How do you do, my revolting readers? It’s William Castle’s Birthday, so it’s time once again to ho-nor this master of movie mayhem. Mr. Castle has no equal when it comes to ghoulish amusements. He was the man who turned theater seats into joy buzzers, unleashed plastic skeletons upon audiences, and gave us the ability to see ghosts through cardboard. Alfred Hitchcock (Castle’s friendly rival) may have made more “prestigious” pictures, but Castle gave us a circus. Castle was the merriest master of the macabre ever to live and he will forever be my “Hitch-cock.” 😉 Of his many triumphs, I think I am most fond of Mr. Sardonicus. Master Castle’s films usually dealt with contemporary terrors, but Mr. Sardonicus was, in the legend’s own words, “an old-fashioned story.” In its essence, this is a Universal Gothic done in Castle’s inimitable idiom. Mr. Sardonicus is a tale of castles and fog, of masks and madmen, and of graves and… ghouls. “Ghoul” is very popular word, but it’s seldom used in its literal sense. Take, for example, William Castle. He’s a “ghoul” in the sense that he revels in the macabre and gruesome, but he certainly didn’t dig up graves and feast on corpses. (It’s not in his autobiography. ;))
Mr. Sardonicus does play with the idea of a figurative ghoul vs. a true ghoul. The truth falls more towards the former, but the latter is alluded to heavily. The fact that the idea of a real ghoul is hinted at all is unusual for a horror picture, and it is fascinating to deal with even the potential of one. The “ghoul” in the film is the tit-ular Sardonicus, though he is less a “Mr.” and more a “Baron.” While digging up his father’s grave to retrieve a winning lottery ticket (if I had a nickle…;)), Baron Sardonicus is so frightened by the sight of his father’s grinning skull that it actual causes his face to freeze in a permanent grin! Because of the grave-robbing and the unnatural deformation that occurs, he refers to himself as a ghoul.
In truth, he owes a little more to The Man Who Laughs and The Phantom of the Opera than a traditional ghoul. Like the unusual gentlemen in those stories, Sardonicus is a mortal man with ghastly visage and a mask. The audience could feel a certain sympathy for The Baron, although he does test one’s capacity for mercy with his habit of torturing girls with leaches, not to mention his cruelty towards his servant. Really, it’s up to the individual to decide if Sardonicus is worthy of redemption or condemnation. Of this, Castle was painfully aware. Not missing the chance for a bit of fun, Castle came up with another ingenious gimmick: The Punishment Poll. The Punishment Poll was classic Castle. Ostensibly, the audience could decide on whether or not they wanted to show the ghoul mercy by voting on one of two endings. Each theater-goer was given a glow-in-the-dark card featuring a hand with the thumb out. When instructed by Mr. Castle in the film, they voted by holding up the card with either the thumb up or down as to whether Sardonicus would live or die. The gag? There was only one ending filmed! In the film, Castle “tallies” the votes and announces the result immediately, with no break in the continuity of the scene. Like a great magic trick, the act was fake, but the fun was very real. Besides, the ending we got is deliciously nasty! It’s the perfect twisted punchline and I can’t imagine a more fitting way to end the story of Sardonicus. My lips are sealed when it comes to specifics, but it’s a fantastic note to end on.
In ho-nor of Mr. Castle’s birthday, we have provided Mr. Sardonicus in all its ghoulish glory, I cannot recommend this film enough. It represents everything that was fantastic about William Castle and is just about the most fun one could have being repulsed and lied to! 😉 For a bit of Castle’s carny brilliance, check out the film below:
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, you Ho-rror Heartthrob, you! 🙂 xoxo)
To me, horror comedies rarely work out. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but I feel that most of them fail at either being a horror or a comedy. Usually, the cast knows what kind of film they are in, so they tend to play it up and delivering each line as if they are winking at the camera. The characters are usually stock cliches and more often than not, they confuse blood and gore with horror. Now as nice as those things are, when put in the hands of someone who misunderstand what either a horror or a comedy are, the film comes off as inauthentic and, well, stupid. Not to mention, they seem to be poorly filmed. The shots aren’t well planned and it’s like the filmmaker has no idea where to point the camera. I get the feeling that most of the time they don’t.
Luckily, Night of Something Strange isn’t any of that. Sure, it falls into some of the cliches, but they are done right, if that makes sense. At first, even I was a little worried when the characters were being introduced, but as the film goes on, you understand why they are and how they play into the plot and some of them become likable. Maybe it’s due to the film’s low budget or how the cast has a connection to each other, but they come of as genuine in playing their roles. A lot of heart went into this movie, something you don’t see very often anymore. That’s another thing; it’s shot like a movie. The cinematography is impressive to say the least and the use of lighting is done to effect the overall tone of the film. Everything that most lower budget films seem to misunderstand and mimic are done right here. Indie filmmaking seems like it’s becoming a lost art, but every now and then you get something that restores your faith. Night of Something Strange did just that for me.
Night of Something Strange opens with a tall, brooding hospital worker named Cornelius (Wayne Johnson) who looks like he probably has some issues. Sure enough, he shows us what kind of issues he has when he wanders into a morgue and decides to bang a female corpse. You could say that Cornelius is getting lucky, but I would say he’s getting unlucky seeing as how this particular corpse seems to have a still active STD. Not just any STD, but something that causes a much more serious side effect; you turn into a sex crazed zombie. Cornelius heads home and as the virus takes effect, he pisses all over his bed and then rapes and infects his mother. Talk about starting your movie off with bang. Where else are you gonna find necrophilia, watersports and incest all within ten minutes? Well, the last one I’m only assuming is only incest since the relationship between the two characters isn’t established, but I get the feeling it’s mother and son. It’s easily unsettling and let’s you know what you’re in store for. You would think at this point, the film was only trying to set the bar for absurdity, but it’s only getting started.
With Cornelius now free to run amok, we turn our attention to our central cast of characters in a high school. Or college. I don’t know which. All I know is that I was surprised to see Brink Stevens appear as their teacher in a cameo. Regardless, these are the people you will be spending the run time with and like I said, at first they may seem like cliches and they are all kind of assholes in their own, but stick with them. You will come to like them. The core girl of the group is Christine (Rebecca C. Kasek) and is probably the least douchiest of them all. Her friend Carrie (Toni Ann Gambale), Carrie’s boyfriend Freddy (Michael Merchant) who is probably the biggest douche of the group, token stoner Brooklyn and chubby Jason are all headed for a little getaway with their friend Pam (Nicola Fiore) and her boyfriend Dirk (Trey Harrison) who has suspicions that his girlfriend is cheating on him when he takes a peek at her phone and notices a dick pic. Still, he hasn’t been laid in a while, so he’s gonna let this slide for a bit. At least until he gets laid.
No better place to do that than at the Redwood Motel ran by a rather creepy old man who feels like a runaway member of family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now that Dirk has had some time to relieve from sexual tension, he breaks things off with Pam and befriends Christine outside and the two have a rather nice bonding moment and the chemistry feels rather genuine. Freddy, on the other hand, is doing whatever it takes to get some ass, including berating and threatening his verbal punching bag, Jason. Even Brooklyn falls victim to Freddy’s pranks when Freddy attempts a frat, but sharts on his face. You have to wonder why these people hang out with him, but I’m assuming it’s through his association with Carrie. Or I’m over analyzing what doesn’t need to be. Freddy’s sexual conquest – or his attempt at sexual conquest – could be a Porky’s style comedy on it’s own. After being denied sex, Freddy heads outside to the dumpster where he reckons is a great place to rub one out. His realistic style commentary over his fantasy where Jason comes into the room while he goes at it with Carrie makes watching a character beat off a little more comfortable. And funny. Even when Freddy knocks himself out by hitting his head on the dumpster, do you think that stops him from finishing. Not a chance. The champ picks up right where he left off when he comes to.
Now it’s time for shit to really start hitting the fan. Cornelius and the few others he infected show up at the Redwood Motel and begin their rampage, infecting a few more others. Poor Freddy now has this and another situation to deal with; having mistaken Jason for Carrie, Freddy becomes stuck in Jason’s butt and not only has to avoid having the others see him and the mental scarring this will cause, but also battle the undead. Gotta give props to Michael Merchant for spending half of the movie with his bottom hanging out and pulling off stunts while being stuck inside an unconscious man. Hey, give the guy a break. It’s dark in that room. Meanwhile outside, Dirk finds himself fighting off these zombies alongside Christine and they learn that a simple gunshot to the head doesn’t quite work like zombie films have taught us. As the chaos ensues, what are they to do?
I can’t tell you how much I was impressed with Night of Somethings Strange, perfectly blending the horror and comedy genres. I was reminded of Return of the Living Dead while watching and that’s never a bad thing. I laughed at the parts I was supposed to and I ended up even rooting for Freddy, the biggest asshole of the bunch. Maybe I’m a little biased knowing the actor, but every time he was on screen, you were guaranteed a raunchy gag and a laugh and the film uses a lot of sick, gross out moments for laughs. One in particular that comes to mind is when Carrie falls into a blood and shit soaked toilet while trying to pee in it or later when she gets kicked in the crotch by Christine and her shoe gets stuck right in there. There’s also little things, like Freddy getting a bloody condom on his face and the aforementioned sharting scene. It’s a film that would feel at home alongside any given Troma film. I also felt Trey Harrison was a great lead, commanding every scene he was in and Nicola Fiore was a treat and I wish she was in more scenes.
Being a zombie film, it does have some pretty decent special effects for the most part, but at times you can notice a change in the quality. Most times, I thought the makeup was gruesome and disgusting, but then there were times when it looked noticeably different and not for the better, primarily when CG was used. This is due to problems with the previous effects people, as the film unfortunately had to go through a few of them, but I don’t fault the film or the filmmaker for that. After all, it’s about getting lost in the story and the characters and it’s quite easy to do that in Night of Something Strange. It truly was a breath of fresh air in the indie zombie horror sub genre. I can’t tell you how many I’ve had to sit through in the last few years, the majority of which are unbearable to say the least. To see something that has heart behind it made this a pleasure to see. Director Jonathan Straiton really made one of the best indie horror films I’ve seen in a long time. He demonstrated that you can play with the stereotypes and cliches of the genre while also showing how to play against them. He made what should have been a purposely foul and raunchy shlock fest that would have otherwise been ineptly made into something that’s outstandingly terrific and will be remembered (and possibly imitated) for years to come.
“Today we are concerned with juvenile delinquency – its causes – and its effects. We are especially concerned when this delinquency boils over into our schools.The scenes and incidents depicted here are fictional. However, we believe that public awareness is a first step towards a remedy for any problem.”
The previous quote comes from the opening text of 1955’s The Blackboard Jungle. That film features very little in the way of fangs and gore, but it does highlight one of the primary fears of the 1950s: teenagers.
Ho-rrible, ain’t they? The adults of the time thought so. There was a widespread fear of juvenile delinquency, with “experts” claiming that post-WWII children were lazy, spoiled, reckless, disrespectful, violent, and just plain rude. Because of this, teenagers and youth culture were demonized and maligned to an extreme. Horror, being the genre that deals the most with society’s fear and anxiety, took this growing issue to the logical next step and made literal monsters of teenagers.
With the success of I Was a Teenage Werewolf in the summer of 1957, a horde of adolescent abominations invaded cinemas for the next few years. The next two teen terror tales to take the theaters were I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula, both films being part of a double feature in the November of 1957. While we couldn’t possibly top the drive-in eXXXperience, we are presenting the gruesome twosome here in this very post! The monsters in both features are among the very best of ’50s schlock. I Was a Teenage Frankenstein‘s tit-ular ghoul looks very much like an apple sculpture shrunken head, and the teen vampire in Blood of Dracula looks like a creation from Dick Smith’sDo It Yourself Monster Make-Up. Both are utterly fantastic.
While Teenage Frankenstein is the clear winner here, both deliver on the teen thrills and chills. My only complaint with Blood of Dracula is the title. How does the same studio behind the other two I Was a Teenage… miss out on the opportunity to call their vampire film I Was a Teenage Dracula?! Perhaps if they had done that, we’d be listening to Cramps song with that title…
For all you Hepcats and Kittens out there, here’s the double feature:
We now return you to your regularly scheduled “MST3K Yay!” post…
Ho-wdy, my Mysterious MSTIES! It’s time to get yo happy on, for the ‘Bots are back in town!!! 🙂
Netflix just made the not-too-distant future the right-this-minute present with the release of Mystery Science Theater 3000Season 11! Following a HUGELY successful Kickstarter campaign (which your Ho-stess happily contributed to! :)), MST3K has risen from the grave with a brand new bag o’ cheesy clas-sicks for ya! The original series is one of the most beloved series in all of nerd-dom and this new one seems to properly capture that ol’ Satellite of Love charm. 🙂
In ho-nor of the Return of MST3K, I thought I’d send some cheesy trailers…the worst I can find! Each trailer is for a film featured on the new MST3K. In total, there are 14 new movies for the hapless ho-st and the ‘Bots to “suffer” through. This new batch of films is made up of some the most delicious cinematic cheese, so I recommend you check them out both with and without Shadowrama. Two of them feature Caroline “Forever Goddess” Munro (Starcrash, At the Earth’s Core), so you know you’re in for some great B-movie awesomeness. 🙂
Check out the trailers below:
The Time Travelers
The Beast of Hollow Mountain
The Land That Time Forgot
The Loves of Hercules
Yongary: Monster from the Deep
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II
The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t
At the Earth’s Core
Welcome Back, MST3K. It’s good to hear you riffing again. 🙂 xoxo
Ho-wdy, Ho-rror Ho-mies! As you creeps probably know, the Universal Monsters are getting a brand-new shared universe, and they’re hoping to give Marvel a run for their “mummy!” We here at KH love a good Monster Mash, especially one from the original House of Horrors. Starting with 1943’s Frankenstein meets the Wolfman, Universal has had a rich history of having grand ol’ ghouls go face-to-fang. However, there are two iconic monsters that have yet to appear in the same film…
Yes, it’s true… The Mummy and The Invisible Man, Universal’s baddest bandaged baddies, have never co-starred in a film together! Now, I know there’s a fair chance that the “wrap” stars will appear together in an installment of the new franchise, but it’s been over 80 years! You would think that Universal would throw us an invisible and/or mummified bone, but they never did.
However, the gauze ghouls did get a chance to share the spotlight in a commercial for Meineke Mufflers in 1988. Not only are The Mummy and The Invisible Man here, but they are positively horrible.. in a good way! 🙂 That Mummy could stomp around in a real monster movie, as far as I’m concerned! I don’t recall the Invisible One being much of a driver, but I suppose The Mummy would need a new a muffler for the ol’ chariot… 🙂
Three Times Before You Have Felt The Terror, Known The Madness, Lived The Horror. But This Is The One You’ve Been Screaming For…
Happy Birthday to Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the greatest (and Crispin Glover-iest) of all the Friday the 13th films!!!!!!! 🙂
Now, if you’ve been paying attention to the site. you know I LOOOOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE this jaunty Jason jam! I mean, how can you not?! It has Corey “Feld-Dog” Feldman, Mah Boo, and Crispin Glover at his dirty danciest! 😉 However, if you need further explainin’, allow me to do so in the video below…
We all know how perfect the film is, but did you know there is an alternate ending? It’s crazy to think they almost ended on something other than bald Corey Feldman staring at the camera, but it’s true!
Originally, the ending was supposed to uphold the proud Friday the 13th tradition of a Carrie-like fake-out. After “defeating” Jason, Tommy and Trish (the survivors) wake up to the sound of police sirens. Trish notices water dripping from the ceiling and decides to investigate. She enters the upstairs bathroom and discovers her mother’s lifeless body floating in the bathtub. Suddenly, the mother’s eyes pop open to reveal ghastly white eyes! Jason appears behind the horror-stricken Trish, ready to strike! As Jason is about to finish her… Trish wakes up and it was all a dream.
As, um, interesting as that would have been, I prefer the more Feldman-tastic ending we got. However, I recommend checking out the original ending below. The original audio is lost, but the cast and crew provide their commentary. It’s a eXXXtremely cool bit o’ Friday history. Mah Boo approves!
Happy Birthday, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter! You’ll forever be slashin’ away at our hearts!! 🙂 xoxoxo
(With Ted White, the sweetest Jason evah! :))(The first time I met the dreamy Mr. Jimmy Mortimer himself :))
(And the pic that got me Twitter-banned for a while…while I was in Japan tweeting about Crispin’s shows, actually, even though I’d had it up ages before that. Hmmm…That CAN’T be a coincidence. Clearly those Twitter bastiches are #TeamFreddy!! ;)) xoxo
1953’s War of the Worlds is, without a doubt, one of the seminal science fiction films of the 1950s. It has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress, won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, spawned countless imitators, and gave MST3K’s Dr. Clayton Forrester his name(clearly, the ultimate ho-nor ;)). Even after 63 years in Earth time, the film is still one of the greatest achievements in Sci-Fi cinema. There have been many adaptations of the H.G. Wells story, but the 1953 one towers above them all. Heck, I still get chills every time I watch this scene:
At the end of the 1953 film, the seemingly indestructible aliens perish. The narrator informs the audience on what has happened:
“The Martians had no resistance to the bacteria in our atmosphere to which we have long since become immune. Once they had breathed our air, germs, which no longer affect us, began to kill them. The end came swiftly. All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things, which God, in His wisdom, had put upon this Earth.”
But what if that wasn’t the end? What if the aliens weren’t killed, but had slipped into a state of suspended animation? We didn’t really defeat them the first time, so what could possibly do to stop them? Unfortunately for Mankind, these grim speculative questions became a horrifying reality…
In 1988, the invasion continued with a TV series of the same name. The series was indeed a direct follow-up to the 1953 film, utilizing the same war machine designs and other familiar elements. However, these Martians are far more brutal than the originals ever were. These extraterrestrial devils gouge out eyes, pierce checks, and graphically burst out of human disguises. For a show from the ’80s, this was pretty gnarly stuff.
The producer of the original film, George Pal, actually started developing a War of the Worlds TV series back in the ’70s, but passed away before it came to be. Personally, I think the first season of this show is an excellent continuation, even if it’s a tad more gruesome than its predecessor. (That’s a plus in my book, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup o’tea. ;)) The second season changed the formula for the worse, but I still recommend the first to my fellow Earthlings.
Watch the pilot below and witness the War of the Worlds:
“Ladies and gentlemen, attention please! Come in close, so everyone can see! I got a tale to tell. A listen don’t cost a dime.. ..And if you believe that, we’re gonna get along just fine!”
Salutations from the Carnival, culture vultures! Our dead-lining act is real wooden one from the demented dummies at EC Comics! It concerns a voice-thrower with a secret so shocking, it’ll leave you speechless! From the putrid pages of Tales from the Crypt #28, it’s The Ventriloquist’s Dummy!
Y’know, my fabulously freaky friends… horror dummies are a rather dull bunch. They either come to life to engage some rather tired terror or they play mind games with weak-minded. Well. our performer ain’t no dummy-dummy! This seasoned pro has an act that’s really FLESHED out! Impressively, for a monster from the ’50s, there ain’t a single termite to be found. Armed with a twinning secret, this old-timer is ready to show Today’s dull dolls how it’s done!
For your amusement and education, I give you The Ventriloquist’s Dummy!
Heh. How’s that for a punchline, creeps? I gotta HAND it to Larry: he kept his brother close!
Of course, with a yelp yarn this disgusting, HBO just had to take a stab. They got a Scream Team to Hand-le this one! Richard “The Omen” Donner helmed this doll scripted by Frank “The Walking Dead” Darabont. The late. great Don Rickles played the ventriloquist with a fistful of terror. As a terror-ific tribute to the creep-comic, Rickles’ voice-thrower shares a last name with artist “Ghastly” Graham Ingels. Don’t be a dummy! Check out this Chiller-Diller below!
Sorry, Folks! The Carnival is closed. All Out and Over, All Out, All Over!