#MonsterMovieMonday: Mr. Sardonicus (AKA Happy Birthday, William Castle!)

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:

Happy Birthday, Mr. Castle!
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Happy Beaster: Five Rotten Rabbits to Haunt Your Horrorday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Beaster, you egg-cellent fright fans!  As an Easter gift to all you perturbing Peeps out there, I thought I’d draw attention to a race of creatures capable of unfathomable terror… Bunnies!
On this site, we often talk of ghouls, ghosts, madmen, creatures, demons, bugaboos, boogeymen, freaks, creeps, and just about everything that goes bump in the night… but it’s the Bunny you must fear above all. With teeth as sharp as daggers and eyes that are often as red as fresh blood, the Bunny hops along this earth with silent menace and a nose twitching like an unhinged lunatic. The worst of these creatures is The Easter Bunny: a being who barges into the homes of little ones, leaving… eggs. Why does he do this? Nobody really knows. Perhaps, when they hatch, they’ll unleash horrible, toothy beasts with taste for human flesh. Maybe that’s how he spies on you… each egg serving as his eyes.  Whatever the reason, it must be nefarious. That is, after all, the nature of the Bunny.
To celebrate the day, I have arranged a list of the most terrifying bunnies to ever haunt the screen.  I must warn you, dear readers, that there will be intense bunny-based horror in the following videos and images. Now that you have been warned, we can hop right into the madness.

1.) The Hat Rabbit from Twilight Zone: The Movie

Our first beastly bunny makes the briefest of appearances, but leaves a heck of an impression. Appearing in Joe “Gremlins” Dante’s wonderfully cartoonish take the classic It’s a Good Life story, this featured creature turns  Kevin “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” McCarthy’s simple hat trick into a feat of monstrous magical mayhem! Ta-Da!

2.) The Lepus from Night of the Lepus

This is film, coincidentally, has the same plot as my recurring nightmare: a group of giant, mutant rabbits ravage a small town and feast upon the innocent. To make things even more ghastly, the filmmakers used actually bunnies to portray the monsters! Janet Leigh stars as one of the humans hunted by the rabid rabbits. I hope they don’t make her go Psycho…

3.) The Easter Bunny from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey 

Without a doubt, the most terrifying thing in a film that deals with Hell, Satan, and Death! In Hell, Ted is forced to face his “irrational” fear of The Easter Bunny. I always knew that The Bunny was in league with The Devil!

4.) January Q. Irontail from Here Comes Peter Cottontail

How could one resist a stop-motion bunny from Rankin-Bass and Vincent Price? Dressed to scare in frightful black, this Price-voiced fiend will stop at nothing to do Easter HIS way. Irontail’s Easter would include chocolate tarantulas, octopi, and Easter galoshes replacing the Easter bonnets. Where do I sign up for this Easter?

5.) The White Rabbit from Jan Svankmajer’s Alice 

Jan Svankmajer is certainly a stop-motion genius, but darn if he doesn’t know how to scare the stuffing out of us. Why, he does the same to his characters. In his take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, his White Rabbit is a taxidermy rabbit who is losing sawdust, which flows out of his stomach. When his stuffing falls out, he simply secures the whole in his chest with pins and eats the sawdust! I bet Walt Disney wishes he had come up with that quirk!

Honorable Mention:  The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I excluded this big bad bunny from the main list because I wanted to spotlight lesser-known rabbit creeps. Most people are very familiar with this bad-tempered rodent. However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a formidable fiend. I mean, he’s got a vicious streak a mile wide! He’s a killer! There’s much to fear about this fuzzy lil’ devil.

Happy Beaster! Don’t let the Easter Bunny get ya!

#TerrorTuesday: The “Horror Noir” Edition

(Submitted by Mr. Dr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for reminding us this lil’ slice o’weirdom eXXXists. I plan to re-open this investigation immediately! 🙂 xoxo)

It was another one of those hot L.A. days. I poured myself another shot of cheap whisky and said to myself, ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been slapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough—like watching a made-for-TV monster movie.”

I humored myself and I found it: the, uh, stuff screams are made of…

Cast a Deadly Spell is nifty little number that attempts to fuse Raymond Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft into one bizarre creature. Set in alternative 1940s when magic is in vogue and the creatures of the night mingle with average folks, It has all the trappings of a classic film noir (hard-boiled detectives, sleazy clubs, stylized dialogue, femme fatales, etc.), but paints it all with a coat of Cosmic Horror. If that last part wasn’t clear, they drive the point home with their protagonist: Phillip Lovecraft.

This film does for lovers of the grotesque what Who Framed Roger Rabbit does for toon fans. Almost every scene has a zombie, werewolf, or fiend amidst the detective action. The story is decent, but it’s really about seeing noir and nightmare come together in a beautiful way. The monsters are fiendish and Fred Ward as Lovecraft is the perfect jaded gumshoe, bringing enough down-to-Earth wit to ground this peculiar picture.

For those wanting to crack the case, click on the box below:

Ho-stess’s Semi-Related Side Note: I just started playing Blues and Bullets (I was craving a good noir mystery), and so far so rad. I’m only in the first episode, but the first murder scene I investigated is creepy as all heck!! I’ll update you as I get further along, but since it’s been out for a while, maybe you fiends already have some thoughts on this one? Would love to hear what you think if you’ve playing it, too. 🙂 xoxo

UPDATE: I should’ve researched this game a lil’ more before I started playing it. I finished Episode 2 and immediately went to dive into the neXXXt installment, only to discover that IT DOESN’T ExxxIST!!!! 🙁

Chapter One was released in 2015, and apparently Chapter 2 didn’t come out until almost a year later. Although it hasn’t been officially announced as cancelled, it doesn’t look like we’re getting any more installments. Apparently the development company basically ran out of money, so there are currently no plans to finish his tit-le. Such a shame, too, because the story was super intriguing. Would’ve loved to see ho-w it all ended up. (And that little dog murdering piece of shit Bruno needs to feel my wrath!!! ;))

Oh well…It’s still a fun lil’ cocktease. Feel free to check this half-game out if self-torture is your thing. 😉 xoxo

 

Life (2017)

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Sony has just paid Alien (1979) one heck of a compliment with Life. That’s not to say that Alien didn’t borrow from a few films. As co-writer Dan O’Bannon famously put it, “I didn’t steal Alien from anybody. I stole it from everybody!”. But Alien had a distinct flavor of its own. From the one-word title to the ever-evolving creature stalking a team aboard a spacecraft to Rebecca Ferguson’s diary logs à la Ripley to the tracking device on the monster to the very tone, this picture owes everything to Alien. There is no way this film could exist without Alien. However, for a fellow like myself who enjoys a good rip-off, this is very much a positive.

I’m honestly glad to see this sort of film with a budget. In most ways, it’s a mockbuster version of Alien, very much in the same way Creature (1985) and Forbidden World are. What’s peculiar about this film is that it was made in 2017. While the other films were capitalizing on something that was a few years old, Life is capitalizing on a film that came out 37 years prior. Strangely, I feel this gives the film a kind of novelty. Were I a betting man, I’d wager this film was not intended to be an homage to the Alien mockbusters of the past… But it does feel a good deal like one.

I apologize if I’ve given the impression that I do not care for this picture, because nothing could be further from the truth. Life never escapes the enormous shadow of Ridley Scott’s picture, but I don’t think it ever really tries to. Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator is referenced by name, suggesting that the filmmakers assumed that their audience has enough film savvy to pick up on the Alien connection. This film does nothing truly original, but it does it so very well. There’s some wonderful, terrible tension throughout that had me chewing my nails to the tips. Without directly spoiling anything, there is a “Marion Crane” moment that did catch me off-guard, and how grand it to be truly surprised. As for its ending, I did predict it, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love it. In fact, it had me laughing in the right way.  It’s that kind of beautifully morbid punchline that The Cryptkeeper would surely get a kick out of.

The film is structured like a slasher film, with the hapless crew being brutally picked of one by one. As such, we are treated to some fun monster-kill sequences that play with the weightlessness of space in a groovy way that’s likely to satisfy my fellow ghouls. The monster itself is not as memorable as the Giger Alien, but it certainly get the job done. Really, you could say the same of the film. I doubt it will become one of the favorites of the genre, but it’s a gas. Between this and Kong: Skull Island, it seems like the classical monster movie is making a major comeback and that’s peachy-keen in my book. Not every film that comes out is going to be a timeless classic, so it’s good to flick that’s just great fun from its first second to its ending credits. If you can’t look past its similarities to Alien, I can’t lie to you about your chances of enjoying it, but… you have my sympathies.

 

March Monster Madness: Happy Birthday, Gill-man!

“Centuries of passion pent up in his savage heart!”

On March 5, 1954, a terrifying monster from a primitive age clawed his way into the modern world… and into the hearts of horror fans everywhere!

With The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Universal Studios unleashed yet another timeless movie monster into the world in the form of the Gill-man, the missing link between land and sea animals. Blessed with shimmering scales, powerful claws, gorgeous lips, and the biggest eyes in horror since Peter Lorre, the Gill-Man is the envy of all ghouls. In fact, his signature look is so fabulous that it’s been referenced, parodied, and ripped off by everything from The Munsters to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas to countless “B” horror Movies. Despite having only three (official) films to his name, the Gill-man’s popularity has endured throughout the ages, much like the Gill-man himself. This popularity has led to decades of action figures, model kits, shirts, masks,  pinball machines, plush dolls, Halloween decorations, and even a stage musical at Universal Studios Hollywood!  The Phantom of the Opera isn’t the only musically inclined monster, you know!

Happy Birthday, Gill-man! May you finally find a girl who appreciates your good looks!

Stay creepy, Creature!





News Bleed: The “Kaijubusters” Edition

Mother Pus Bucket! A Ghostbusters deleted scene has been unearthed! 🙂 /FILM

I freaking love Donald Glover. (And he’s doing Lion King stuff or something… ;)) MTV

Prepare to Purge again in 2018. 🙂 IGN

Anne Hathaway channels her inner Kaiju for this Colossal trailer. 🙂  Entertainment Weekly

Sam Raimi may be taking us on a trip to the Bermuda Triangle. Hollywood Reporter

American Horror Story Season 7 will deal with something truly horrific… Slate

Is Mel Gibson leading the Suicide Squad? Los Angeles Times

On a sad note, WWE Hall of Famer and Ed Wood star George “The Animal” Steele and Twin Peaks actor Warren Frost have both passed away…R.I.P, gentlemen. xoxo Variety