Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Halloween!

I was going to write a brand-new review tonight, but my party just ended and I'm more than a little buzzed. I'm afraid you'll have to wait a while longer for a legitimate post. Still, I can't leave you without any treats on Halloween, so here's a charming little tune that our friends at Rue Morgue shared:

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Beating an Un-Dead Horse

Ideas are fickle things. When I started as a clerk at the Drive-In, I was full to the brim with ideas of what I could write about. Fate, however, often has other plans. I've had my own bout of writer's block recently, even for my own blog that is separate from the Drive-In. It lasted quite a while, with everything I wrote sounding stupid to me within a few sentences. Now, however, with school once again getting my creative juices flowing, my ideas have come back from the dead. And, as my creative side feels like a zombie that's recently reanimated, it's only appropriate that my first article back should be about zombies. Specifically, about the over-saturation of the carnivorous un-dead horde in the world today.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Graveyard Playground

Alright, so I'm posting on Sunday instead of Monday or Friday. It's still this week, give me a break.

Since I was old enough to walk, my favorite theme park attraction in all the world has been The Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World (Orlando, FL). Despite all the project turmoil and personal tragedy its creators endured, the mansion ended up a masterpiece of atmosphere, detail, and fun, the hallmarks of classic Disney. Filled to overflowing with clever gags, eerie characters, and evocative music, millions of people have made their way through this retirement home for the dearly departed since it opened in 1971 (the original opened at Disneyland in California two years prior).

It was also the perfect way to introduce young'uns to spooky concepts. The place was just unsettling enough to be interesting, but once you got through to the end of the ride, you realize that all the ghosts (at least, all the ghosts you come across) are a jovial sort who just want to have a good time, and there's no real danger. Outside though, the brick and mortar looms over guests like a living thing, and the wolf howls don't help to ease your sense of fear.

For 40 years, the mansion remained largely unchanged. Oh sure, there'd be audio tweaks, and they did add a new bride to the attic, but for the most part all 999 happy haunts kept themselves to themselves, waiting for us inside. That is, until this past April, when Disney employees (I refuse to call these jokers Imagineers, they don't deserve the title) made huge, expensive, and idiotic changes that forever altered the vibe of this once-great attraction.

The day the mansion died.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sun, Lies, and Tortured Souls

Alright, if any of you are still paying attention to the drive-in after nearly three months of silence, you are my heroes. I think we've all learned a little lesson: never believe Rabbi when he makes a promise. Twice in the last 10 weeks, I've "promised" to get back to blogging so you'd all have something new to absorb. The archives that Daffy and I built up are impressive, but they don't take one-fifth of a year to read.

The plain and simple fact is that I've been busy. I've got a new full-time job (and two other part-time jobs). I'm hanging out with friends. I'm visiting family. And I'm going to Mickey's Not-so-scary Halloween Party this October, so I need to focus on saving my cash, not to mention thinking up an awesome costume. Given the current length of my beard, I'm considering attending as Rebeus Hagrid.

There's something else that's kept me away from my keyboard lately. It's just too darn nice outside. Let's be honest here, it's hard to be a spooky kid when the weather beckons for you to take a swim. I like the cold, the dark, and the scary, sure. But I won't pretend I don't like a pool, a tan, and a game of frisbee as well. I'm not a Goth. I need to explore the outdoors once in awhile.

So all that said, it's been tough coming up with things to write about. Some people figured I got bored with the idea. Nope, not even close. I've just been hibernating from horror a bit. Now that summer is on its last legs and Halloween is a couple months away, my blood and guts is once again hungry for some blood... and guts.

I haven't spoken to Daffy since his last post, but I'm sure he's eager to continue on. The guy is just as busy as I am, if not more so, so he's had much the same problem coming up with content. Hopefully, he'll be back with a new piece later in the week. I've given up on posting every day; mostly because it's difficult thinking of compelling material, but also because the both of us have now posted plenty of interesting blogs with worthy topics of discussion, not to mention our book and movie reviews. If you haven't combed through all the old posts yet, please do and add to the discussion! I think you'll like what you find. I'm planning on updating the site at least once a week, possibly every Monday and/or Friday night. Don't hold me to that though, we know how I tend to welch on commitments.

Those of you who've been reading us from the beginning are the coolest, and I want to say thanks for sticking with it. Keep telling your friends and readers about The Haunted Drive-in, we appreciate the help.

I don't want to close this return post by being all mushy and sentimental, so I'll let you all in on a tidbit. Curtis RX of the band Creature Feature has just released the second single for his upcoming pet project Rufus Rex. Click here to download "Worlds In-between" with its sweet "Name Your Price" feature. Nifty guy that he is, Curtis would rather people have the song for free than not have it at all, but if you can donate any amount (all the money goes towards completion of the album, which he hopes to release before Halloween), then cheers!

Stay spooky everyone...

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Moonlight Spotlight: Winifred Sanderson

Hello and welcome back to the Moonlight Spotlight, where we put little known fiends of fright-fests at center stage! Last time, we had a small appetizer, a creepy cartoon from deep inside Looney Tunes Laboratories. Today, we're hitting puberty, but we're not quite at the big leagues yet. And with puberty comes certain phases. This time, we're going through that witchy phase. There's just something that is unsettling about witches. It could be their evil cackle, obsession with the color black, or their tendency to turn harmless children into rats. Whatever the reason, they're terrifying to little kids. Especially when they're played by Bette Midler. Yes, dear fiends, we're looking at a wicked witch from the past, Winifred Sanderson of the Sanderson Sisters.

This was Bette Midler's reaction when she got the part.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Great Green Gobs Of... Oh, You Know

It may not be all that well-known in the current day and age, but when I was a kid, everybody knew the song that started with the immortal words "great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts" because it's, and I'm sure you'll agree, one of the best songs ever written. When a friend asked me the other day what the words were, I was surprised to discover that the lyrics I had grown up with were not the same that he remembered from his own childhood. Turns out, there's quite a few different versions of this thing.

The earliest recording can be traced back to 1959, from an album called The Sounds of Camp. This was added to the Smithsonian compilation A Fish That's a Song. No copyright or author credit is given on the Smithsonian release, and to this day, the song remains an anonymous piece. It does seem obvious that the work started as a kind of American folk song in summer camps, but this is speculation based on the information available. The disgusting tune was a hit anyway, and millions of kids began changing the lyrics to make it even more disgusting and entertaining.

The idea is simple enough: just combine body parts, dead animals, and other unsavory things and make it fit the beat. I first heard the song in a collection entitled Spooky Tunes! (which is the book I was trying to remember back in my very first post). Although the first line is always the same, each version adds different phrases to the chorus, and sometimes a different ending line as well. The version I'm familiar with is called "Spooky Stew" and features this first stanza:

Great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts
Scabs, scratches bumps and cuts
Yuck it sounds disgusting but
Just throw them in your musty rusty crusty pot and
BOO! It's spooky stew

You can view several variations on the song's Wikipedia page. Yes, Great Green Gobs has a Wikipedia page. Gotta love the internet. It's a gross song, sure, but man does it give me fond memories of my junior high years. Next time someone asks you what you'd like for dinner, start belting this little ditty and see how they react.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Scary Flicks Scaring Kids

Little kids are always being underestimated, especially when it comes to horror. Quality movies for all ages that could legitimately be called horror films are more elusive than unicorns. Like I've said before, it's occasionally because simple-minded adults believe that children have enough fears and suffering to deal with, but in the case of movies, it's mostly because "all-ages horror" translates into "crap" 99% of the time. Are there any scary movies the whole family can enjoy? That's a rhetorical question, don't shout the answer at your screen.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Coffin Couches

Hey scary kids, no post tonight, but take a look at this:

Basically, there's a company taking coffins that cannot be used for their intended purpose and turning them into functional and fashionable furniture. They have over two dozen styles to choose from, and the couches can be customized to include unique fabrics and paint schemes. I want one of these so much it hurts, but making the order would hurt even more, as these beauties do NOT come cheap. Average sticker price is about $3500, and that doesn't include shipping. Maybe someday...

Regardless of whether you can afford a coffin couch or not, visit the site and peruse their gallery. It might give you some good decorating ideas.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Review: Hymns From the House Of Horror Volume II

By now, you should have downloaded the new Hymns From the House Of Horror, Rue Morgue's annual gift of completely free musical monstrosities. When something this awesome is priced this cheap, how can you go wrong?

In my opinion, this year's collection is stylistically and thematically different from the original in a few important ways. The first Hymns more or less honored its title with eerie pieces that echoed the vibe of a dark, cavernous haunted domicile. The album didn't have a story, but you could say that there was a setting. Listening to the songs, especially certain lyrics, made me think of a large house with a graveyard nearby. The music and artists were eclectic enough, but in terms of what images and ideas they brought with them, everything seemed pretty unified.

With the current effort, Rue Morgue clearly wanted something new to set it apart from the first compilation. There was the addition of fake (and hilarious) grindhouse trailers, obviously, but the songs selected were quite another thing as well. This time around, the producers of the disc seemed to be saying "Well, let's not try to tie it all together thematically. Let's just throw everything we've got at the listener!" Ironically, this ended up giving the second Hymns a stronger theme than the first. With the audio trailers and artists that included such heavyweights as Calabrese and GWAR, Rue Morgue succeeded in crafting the perfect audio complement to cinematic experiences like Grindhouse. A thousand clashing styles and ideas and monsters have been thrown out, drenched in blood, and packaged in 20 short tracks. For a midnight screening, it's the norm. For a music compilation stuffed to the eyeballs with excellent bands and bizarre movie trailers? It's the most fun you'll have with a CD all year.

Not every song is a winner. I personally would have left off "Birthday" by So Sick Social Club and Madchild. It doesn't fit the vibe of the rest of the album, and just isn't a very interesting or enjoyable song to me (is there really any good horror rap? I haven't heard any). Still, this is but a minor quibble. Rue Morgue and their Monster of Ceremonies Tomb Dragomir have bestowed another winner upon their followers, and I hope they continue this for many years to come.

Remember, you only have until July 31st to get it, and when it's gone, IT'S GONE!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Are We In The Middle Of A Horror Drought?

The first decade of the 21st century has been many things to many people, but a wellspring of horror films it is most certainly not. We've gotten some solid zombie flicks, no question, and television is bubbling over with monsters of all kinds. In the cinematic world though, our ghouls and ghosts are largely passed over. All we've really gotten for awhile is remakes, watered-down PG-13 fluff, and torture porn. Ugh.

Of course, I'm exaggerating to make a point. Yes, we've gotten plenty of other great genre films in the past 10 years, and I'm sure all of you could name a few without much trouble. Still, this feels like a rather anemic time for horror. TV excepted, there have been relatively few offerings for gorehounds recently. We can stretch the definition a little, call something "a fantasy film with horror elements" to fill in the gap, but it doesn't help much. This isn't anything new, of course. Movies are like the tide: there's an ebb and flow to people's tastes. This especially rings true for genre work. Slasher films and ghost stories will disappear for a few years, then make a comeback based on the strength of one impressive effort (you think there'd be Insidious without Paranormal Activity? Pfft).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Ghost's Story

(Author's Note: A short story in place of an article today. Happy reading!)

Let's start this story with the twist ending: I'm already dead.
I just wanted you to know right off the bat. I don't want to be accused of ripping off another hack writer.

That said, being a ghost isn't all it's cracked up to be. For one, I don't remember anything. I don't remember my family, my home town, my favorite movie. I don't even remember my name. Don't get me wrong, though. I remember movies and pop culture. I remember history, math, and how to read. I guess all the personal stuff doesn't come with you when you go. From what I can gather, I'm a male in my early twenties and I was shot somewhere in the vicinity of my left ear. The only reason I know this is because, at times when the wind is just right, I hear a whistling by there. Being that I have no reflection, I can't check it out for myself. How do I know I'm a guy in my early twenties? Just this feeling I get that I am. Now, I could be a forty year old man that was going through a mid life crisis, but I'd rather think I'm twenty.

Review: So I Married An Axe Murderer

Michael Myers hasn't been in a real laugh-fest for years. I wish it weren't so, I like the guy and some of the goofball characters he's created. But, if you want to watch a really funny Myers flick, you've got to go back to the 1990s. The first Austin Powers film, Wayne's World obviously, and then, there's this little gem.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Matthew Lillard Is A Quality Killer

Like any genre or medium, horror and sci-fi have their fair share of iconic stars. There's Bruce Campbell, Sigourney Weaver, Robert Englund, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi, Harrison Ford... the list goes on. For every A-lister though, there's a dozen unknowns who never get their due. And some of them really need the encouragement, because they give each role their best. You want to know who the unsung hero of horror is? Look no further than Matthew Lillard.

Yeah, the guy from Scooby-Doo. Since the start of his career, Lillard has opted for roles that either pitted him against monsters, or had him become the monster himself. His first credit was as an extra on the set of Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College. From these questionable beginnings, he snagged a role as Chip, the son of Kathleen Turner's titular psycho in Serial Mom. Not too bad for a second job. Young Matthew worked steadily through the 90s in television and short films. In 1996, Wes Craven made him an automatic entry in the Horror Hall of Fame with a little story called Scream, and that's when things started to get interesting.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Quoth the Raven...

Inspired by my co-writer's ideas, I've decided to share some poetry with you all for a change of pace. I know that one doesn't usually think of that sort of thing when one thinks of horror, but there are plenty of great wordsmiths who had a gift for the macabre. Edgar Allan Poe is the obvious name, but there's also people like Jack Prelutsky, e.e. cummings, Sylvia Plath, and more.

I don't pretend to be half as good as those listed above, but I know I enjoy writing poetry with some dark humor and gruesome subjects. I thought I'd post the one I'm most proud of, not only because I came up with a good tale to tell, but also because the rhymes and structure of the poem really work, at least to me. It's entitled "Old Man Johnson's Missus" and was written in 2006. This work is copyrighted, so please don't copy it or post it elsewhere without my permission. I hope you like it!

"Old Man Johnson's Missus"

It was broken down and boarded up
The windows seemed to glare
We crawled like snakes to the dark front door
I could tell my friend was scared

"I'm telling you, it's haunted
By Old man Johnson's missus.
If you enter she'll murder you
And you'll forever do her dishes"

"You're a liar" he said nervously
"There's no ghosts in there.
You just wanna tell the guys
I wimped out of another dare"

"Go on in then, you're so smart.
If you need me give a shout"
He crossed the threshold, shut the door
And never came back out

I don't know what happened to my friend
That's the last time he was seen
Still, whenever I peek in that house's windows
The plates are always clean

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fear Every Drop: Part 1

For some odd reason, lately I have been wanting to go to Disney World. Now, those of you who have gone probably don't consider that odd. After all, it's a wonderful amusement park with great rides. What I find odd is that I wanna go so badly that it's invaded my dreams. And one ride in particular invaded my dreams fully last night. A spooky attraction that is now considered a classic. It's an adventure with ghosts, scares, and an ultra cool narrator. Nope, not the Haunted Mansion. It's The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Horror Stories: Not Suitable for School

(Author's Note: The content of this article is completely suitable for schools, workplaces, libraries, Starbucks, and home. The title is just representative and ironic.)

So, thus far in my career at the Haunted Drive-In, I've talked a lot about entertaining things. Mostly, my posts have been about stuff I've observed in the entertainment world. That's all well and good, but what does that tell you about me? You know I like horror-comedies, I grew up with Meanies, I've played Portal 2... That's about it. Whereas with Rabbi, he's talked more about his experiences with things related to horror, horror-comedy, or just movie-going in general. That's why today, I've decided to relay a little tale about an experience I once had. What ties it to the Drive-In exactly? Well, it involves a story I once wrote... A horror story.

"I'll Be Back... Maybe"

Now that he's no longer the governor of California, rumors are running rampant (as all good rumors do) that old pro Arnold Shwarzenegger could be returning to the role that made him famous: the unstoppable T-800 assassin in the storied Terminator franchise. And I do mean old. The former action star is pushing 65. Still, Hollywood seems hellbent on the idea of turning him into a killing machine one more time. So, the ancient question arises - good idea or bad idea?

This is a good idea in theory. If I had any hope that the studio behind the 5th Terminator film could give us a decent story with a reasonable explanation for why an android who shouldn't age looks decades older, then I'd be cautiously optimistic. But there's a problem. We have yet to see a reboot of a grand old sci-fi property from the 70s or 80s that didn't get screwed up royally by screenwriters and directors just looking for a quick buck. In the last 15 years, we've had to endure the Alien vs. Predator flicks, the Transformers franchise, the Star Wars prequels, and of course Terminator: Salvation. 

With the right director and the right script, this could work. I repeat, could. I'd love to see what J.J. Abrams would do with the franchise, or Joss Whedon perhaps. The only name they're throwing around right now is Justin Lin, who most recently directed Fast Five. Yes, the future of SkyNet could be determined by the man who directed the fourth sequel in the Fast and Furious line of movies. Oi. (Although to be fair, Fast Five has far better reviews than anyone predicted. Still...)

I believe that if handled well, Ahh-nold would deliver. I've always liked the man's performances, even when they're not very good. He was perfect for the stern, deadly serious T-800, and if they thought of a good explanation for why the robot is now a senior citizen, he'd do the script justice. But they won't, and he shouldn't. This is a bad idea, simply because when it comes to successful reboots of beloved sci-fi franchises, Hollywood misses the mark 99% of the time. Don't do it Arnold, don't do it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shaun Of the Dead: The Gateway Drug Of Horror Movies?

It can be really difficult for those of us who dig monsters and freaks to get other people to see a movie with us. In my experience, most of my friends either think that horror movies are garbage for cinematic or psychological reasons, or they scare easily and don't want to watch anything that might give them nightmares. And I get that. Still, I get tired of doing everything by myself. What flick hooks in people who aren't gorehounds? What one movie could be considered the gateway drug of horror? In my opinion, the answer is clear...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Return to the House Of Horror

Last year, Rue Morgue Magazine showed some creepy love to the fans by releasing Hymns From the House Of Horror, a 17-song compilation of b-sides and unreleased tracks from the top names in musical ghoulery -for free. The collection was such a hit, they've decided to do it again. Prepare yourselves for another heaping helping of audio abnormalities.

The original Hymns was part of a celebration for Rue Morgue's 100th issue, with contributions from the likes of Midnight Syndicate, Creature Feature, Harley Poe, and more. This year's release will feature a similar vibe, but rather more eclectic artists. Among the 20(!) bands promised are Calabrese, Gwar, The Young Werewolves, and Blood Ceremony. As a bonus, the songs will be spliced with audio trailers for grindhouse flicks that don't exist, and the album's artwork will be made available for digital download like last year's.

Hosted by Rue Morgue Radio's monster of ceremonies Tomb Dragomir, the first Hymns was a freaky-awesome mixtape of somber and silly, dark and delightful, words and other adjectives. If you want a great horror soundtrack for the low low price of free, then don't pass this up. Volume II drops at the stroke of midnight May 1st. You have until the end of July to make it yours, fellow ghoulies. Visit the Rue Morgue website for all the details.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Halfway to Halloween

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. For many, it marks the resurrection of their Savior Jesus from the dead (and no, He was not a zombie). For others, it's simply a good excuse to gorge on marshmallow Peeps and Cadbury's Creme eggs. For a select few, Easter means just one thing: we're halfway to Halloween! And thanks to director Michael Dougherty, we've got a real treat to celebrate the occasion. Watch and groan:

Isn't Sam just adorable with his bunny ears?

Despite the studio's wretched treatment of the film, Trick 'r Treat has managed to become one of the most beloved horror anthologies of all time. Its wicked humor, strong cast, and intersecting stories make for one frightfully funny flick, not to mention that the movie is actually about Halloween, instead of just being set on Halloween night. As if all that weren't enough, Dougherty has given us one of the most unique supernatural observers in cinema, making Sam (the spirit of Halloween, or Samhain) a mysterious and deadly creature in the form of a little tyke. If you don't follow the rules of the holiday, you can rest assured that Sam will stick you with more than coal in your stocking like some other festive icons. More likely, he'll stick you with a knife.

The film's official Twitter recently announced that Sam would return eventually. Fans are hopeful for an official sequel, but for now, this pastel-and-blood-colored short will have to suffice. FEARnet, the site that hosts this clip, says that they will be showing Trick 'r Treat for 24 hours this Halloween. Most gorehounds already own it on DVD or blu-ray (and if you don't, what's wrong with you?), but speculate that the marathon will feature new vignettes with Sam and his victims. We'll have to wait and see, I suppose.

On a semi-related topic, this short brings up an old argument: is there really a horror film for every major holiday? Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and others are covered, but I can't remember any flicks that make mincemeat of Easter. Anyone?

Review: Mr. Boogedy (25th Anniversary!)

No one will believe this, but it wasn't that long ago that the Disney Channel showed classic animated films and quality original content. Anyone younger than 20 will not be able to remember, and those of us who are old enough are unfortunately losing grasp of our memories. But it's true! The Disney Channel survived for years on movies and shows for the whole family, not just sitcom dreck that appeals to preteen girls. And like the best Disney animated classics, their made-for-television stories were occasionally intense, arguably too intense for the core audience. That's what made them so much fun. I doubt any of you have seen the movie I'm discussing tonight, and if you have, then you can count yourself very lucky indeed. Let's talk about Mr. Boogedy.

"He had a grilled-cheese sandwich kinda face."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blades Don't Need Reloading

Guns aren't scary.

Are they dangerous? Well, duh. Are they responsible for gruesome ends? All the time. Would I be fearing for my life if one happened to be pointed in my direction with malicious intent? You bet your pet corpse. That doesn't make them scary though.

Not scary, unless we're talking about the haircut.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Except the Ones Who are Dead

As many of you may know, Portal 2 came out a short time ago. Being a gamer who loves puzzle games (especially the humorous ones), I ran to the store to buy it the first day. I have been playing it ever since. As such, I have had one thing on my mind: Portal 2. Still, the Drive-In needs a show every night. And I need to keep up my end of this partnership with Rabbi. So, I've been thinking. And while I would do a Moonlight Spotlight on GLaDOS (and there's little doubt I will in the future), I think I've had enough of looking at why certain characters are scary for a while. Instead, let's look at something that, to my knowledge, hasn't been talked about on the Drive-In before. Let's look at a song. A perfectly harmless and catchy song to anyone else, but for me, this song is terrifying: Still Alive.

Interview: Joshua Hoffine, Horror Photographer

A couple weeks ago, I posted a feature on the work of Joshua Hoffine, a husband and father who's turning murder into an art. I don't mean literally of course. Mr. Hoffine has been making headlines with his surreal photography that gives rise to humanity's shared anxieties and phobias, with gruesome detail and admirable technique. Joshua graciously granted our request for an interview, and we can say straight off that his cookie trick really works.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

They'll Fix You. They Fix Everything

It's no secret that I'm more of a horror guy than a sci-fi fan, but that doesn't mean I never get my future kicks. There's dozens of great movies in my collection that fit the bill, from Alien to Back To the Future and everything in between. And one of the greatest sci-fi franchises the 1980s ever gave us has to be RoboCop.

"This is my BOOMSTI- whoa, sorry there, wrong franchise."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Horror, The Oscars, And Me

Horror and sci-fi are rarely big winners at the Academy Awards. Oh sure, Black Swan had an impressive haul, and everyone remembers how Silence of the Lambs managed to sweep all the major prizes. Still, unless you broaden your definition of horror to include family-friendly cartoons and "psychological thrillers" (Which is what Black Swan is, let's be fair here), the spooky stuff is usually like Rodney Dangerfield in the eyes of Oscar: no respect.

I realize I'm preaching to the choir here, but be patient. Horror films are as a valid a work of art as any other movie, aren't they? Why should they be constantly passed over for the most prestigious trophies, shuffled off to one side for the statues no one cares about, like sound design or make-up? Well, if we're going to be honest, it's because most horror movies just aren't very good. That's not a problem for a true fan; as I've said before, we can have a great time with a good movie or a wretched one. But the critics and Academy voters tend to see the bad horror films and forget the ones that were crafted with skill and effort. You know what they say about one bad apple spoiling the bunch? Well, it's the Saws and Twilights of the world that complicate the chances of far more deserving scary movies getting a nod. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Moonlight Spotlight: Gossamer the Monster

Before we begin, let me apologize for... Uhm... Whatever happened to me last time. I don't know what came over me. One moment, I'm writing a ghost story, the next my keyboard somehow shocks me and I go unconscious. I must have finished the article, though, because I saw it got posted.

Anyway, enough about that. Welcome to a new segment I'm introducing called the Moonlight Spotlight! This is where I discuss little known icons of horror. Let's be honest, Freddy, Jason, Mike and those lot have been talked about to death (pun totally intended). It's time the under-zombie got his share of attention. Now, this is our first foray into little known fear mongers. Our fangs are barely coming in yet. So, let's start off with a small appetizer before we get into anything with bite. He's the first laboratory experiment I remember seeing as a kid. It's Gossamer the Monster.

I bet you didn't even know he had a name, did you?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Preview: The Perfect Host

Dark comedy is a difficult thing to pull off, especially for American filmmakers. Our collective desire for a happy ending (not to mention our sensitivity towards jokes about serious subject matter) make black humor a big risk at the box office. The only directors who try on a regular basis are the Coen brothers, and to be fair, they hit the mark only about half the time. Seeing a trailer for a movie that looks like it's literally swimming in such evil lunacy? It makes a horror fan hopeful.

The trailer starts with a crook named John on the run from police, having successfully swiped over $300,000. He worms his way into the house of a man named Warwick, who seems like just another frightened home invasion victim. After John samples some wine though, things get weird. The tables turn violently, putting Warwick in control. After all, he's not about to let some punk bank robber spoil his dinner party.

It's difficult to tell exactly what kind of movie The Perfect Host wants to be. There's allusions to The Strangers, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, even the sitcom Frasier, which seems only appropriate with David Hyde Pierce in the lead. This is definitely a new role for the television veteran. In the two minutes of trailer I've seen, his performance already looks like an Oscar contender: funny, disturbing, and full of quirks. It's impossible to say how much of the film will feature the rest of the cast and how much will be the Warwick Show, but either way, it looks incredibly entertaining. I'm curious to see how the film handles the dueling thematic tones, as the trailer manages to shift from Wes Craven-style disturbing to Edgar Wright-style slapstick fairly easily.

Although premiering at the Sundance Film Festival over a year ago, The Perfect Host has yet to receive a mainstream or even limited release. Thankfully, it opens in theaters stateside July 1st, with the Video-On-Demand option available May 27th. So we won't have to wait much longer.

Whether it's a horror flick, a psychological thriller, or a black comedy worthy of Kurt Vonnegut, The Perfect Host is shaping up to be a can't-miss experience all the same. After watching the trailer, be sure to share your theories in the comments. My opinion? John's dead from the start.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Just A Guy In A Rubber Suit

Before we get too deep into tonight's discussion, a big thank you to Daffy for filling in last night when my laptop turned evil. Or maybe it was always evil, waiting for the moment to strike. Regardless, the man is a good friend and a great writer, and deserves kudos.

Giant monster movies are often considered the ugly stepchild in the horror community. They're not scary, the effects are laughable by today's standards, and there's a lot of sloppy editing, not to mention the ridiculously bad dubbing that's become a joke in itself. So why have they endured? What makes these characters so iconic, the thrills so durable, the imagery so revealing? And above all, what makes them so much damn fun?

Terrifying Tech

Technology is a marvel, isn't it? In the blink of an eye, a college kid from Miami and a working man in Virginia can be having a conversation through an instant messaging program. In the very next blink, however, technology may come crashing down from its high horse. Unfortunately, my fellow fright fans, both myself and Rabbi have had horrible luck with computers recently. Earlier this week, I had to take my computer in to... let's say a big corporation, in order to get it completely rebooted. Everything in it was replaced, including the hard drive. Rabbi is also currently experiencing some form of computer crisis as well. And from the sounds of it, it's the same thing that plagued my computer: a deadly virus. Well, okay, a Trojan. Which is even scarier than the flesh eating virus from Cabin Fever. So, as I haven't had much time to write an article, I'm basically winging it right now. You'll forgive me if my thoughts sound a bit muddled, I'm sure.

This photo isn't entirely accurate. My computer vomited less blood.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Ghost with the Most

Everyone praises Ghostbusters as THE paranormal comedy of the last thirty years. It's the best of the best and nobody can top it. It's got the best jokes, the spookiest looking monsters, the most likeable characters. Everyone talks about it all the time. And I agree, it's a perfect example of a paranormal comedy. But, I will also admit, it's not my absolute favorite freaky funny movie. There was one movie that I watched practically daily as a kid. A movie that my grandmother thought would shatter my poor young mind because I watched it so much. A movie about ghosts, exorcisms, a giant mutant snake monster, and Harry Belafonte. I'm sure you all remember Beetlejuice.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In Defense Of Ed Wood

Bloodrayne. In the Name of the King. Postal. Alone In the Dark. Seed. House of the Dead. Such titles instill fear in even the hardiest cinephile. Call director Uwe Boll a talentless hack, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees. However, many people are calling him something that I do disagree with. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he doesn't deserve it. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Joel vs. Mike: The Hosts of Mystery Science Theater 3000

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is perhaps the most iconic horrorhost television show ever made. Joel, Mike, and those zany bots Tom Servo and Crow spent 11 years making fun of gloriously bad movies, and with the inception and growth of the internet in the show's heyday, fansites sprang up by the hundreds. Of course, chatboards also sprang up, and with any good online discussion, a furious argument was soon born: "who's the better host?"

Gypsy was the most believable one.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: The Short Films of Jeremiah Kipp

It's always encouraging when someone with clout takes note of your work. The Haunted Drive-in is still a very young site, the current incarnation less than a month old. So when a director of two critically acclaimed short films and an upcoming feature emails me asking if I'd like to review his work, I pay attention. The pioneer in question is one Jeremiah Kipp, who graciously provided me links to his short films Crestfallen and Contact.

Review: The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy

Tim Burton has long been my favorite director. I've seen all of his films, I've attended his exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, and I've read all his books. Yes, he's an author too. Most of us know about the poem that gave birth to the animated classic The Nightmare Before Christmas, but Tim's got several more morbid rhymes up his sleeve. With a title like The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy And Other Stories, it's a fair bet that this poetry collection shares the vibe of his cinematic work: a little scary, very funny, and just plain weird.

The book contains a couple dozen poems with oddball protagonists. Almost all of them are children with supernatural handicaps or deformities who fall victim to cruelty and/or accidental death, a common theme with Burton. Some poems, such as the titular tale, go on for a few pages, while others may be a single sentence long. Burton favors simple rhyme schemes and basic structure; the comparisons to Dr. Seuss are justifiable. Of course, this is Dr. Seuss writing as Edgar Allan Poe. Most of the characters end up dead by the end of the poem through happenstance or violence, and those that make it out alive are either injured or afflicted with a curious condition. Each one is accompanied by illustrations that spell out the story, and Burton works in a scratchy, almost child-like style that is very appropriate for the book. True to form, he also manages to work in his two favorite holidays (Halloween and Christmas) in a few places.

Even though Oyster Boy's name is on the cover, the real draw here is Stainboy. He is one of a few characters to have two poems dedicated to him, and the author clearly has a soft spot for the sad superhero. Fans of Stainboy's flash-animated web series will notice other familiar faces throughout the book who appeared alongside (or against) him, such as Staring Girl and Roy, the Toxic Boy. 

The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy is short enough to be read in one sitting, and even though it's not great literature, it'll amuse any fan of dark humor and Tim Burton films. Hopefully, Burton will do another collection soon. It might be good for him to take a break from directing anyway. I mean, Alice In Wonderland? Sheesh.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

It's no secret that horror remakes (or any remakes at all) rarely deliver the goods. Fan outrage, CGI weariness, and confusing retconning have ruined more than one classic slasher flick, to say nothing of all the lovably cheesy haunted house films of the 50s and 60s. We could blame the studio system for this, but in reality, the reason these remakes get made lies with us. Maybe not the core horror community, but certainly the movie-going public at large.

There are three solid reasons why horror remakes don't live up to the original. The first is that it's near-impossible to make the hardcore fans happy. Even if the new film was good, it would get torn apart because the director who created the story wasn't involved. We all know that the Star Wars prequels were gigantic wastes of celluloid, but prior to the release of The Phantom Menace, anticipation was huge. Do you think the fanboys would have been anywhere close to that excited if Lucas wasn't at the helm? A good remake is a rare and wonderful thing, but there will always be enough nerds around to convince us that it's not as good as the first one. And they're almost always right.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Everybody Say "Die"

There are plenty of different sites and publications devoted to horror, but few of them are given over to a specific artistic path. Other than in the literary or cinematic world, there's not a lot of folks who would put the word "horror" in front of their occupation. You rarely see terms like "horror sculptor" or "horror chef" floating around. Well, meet Joshua Hoffine, horror photographer.

"This breastfeeding is KILLING me."

Spooky, yes? Since early 2008, Mr. Hoffine has been making headlines with his provocative, occasionally controversial work. Fascinated by the psychology of fear, he gives all of his photos the film set treatment, with specialty construction, elaborate make-up, costumes, props, and actors. Hoffine doesn't skimp on the gore, throwing stage blood and fake insides everywhere. There's elements of fairy tales, slasher films, torture porn (thankfully, not too much), and universal fears, such as the fear of monsters under the bed. His daughters often act as the soon-to-be victims, with close friends and family (even grandma!) filling in for the hideous freaks lurking around the corner.

What makes these creepy scenes work is the primal, almost primitive nature of the terrors laid out in front of us. Who hasn't carefully checked a noise coming from the basement, or worried that some cannibalistic beast was living in the bedroom closet, or thought that the clown at our friend's birthday party was just... wrong? According to the photographer, these fears lose intensity as we grow older, most of us dismissing them as immature and irrational. But all it takes is one night alone in the house during a thunderstorm, and these worries come rushing back to us, courtesy of our damned subconscious. These pictures capture that fear perfectly, making us sympathize with the innocents who are going to suffer so, or worse, giving us a vantage point that makes the viewer guaranteed to be next on the chopping block. Brrr.

Hoffine's portfolio certainly has its detractors, but make no mistake, this is art. Disgusting, disturbing, destructive art. In motion, many of these vignettes would seem overdone, perhaps downright hokey. Frozen in place however, they linger behind the eyes like so many nightmares. It doesn't matter what you're afraid of, Joshua Hoffine has it covered. Be sure to check out his website, which includes a link to his behind-the-scenes blog where he breaks down the shooting of select photographs. And good luck sleeping tonight. 

Oh all right, here's one to lighten the mood: