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