spirit of the Dr. Lao novel than its own adaptation. On an odd trivia note, not only were Bradbury and Beaumont close friends but Something Wicked was being written at the same time this movie was being made.

I can whole heartedly recommend 7 Faces of Dr. Lao because it truly is a great, well made movie. But if you go into it expecting the novel, you will be disappointed. If you look at it as its own, separate story, I think you’ll be able to dig it a whole lot more.



"THE CIRCUS OF DR. LAO" by Charles G. Finney (1935)

Originally published in 1935, this short novel has withstood the test of time very admirably. Its longevity is likely due to the subject matter: people, and the reasons to dislike or dismiss them. Bitter rather than curmudgeonly, the text offers little to recommend man as a species or the denizens of Abalone, Arizona in particular.
The story is told in the style of a classical fantasy but with a contemporary setting. Into the small town comes Dr. Lao; he first has advertisements for his circus printed and distributed, then leads a small parade through the town. The parade is short, only a handful of carts, but the contents are magnificent: a unicorn, a chimera, a sea serpent, a werewolf, the golden ass of literary legend and a millenia-old magician privy to the secrets of life and death, among others. The majority of the participants are animals, but animals hitherto reserved for fantasy and imagination.
Immediately the reader is granted insight into the minds of the townsfolk. Fancying themselves sophisticated, they denounce the tiniest of imperfections in the wondrous creatures. Imagining themselves wise, they refuse to accept the existence of such creatures even when confronted by them. Those who do not put on airs are shown to be no better: rather than be amazed by the majestic beings they're encountering, they complain about the lack of elephants and other commonplace staples of circuses.
The circus sets their meager three tents and the citizenry visit. At the exhibits they meet their foils, skewed mirror images of themselves which lure them into revealing their true natures. There is no inherent malice, however, no attempt at corruption, merely chances - rarely taken - for people to exhibit their noblest sides. In the end, Dr. Lao provides a demonstration from an ancient culture which shows how that group of people freed their baser impulses and suffered for it; in so doing he holds the entire town up to the same sort of altered reflection.
At the end of the book is a summary. The author indulges his senses of sarcasm and humor while also providing hints as to the eventual outcomes for many of the characters in the novel.
A strong book, a strange one, and a wonderfully subtle one.
Five stars out of five.


Fresh Blood: New Releases In the World of Horror

compiled by Nickolas Cook and Steven M. Duarte.


From the good folks at Uninvited Books:

"A haunting and melancholy work of psychological horror ... continually ratchets up the intensity ... a unique and well-told tale." See the full fantastic review here...

"Magnificent” ~ Tomb of Dark Delights

“This is dark fiction as it is meant to be written.” ~ Literary Mayhem

“Works on so many levels and Gifune succeeds brilliantly on all of them.” ~ Horror World

“An eerie, disturbing tale of violence and redemption ... transformation and violence ... destiny and sacrifice. Showcases Gifune's gift for creating an atmosphere of unease.” ~ Shroud Magazine

GARDENS OF NIGHT by Greg F. Gifune is available in paperback and as an eBook.
For more information, visit Uninvited Books for more information.

"A taut horror-thriller - LITTLE BOY LOST takes the fear and anguish felt for a lost child and magnifies it ten-fold by incorporating a supernatural element."

T. M. Wright's brilliant novel of surreal horror - LITTLE BOY LOST - has been out of print for nearly a decade. Now Uninvited Books is delighted to make it available to readers once again.

"Wright is more than a master of quiet horror; he's a one-man definition of the term."

"One of the most original writers of the surreal and macabre ... a rare and blazing talent."

LITTLE BOY LOST has just been reissued as a trade paperback from Uninvited Books.
Paperback, $16.95
ISBN 978-0-9830457-4-8
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Horror Mall.

When his six-year-old son vanishes, Miles Gale is suspected of having committed an unthinkable crime. He alone knows that the truth is even more unthinkable: his son has been taken by a creature out of time, a creature out of nightmare. The boy's mother has returned to claim him ... and Miles will have to go through hell to get him back.

The many rave reviews T. M. Wright has recieved over the decades of his writing career:

"Hallucinatory ... eerie."

"Sharply etched."

"Relentlessly original."

From the new publisher of some great classics

Two reprints from a master of horror fiction, Ray Garton...




We Are the Night
Release date: May 27, 2011

Starring: Karoline Herfurth, Nina Hoss, Anna Fischer, Jennifer Ulrich, Max Riemelt

This stylistic German vampire flick is new to me and was already released overseas and us Yanks are just now getting a chance to see it as it hits theaters in a limited release. I’m not a big fan of Vampire movies that are made to look “cool,” but seeing as this is from Germany I will reserve judgment until I actually see it.

X- Men: First Class
Release date: June 3, 2011

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Caleb Landry Jones, Nicholas Hoult,January Jones, Lucas Till

A telling of the early days of Professor Xavier’s X-Men we get to witness the rise of the original X-Men members in addition to the rise of the steel bending villain Magneto. Here’s hoping this one’s better than the atrocious X-Men 3.

Super 8
Release date: June 10, 2011

Starring: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka, Noah Emmerich, Ron Eldard

JJ Abrams hits us with another Alien monster flick with Super 8. Not much is known about the film's monster(s?) as the script and any creature sketches have not been made public.

Release date: June 10, 2011

Starring: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Trosterud, Hans Morten Hansen, Johanna Mørch, Tomas Alf Larsen

Norway is not only good for black metal but apparently for well made monster films as I have heard nothing but good buzz surrounding Trollhunter. The film was shot with a small budget but you really can’t tell when you see what was put in to the film.

The Green Lantern
Release date: June 17, 2011

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett

It’s about time the Green Lantern has his own feature length film. My only concern is Ryan Reynolds ability to pull off the portrayal of Hal Jordin while not trying to turn it too much into a comedic performance. I also have an issue with him being both Deadpool and Green Lantern.

--Steven M. Duarte

Foreign Fears: Jigoku (aka The Sinners of Hell) (1960)

Jigoku (aka The Sinners of Hell) (1960)

review written by Nickolas Cook

Director: Nobuo Nakagawa
Cast: Utako Mitsuya and Shigeru Amachi

"Jigoku", which literally translates to "HELL", was a film way ahead of its time in 1960, when maverick Asian director Nobuo Nakagawa showed an astounded and horrified international audience a very a Western Christian concept of souls being tortured, quite graphically, in Hell, using an eye searing Technicolor cinematographic canvas. There had been nothing quite like it in Japanese cinema and it was very much out of the Asian cultural character for its time.
The plot is simple enough: a young theology student and his sinful, evil best friend flee the scene of a hit-and-run accident, spurred on against his better judgement and morals by his friend. The young theologian is plagued by guilt. Soon, he discovers to his terror that he is also being followed by a mysterious stranger. The stranger reveals himself to be a violent doppelgänger, who seems to know everyone's deepest, darkest secrets, including the young students'. Finally he confesses to his fiance about the accident and she persuades him to go to the police and throw himself on the mercy of the authorities, than rather be plagued by the smirking, demonic doppelgänger, and his overwhelming guilty conscience. Unfortunately, they are in a car accident before they can reach the authorities and his fiance dies. Soon, everyone else around him is also dying in horrifying accidents. When the young man finally dies, he meets them all in Hell, and is tortured along with the hundreds of other suffering, screaming, weeping souls which occupy Hades.
No expense was spared in creating this singularly horrible ideal of Western Christian's concept of Hell. It is sometimes fiery and shadow filled, other times icy and fog enshrouded. It will seem familiar to those of us who happen to also be fans of Lucio Fulci and his "The Beyond" (1981).
The deaths are graphic, but its the torture sequences that will leave you gaping at the screen. Nagakawa holds nothing back. All who are guilty suffer the most horrendous second deaths at the hands of an Asian styled Satan and his demon henchmen; and as far as Nakagawa is concerned, there are no innocent souls. It is such a grim, unrelenting vision of Hell and the kill scenes are so clinical, without a shred of mercy, that it may be even too strong for some Horrorheads. If you thought Eli Roth's "Hostel" (2005) was violent and grim, then you most certainly wouldn't enjoy this film. At least with "Hostel" the director allowed his audience a much fought for sense of cathartic justice (albeit a bloody one). But there is no such luxury in "Jigoku".

--Nickolas Cook

Brian Sammons Hi-Def Horror Hoedown!

CAT O’ NINE TAILS (1971) Blu-ray review

Director: Dario Argento
Cast: James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak

The fine folks over at Blue Underground have been on an Argento tear lately, releasing a bunch of the Italian horror maestro’s movies oin HD for the first time, which makes me very happy. Their latest Argento Blu-ray is actually one of Dario’s first movies. Ok, technically his second. That means a few things to the Argento aficionado. First, it’s part of his unconnected “animal” trilogy, along with the films; THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970) and the awesomely titled, FOUR FLIES ON GRAY VELVET (1971). It also means that the movie is more Hitchcockian than the weird, trippy, splatterific movies he would become famous for later on. Also, for those really in the know, Dario Argento has often said that while this movie is “fine”, it is his least favorite of all the movies he’s done. Now for the record, and right off the bat, I don’t agree with Argento on that. He’s made more than a couple of films what was worse than this little CAT, but does that mean this movie should be a buy or a rental? Well let’s find out.

In CAT, Karl Malden plays a retired and blind newspaper reporter living in Italy who, while walking with niece one night, overhears two people talking in a car about blackmail. This gets the old reporter’s curiosity tingling and when one of the men from the car, identified as such by his niece, winds up murdered later, he starts to look into the matter (ha, get it, he’s blind) with the help of a younger, eager, but capable reporter. The trail soon leads to a pharmaceutical company's experimental research into double Y chromosome males. In case you don’t know, the double Y stands for incredibly violent. Hmm, I wonder if there’s a connection to the murderer?

Along the way the crusading duo run into more bodies, explore the taboo (at the time, at least) world of homosexuals, investigate graveyards at night (always a great idea in murder/horror movies), and collect a list of nine leads to follow. Yes, that is the very slim thread that connects the film with its title. If you’re expecting the favorite flogger of sailors and those in the S&M scene, or perhaps a weird mutant cat, to show up in this movie then you’ll be disappointed.

Also if you were expecting the usual giallo goodness you have come to expect from Argento, then you also might be disappointed. You see some out there consider CAT to be a giallo film, while others think it’s more of a straight up, Hitchcockian murder mystery. Due to the lack of gore and rather mundane murders, I also fall into that latter group. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, but it was a somewhat disappointment when I went into this movie expecting something like DEEP RED (1975) and instead got TORN CURTIAN (1966). So the morel of this story is know what to expect before watching this movie and you’re sure to get more out of it.

Now while the picture and sound on this disc are great, and that’s what really matters for any movie, the extras do leave a little to be desired. The big draw is a collection of interviews with Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, and composer Ennio Morricone that runs about 14 minutes. In addition there are the usual trailers, TV and radio spots, and two short audio only interviews with stars James Francisco’s and Karl Malden.

While CAT O’ NINE TAILS wasn’t really my cup o’ tails…er…tea, I can recommend it to mystery lovers, Argento film fanatics, those looking to complete their home library’s “Master Directors: A” section, anyone with a Karl Malden fetish (ewww), or if you want to see a sort of giallo-light movie. It’s definitely worth a watch, I just can’t say for certain that it’s worth a buy, and for me I rarely say that about Argento films. So take that how you will or as a moderate recommendation with a few provisos sprinkled on top.

THE TERMINATOR (1984) Blu-ray review

Director: James Cameron
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn

A) Yes this is not a horror flick.
B) Who cares, sci-fi and horror are kissing cousins and besides, it’s one of the coolest movies ever.
C) It’s out on Blu-ray.
D) Yes it was out on Blu-ray before, but that edition kind of sucked.
E) Does this version suck? Let’s find out.

Do I really have to explain the plot of THE TERMINATOR to you? Is there anyone alive over the age of five that doesn’t know what these movies are all about? Ok, future world, robots rule, mankind fights back and wins, but as a last ditch effort the evil machines send a killer robot wrapped in human skin back in time to the rocking 80s to kill the mother of the resistance leader so that the leader will never be born. Enter Arnie (hey is that thing moving, then let me stick my penis in it) Schwarzenegger as the titular death machine, the role that would make him a certified box office sensation. Luckily the human resistance of the future also sends someone back in time to protect the mother of the century and so begins a lethal cat and mouse game all over LA with two metallic fists full of action, groundbreaking (at the time) special effects, and a story so influential that it’s been mentioned, parodied, or out and out ripped off in dozens of movies since then.

Oh and it also gave birth to Arnold’s signature line of, “don’t worry, I’ll use a condom.” No wait, sorry, I meant, “I’ll be back.”

THE TERMINATOR is a must watch movie for anyone, and I mean anyone. I know people who don’t like horror movies (and I pity them). I know people who don’t “get” sci-fi. Some people (mostly women) don’t like action films and others don’t like modern comedies…not that I can fault anyone for that last bit. Most people don’t dig musicals, some think dramas are just boring, and others don’t like foreign films if they have to read subtitles, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like, if not outright love, THE TERMINATOR. God’s honest truth, I’ve never met anyone who does not like this movie. Now naturally there’s got to be some folks out there who don’t like this film. Hell, you might not like it and if so, that’s fine. It also means that I would not want to meet you and therefor my statement above would remain true.

However with all that said, this hugely famous, much loved, and amazing movie has been getting very little respect for the last couple of years. You see an action/sci-fi flick like this was what Blu-ray was made for. You don’t need High-Def to get anything more out of REMAINS OF THE DAY or the like, but a film like this; hell yeah you do! Unfortunately when this movie first came to Blu-ray it got some mixed love at best and this time around it only gets a brief, one-armed hug better.

The video quality was not all that great. Sure it was better than DVD but not by leaps and bounds and not up to the high standards of many top tier Blu-ray releases now. Yes it’s 1080p but it could have been cleaned up a lot better as there are lots of bips and cracks to be seen on screen along with some compression noise. Is it a horrible transfer? No. But is it worthy of a film like THE TERMINATION? Again I would have to say no. Luckily the audio is the same as it ever was, which means its fine.

The real downer is still the lack of extras. Sure it has a spiffy new digibook which includes photos, trivia, and a good smattering of info, but the actual extras on the disc are slim pickings. The years old DVD release was well packed with goodies, including an over hour long documentary called “Other Voices”. Well for some unfathomable reason only one small, 12 minute part of that doc about the visual effects and music has made its way onto this disc. What the hell, did the other parts get lost? There are 7 deleted scenes and an 18 minute interview with James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger called “Terminator: A Retrospective”. And, well that’s it. They couldn’t even be bothered to put on a trailer, not that anyone really watches those. Oh and no director’s commentary, but then I don’t think there ever was one.

So if you already have the Special Edition DVD then you don’t need this unless you want a slight picture improvement. If you already have the previous Blu-ray then you really don’t need this new edition unless you want a cool new booklet. If you don’t have either of those, then what the hell? This is THE TERMINATOR, we’re talking about. So in that instance I can recommend this new edition of the classic Schwarzenegger film, but only in that one, highly unlikely instance.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON 4 (1959) Blu-ray review

Created by: Rod Serling

TWILIGHT ZONE, the fourth complete season to be released on Blu-ray, with incredibly polished picture and a ton of extra features. That should be all you need to hear before deciding to run out and buy this today. But just in case you’re one of those weirdoes that don’t instantly start drooling at the thought of the ZONE, keep reading and I’ll give you all the info you’ll need to start Pavlov Dogging it.

This new Blu-ray set by Image has all 18 episodes from season four. Now admittedly, this season of TZ isn’t the strongest of that show’s run and at just 18 episodes, it isn’t the longest, but just like pizza, even when TWILIGHT ZONE isn’t great, it’s still pretty darn good. So why only 18 episodes? Well TZ was used as a midseason replacement for another show that got the axe. Oh and even though there’s only 18 episodes, they were lengthened to an hour long each to fill the timeslot, so that’s sort of like getting 36 episodes, right? Oh and I don’t want to totally dismiss these ZONEs out of hand as there are some good episodes to be found here, like “Mute” and “Death Ship” both penned by Richard Matheson or the Serling-written "The Thirty-Fathom Grave" that combine the horrors of war and the mystery of the TWILIGHT ZONE perfectly. All I’ saying is that there is no "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" or the like to be found here. No, “Nightmare” doesn’t appear until next season.

As for the extras, there’s a ton to choose from. There are brand new audio commentaries for 13 out of the 18 episodes. If that wasn’t enough jabbering, there even more commentaries from the old DVD release. There are interviews with a handful of behind the scenes people. Seven radio dramas are present featuring the vocal acting talents of Jason Alexander, Lou Diamond Phillips, Blair Underwood and others. All of the episodes have their soundtracks isolated, just in case you want to listen to the music of the ZONE and each has promos for next week’s episode from Mr. Serling himself. There are bloopers, classic commercials, a promo for a famous writers school, and even a pretty funny skit from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

This is TWILIGHT ZONE, people. If you love horror, sci-fi, mystery, and just plain weird stories then getting this is a no brainer. The ZONE has never look or sounded this good or had this many extras. Simply put, this is the best version of this classic TV show ever produced. So stop reading already and go, get it today and you can be scaring yourself silly tonight. Consider this on highly recommended.

--Brian M. Sammons

THE EAST IS RED #21: Kim Ji-woon’s I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)

by Lisa Morton

First off, let’s get something straight: Kim Ji-woon’s new film I SAW THE DEVIL is not the most ultraviolent film ever made, contrary to the numerous reviews stating such. Hong Kong’s lunatic slasher of last year, DREAM HOME (which I previously reviewed for this column) had far more excessive gore. It was also – sadly – a better film.
I say “sadly” because I happen to believe that South Korea’s Kim Ji-woon is quite possibly the world’s greatest filmmaker, and I SAW THE DEVIL – despite its considerable flaws – doesn’t change that notion. There’s no question that every frame is extraordinary, and several shots are just plain jaw-dropping.
There are two big problems with I SAW THE DEVIL, though…or maybe three, if you count the fact that virtually every one of Kim’s other movies is a classic, especially his 2003 A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, which I call the finest horror film of the last thirty years.

I SAW THE DEVIL is a horror film about a serial killer, and it certainly begs comparisons to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, SE7EN, and BLUE VELVET (it even includes a direct homage to David Lynch’s 1986 classic, when a kid poking through a field finds a bag containing a severed ear). It starts with a serial killer, Kyung-chul (played by South Korea’s number one bad guy Choi Min-sik, of OLDBOY and SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE) capturing and killing a young woman whose fiancé, Kim Soo-hyeon (Lee Byung-hun), is a government agent. Soo-hyeon uses his police connections to track down Kyung-chul, but that’s just the beginning: He wants the murderer to suffer, so he releases Kyung-chul, tracks him down again, and so on.
The first third of I SAW THE DEVIL is promising, very effective, and incredibly tense. Lee Byung-hun, who’s done fine work for Kim previously in A BITTERSWEET LIFE and especially THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, is splendid as the tormented agent who shows us in excruciating detail the human tragedy behind an anonymous slaying. In fact, for a while it seems that I SAW THE DEVIL is going to explore this aspect, and it’s heart-wrenching to watch. Kim films the murders without any hint of exoticism or eroticism; they’re messy, painful, awful affairs that spread pain outward from the victim like ripples in a pond. Choi Min-sik plays the killer as pure id; Kyung-chul is a vicious, ugly, stupid man whose all-consuming hatred is directed primarily at women. I guarantee every woman who watches I SAW THE DEVIL will have one of those shivery moments of recognition; we’ve all encountered this man somewhere, and considered ourselves fortunate to walk away unscathed.
Here again, I SAW THE DEVIL offers up the potentially fascinating idea that a serial killer can be an ordinary, ugly man, lacking the charisma and charm of a Hannibal Lecter, the supernatural power of a Michael Myers, or the sheer, almost-comic oddness of a Leatherface…and yet after that forty minute mark, I SAW THE DEVIL makes the first of its big mistakes, when it introduces a second murderer who is indeed all those things, right down to even sporting a leather apron.

It’s asking a lot to expect an audience to buy that the government agent would continually release this walking ball of murderous fury (surprise! He kills whenever he’s freed again), but all pretense of logic flies out the window when Kyung-chul magically hooks up with an old buddy who is a cannibalistic killer. From this point on, I SAW THE DEVIL spirals ever downwards in terms of plausibility. Forget that everyone in this movie can endure endless beatings, stabbings, gougings, strangulations, and bashings; we accept this, after all, in horror movies, even those striving for some sense of realism. No, I SAW THE DEVIL’s script (by Park Hoon-jung) becomes a panoply of those eye-rolling moments that not even the world’s best director can save. Cops act like idiots, story elements are introduced (like two killer dogs) and then abandoned, major characters (Soo-hyeon’s almost-sister-in-law) are simply tossed aside, and even the most stalwart fan of Choi Min-sik’s performance will be screaming, “Just kill this guy already!”
Logic (or, more specifically, lack thereof) is one of I SAW THE DEVIL’s big problems, and the other is theme. After all those false starts, the movie really does come down to nothing more than “to pursue a monster is to become a monster”. There are no clever abrupt left turns here, no revelations (and this from the director of A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, which offered one of the most startling and perfect climactic revelations in all of cinema). The theme, which has been done to death in everything from cheap thriller novels to episodic television, would barely sustain a short, let alone a major feature. There are too many other interesting notions lurking just under the surface – like the toll murder exacts on survivors, or the notion that a serial killer is simply the craziest in a crazy world, or the suggestion that murderous misogyny might be commonplace – but none of those are what I SAW THE DEVIL finally chooses to end with, and more’s the pity.

But Kim’s astonishing direction still makes this a true cinematic experience. It takes some kind of genius to make an overhead shot of an unconscious girl being dragged through snow beautiful. Kim’s Korea is a place filled with joyless decay; even the mansion where Kyung-chul’s flesh-eating friend is encamped is a masterpiece of neo-Gothic design, a brooding example of rotting decadence. The film’s most astonishing scene happens in a cab, when Kyung-chul realizes the driver and his other passenger are robbers. Kyung-chul acts first, and what follows is one of those mesmerizing “how the hell did they do that?!” shots, as Kim’s camera whirls in 360 degrees around the three men in the cab as they fight each other, all while the cab careens out of control. It’s the kind of breathtaking cinema we’ve come to expect from the filmmaker who staged a chase across the Mongolian desert in his last film and a blood-drenched, hypnotic bullet ballet in the film before that.
I’m also a fan of Kim’s scores, and I SAW THE DEVIL is no exception. As with many other Korean soundtracks, Mowg’s music relies to great effect on acoustic guitar, although it shifts to heavy percussion for the action scenes. If it doesn’t quite cohere the way Lee Byung-woo’s gorgeous score for TWO SISTERS did, it’s nonetheless one of the more interesting scores to grace any film recently.
In the end, the best I can say is that I’d recommend I SAW THE DEVIL to those who like blood and are willing to endure a heap of illogic in exchange for plenty of brilliant direction. Don’t expect A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (or THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, for that matter), but if you can suspend some disbelief, you’ll enjoy the ride Kim and his two lead actors provide.
(This review was based on a viewing of the Korean theatrical version. I haven’t yet seen the international version released in the U.S., so your mileage may vary.)

--Lisa Morton

Movies Worth Googling: Strange Movie Reviews by Jenny Orosel

“That Was Our First Encounter With Disco Mutants”: The Future That Never Was

There’s a few thousand billboards across the United States announcing the Rapture as coming on May 20, 2011 (presumably, he doesn’t care if any Australians are saved and has chosen not to warn them). Mind you, the same man, Harold Camping, also predicted the same end of the universe in 1994. As the day gets closer, he has been at the center of much mocking. However, Camping isn’t the first man to make failed predictions of our doomed future.

In 1970, director Peter Watkins made a chilling movie called "Punishment Park". The premise is that , in the near future (meaning 1973 or 1974) anti-war demonstrations have gotten too big, and President Nixon has invoked the McCarran Internal Security Act, allowing for prison camps to be created for those believed to be a risk to national security, either by act or by thought. If convicted of crimes against the nation, a person is given a choice between a prison term at a Federal prison, or a round of playing "Punishment Park". The game of "Punishment Park" is simple—the inmates have three days to race 56 miles across the desert with no food, water or shelter, with police and the military in pursuit, to reach a flag, thus earning their freedom. If they fail, they must serve out their sentence. These camps serve as both punishment to the inmates and training for law enforcement. As of the time of the movie, nobody is known to have won at "Punishment Park". The inmates featured have committed crimes ranging from being Conscientious Objectors to inciting dissidence by either song or writings. As the movie goes on, we learn that the game is rigged so it is impossible for anyone to win, and the inmates aren’t merely captured; none will make it out alive.

This movie is easy to toss aside as a “future that never happened” because, well, it didn’t. Nixon wasn’t even president much after the release of the movie. The camps were never created, and the military were never given free rein to murder whichever citizens they saw fit. However, the fear still exists in Americans, forty years later. After 9/11, there were a lot of liberals who feared Bush would invoke Martial Law and arrest anyone who spoke out against him. Today, during the Obama administrations, many pundits have “warned” the public that he plans on making concentration camps and lock up all the conservatives. The specific world of "Punishment Park" never happened, but the fear is still real among many. As each old president leaves office, we can point and say, “See, the fears were unfounded. It didn’t happen,” but a new group will still have the same fears with the next leader down the line.

"Dead End Drive In", an Australian movie from 1986, has all sorts of instigators for its dystopian world. Riots, nuclear accidents, economic crashes occurring between 1988 and 1990 have created a world where streets are overrun with layabouts obsessed with cars. Car culture has taken over so much that lethal accidents are commonplace. Luckily, this means being a tow truck driver can lead to a comfortable life. Our hero, Crabs, dreams of being a tow truck driver like his brother but just can’t quite get it together. To take his mind off their troubles, Crabs and his girlfriend Carmen go to the drive-in theatre. Luckily there’s an “Unemployed” discount. Only too late does he realize the drive-in is actually a camp for the unemployed. There’s no evil tortures going on, it’s more of a welfare slum. Food is provided, showers are provided, blankets are available. You sleep in your car. It’s its own insulated community. Most everyone there is happy with the way things are. Not Crabs. He wants to escape. But how? His tires were stolen, and you’re only allowed to drive out of the drive-in.

"Dead End Drive In" was based on a Peter Carey short story. In the story, Crabs, through sheer will, turns himself into a tow truck, drives out of the camp, realizes the outside world is bleak and empty, tries to return to the camp and is no longer allowed inside. I think that would have made an awesome end to the movie. Instead, the movie Crabs steals a cop car and dramatically drives through a neon sign, bursting his way to freedom. A whole different affirmation of the power of the individual. I dig that. The futuristic world, that fails. It fails not just because twenty one years have passed and it never came to pass. It fails on many parts. Good luck finding ANY drive in theatre that has survived. Even in the world of the 80s in which this movie was created, drive in theatres were already on the wane, so that was faulty observation on the director’s part there. The question that bothered me most through this movie, though, is that these drive ins/camps were all over Australia, each holding thousands of people. Yet, word never got out of their existence? How could NO ONE be aware that so many people went to the drive in movies and never came back? Still, it’s a fun little time capsule into the 80s with the pseudo punk/new wave fashions and electropop soundtrack.

A year before "Dead End Drive In", Albert Pyun directed a little flick called "Radioactive Dreams". According to the prologue, every nuclear bomb in the world was dropped in 1996…all of them, except for one, for which the keys were lost and never found. When the bombs started flying, two five year old boys were locked in a bomb shelter by their fathers. Fourteen years later, the fathers had never returned and the boys decide to leave the shelter and explore the world outside. In the absence of parents, the two had only their books to raise them. They were private eye books. The two, now men named Philip and Marlowe, are all decked out as you would expect the best 50s Private Dicks to be dressed. They find a car, start it up, and head out to both explore and maybe find their fathers. Along the way they come across a biker gang of bald new wavers, homicidal disco mutants, cannibal hippies and come in possession of the keys to the last nuclear bomb. Oh, and they meet their fathers who never give a reason why they never came back.

"Radioactive Dreams" falls squarely into the subgenre of “Cinema du WTF”. This was not a future that was to happen, a warning of what we could become. No, this movie was simply an exercise in absurdity. Nothing is answered, and if you give yourself time to stop and think, there are a LOT of questions you can come up with. Luckily, it is so fast paced that you really don’t get a chance to think. Pyun, who had previously made "The Sword and the Sorcerer" (1982) and went on to direct the 1990 version of "Captain America", seemed to want nothing more from this movie than to make a fun, and often silly, ride. He succeeded immensely.

Mind you, these futures didn’t come to pass. That doesn’t necessarily mean they never will. Perhaps those prison camps for thought crimes will open up with the next administration. Or maybe the megaplex theatres will become the slums of the poor and jobless. And for all I know we are a meager five years from Disco Mutants terrorizing our roads. And Harold Camping might be right, and the world will end May 21st. In that case, you aren’t reading this and I wasted my time running spell check. Damn.
(NOTE TO READERS: In case you haven't noticed, the world did not end as prophesized by Camping...not even a decent zombie apocalypse, much to this editor's disappointment.)

"Punishment Park" is available, but not usually at places like your neighborhood Best Buy. A copy from EBay or Amazon will run you between 10 and 15 dollars.
"Dead End Drive In" recently went out of print, but copies can be found for less than five dollars.
"Radioactive Dreams" was never released on DVD, at least not yet. There is a rumor floating around that it will be released directly from the director, but I have been unable to confirm this by the press date of this piece. It is, however, on VHS if you still have one of the players lying around.

--Jenny Orosel