#FrankensteinFridayTheater: Dr. Hackenstein (1988)

\Happy Frankenstein Friday, students of mad science! We got some swift lippin’, ego trippin’, and body snatchin’ to make you feel…ALIVE!!!!

Today’s eXXXperiment is a full-length film from the mad monsters at Troma. The feature in question is itself a creature made from old parts. Take the skeleton of Curse of Frankenstein, inject it with the blood of Re-Animator, add the funny bone of Young Frankenstein, and you have the terror that is 1988’s Dr. Hackenstein!

Dr. Hackenstein  is not a particularly funny or horrific horror comedy, but it is a very “Frankenstein” one…  and that’s spooky cool to me! There’s whole lotta weird science going on, with oddly colored vials of substances that look vaguely science-y and sets that seem like they’ve been ripped out of Hammer film. Dr. Hackenstein doesn’t break new ground (unless you count digging up a grave). but it’s the kind of corny splatstick treat that’s charms you with its classically spooky atmospherics  and its corn-on-the-macabre humor. This film ain’t Young Frankenstein, but get the feeling the filmmakers knew that. Heck, there’s even a reference to the Mel Brooks film that’s, well… on the nosey.

Besides being a fun dose of Frankenstein madness, this film is also worth watch for its cast. Everyone does their darndest and David Muir is actually quite delightful as the bad doctor. It’s all over-the-top, but weirdly likable. Logan and Anne Ramsey (in her final film role) are fun as a pair of bumbling grave robbers. To add some more Frankenstein cred, Mad Monster Party’s Phyllis Diller has a small part in the film, but she’s a little less animated in this one! Aha ha ha!

Straight from Troma’s official Youtube channel, here’s Dr. Hackenstein for your Frankenstein Friday. 🙂

 

#TerrorTuesday: The Manster (1959)

It’s often said that two heads are better than one (hehe ;)), but I’d wager that the unfortunate victim in The Manster would strongly disagree.

Also known as The Split, The Manster is a peculiar tale of DEAD & shoulders.  It concerns an American foreign news correspondent who has been working out of Japan for the last few years. His final ass-ignment in Japan is to interview a reclusive scientist who, like all great scientists, lives atop a volcanic mountain. Needing a guinea pig for his unholy experiments, the bad doctor drugs the hapless reporter and injects him with a serum that causes a second head to sprout from his shoulder. I suppose that’s one way to grow on someone. 😉

What’s truly impressive about The Manster is that it’s one of those rare films that manages to be both unintentionally goofy and genuinely creepy at the same time. The film was shot in Black-and-White and makes excellent use of shadows to heighten the lurid atmosphere. While The Manster himself is a wonderfully silly thing, the sequence in which the reporter rips off his shirt to reveal an eye growing out of his shoulder is honestly nightmarish. It’s a gloriously gut-wrenching effect, especially for a low-budget fright fest from the late ’50s.
The Manster was the first film to play around with the theme of the two-headed man-made monster. Other examples of this heady trope include The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971) and The Thing with Two Heads (1972).  The Simpsons parodied this idea in their second Treehouse of Horror special and again in the 2013 edition, making two segments for two heads. Sam Raimi directly referenced The Manster in an infamous scene in Army of Darkness, even going as far as to include the “shoulder eye” gag. I guess you could say that The Manster was a-HEAD of its time. (*insert Cryptkeeper cackle here* :))
For two heads of terror, check out The Manster below:

A Very El Santo Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo to all you Cool Ghouls and Groovie Ghoulies out there! The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican victory in the Battle of Puebla, but it has also become day to celebrate MeXXXican culture. In that spirit, I would like to take a moment to ho-nor El Santo, one of history’s greatest masked men.

Santo was born Rodolfo Guzman Huerta in 1917 and went on to become a real-life superhero. Santo’s wrestling career spanned nearly five decades, and he appeared in dozens of movies and comic books. Through his many appearances, he became a modern folk hero and, as Google put it, “a cultural icon, representing justice and the fight against evil.” The veiled victor went to great lengths to keep his face hidden away, even going as far as to have a special “mealtime” mask made for eating. The only time he removed his mask was in 1984 as a final goodbye to his fans. He died just a week later and was buried in his legendary mask.

To ho-rror fans, El Santo will always be known for his numerous monster films. The wrestling wonder went hand-to-claw with vampires, aliens, wolfmen, The Phantom of the Opera (El Estrangulador), zombies, cyclopes, and just about every fiend imaginable. Best of all, he bested every one of them with his fantastic wrestling skills! El Santo is Batman and Van Helsing rolled into one unstoppable monster-punching machine. No creature of the night stands a chance against the camel clutch of Santo!

In ho-nor of Cinco de Mayo and The Silver Maskman, we have Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro for your viewing pleasure! This is the definitive El Santo adventure, with its blend of whacked-out wrestling weirdness and deliciously Gothic atmosphere. While this version refers to El Santo as “Samson,” there’s no doubt this is the same butt-kicking luchador we all know and love. El Santo, by any other name, is still hard to beat.

Click on the box below to see El Santo in action:

Happy Cinco de Mayo, Fright Fans! 🙂 xoxo

Goon Review: Wishmaster Collection

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Even though I feel as if the fantasy genre has been more redefined toward films such as Harry Potter-type movies, to me it will always be about sword and sorcery. Movies like Waxwork and yes, even Waxwork II: Lost in Time captured that feeling while mixing and comedy and horror, although not so much with the latter. It must have been around the early 2000s when these kinds of films seemed to have vanished or shifted into something else completely, so what happened?

I’ll tell you what happened. The Wishmaster films happened. Well, I don’t have concrete evidence to back this up and the type of film that I am talking about are still around, but I seem to recall a massive drop off in the genre after the fourth and so far the final Wishmaster movie was in 2002. Sure, it’s purely coincidence, but I feel like the Wishmaster franchise perfectly represents what can go right, but also can go wrong with a franchise. The first film, while overlooked, is great and the second expands upon what the first introduced even if it’s not as good… then you get to the third and fourth films where a different studio is now making the films, totally doesn’t understand the property they have, never takes risks with expanding the lore or characters and just makes pretty, young adult dramas and can’t afford to make the movies. Fortunately, it ends there, unlike the Hellraiser films that just kept going and going.

Before the series quickly dropped in quality (and even some will argue with me on that) the first film was somewhat fanciful, had an interesting story with a very unique character and great special effects, as it should seeing as the film is directed by Special Effects man Robert Kurtzman. You got it, the ‘K’ in KNB. Wishmaster is kinda like Aladdin, a supernatural genie is connected to the person who awoke him and causes all kinds of misinterpreted shenanigans. Only in Wishmaster, the genie’s shenanigans are deadly. Oh, and he’s not called a genie, he’s called Djinn (which to me sounds like a Mortal Kombat character).

Wishmaster opens a couple of hundred of years ago where the Djinn is talking a Prince or King (it’s unclear, but irrelevant) into granting his third wish so that he and his brethren can walk the Earth, basically causing Armageddon. The opening scene boasts some wild and impressive special effects as people are turning into all kinds of reptiles or dying in horrific, body twisting ways. It not only showcases the type of creativity and imagination the film has to offer, but it also displays the overall tone for the movie. Anyway, the Djinn is stopped and encased in a small stone rather than the typical lamp. Cut to present day, or present day 1997 rather, and a rich art collector named Raymond Beaumont (played by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund) is waiting for the latest statue for his collection to be unloaded off a boat. Unfortunately, a drunk dock worker spills his drink all over the controls, squishes Ted Raimi in his quick cameo and the statue smashes all over the ground. A worker cleaning up the mess notices a familiar looking stone and steals it after making sure no one was looking.

Having pawned the stone off, it eventually gets into the hands of an appraiser, Alexandra (Tammy Lauren) and her boss who is played by the rubber faced son of Jack Lemmon, Chris Lemmon and determine that the stone is worth quite a pretty penny. Alex awakens the Djinn by rubbing the stone on her shirt to clean it, which I have to admit is kind of an obvious clever way to do that since you had to have been wondering how they were gonna work the whole rubbing-the-magic-lamp thing into this. Even though the Djinn is awakened, he is not freed, at least not until Alex passes the stone off to her scientist friend who has the hots for her and he accidentally frees the Djinn who then takes the face (literally) of a corpse on the table to assume his human form. Now, this is where the film is its most entertaining, at least when there aren’t cool special effects on screen. The Djinn is played by Andrew Divoff who, when he isn’t buried under makeup and prosthetics, is quite a remarkable character actor. He speaks with a low, gravely, but commanding voice behind a very sinister, Joker-esque grin. Something I didn’t notice til much later in the film is that Andrew Divoff never blinks when he’s in human form and there’s something very unnerving about that. He’s a man who understands his character and really gets into the role. If you watch this movie for anything, it should definitely be for Andrew Divoff’s  performance.

The Djinn is connected to the person who awoken them, so he now has to convince Alex to ask for three wishes, but before doing so, he’s gonna need to charge his batteries for the lack of a better pun. The only way to do that is to grant a person’s single wish in exchange for their soul. Seems like a fair trade to me. Souls are pretty much useless these days. Anyway, this is an easy way for the filmmakers to give the movie a body count, not that I am complaining. Since the Djinn twists his victim’s wishes, this is where Wishmaster gets really creative. Whether it’s tricking Tony Todd into making a wish that traps him in a famous Houdini-esque watery grave or Kane Hodder into glass… oh, that’s right. Candyman and Jason Voorhees also make cameos in this film. That’s one thing I love about it being directed by a really talented special effects guy; all the cameos. It’s actually with Kane Hodder’s character that we learn a very important piece of exposition. At this point in the film, you may be wondering that since the Djinn is all powerful, why doesn’t he just kill people or force Alex to make her three wishes? Well, while trying to enter a building where Alex is, he’s stopped by the security guard who won’t allow him to enter and gives him some trouble about it. He states that it’s frustrating to have all that power and only being able to use it when someone makes a wish. That’s a real smart way to give a being that’s all knowing, all powerful and immortal a serious achilles heel.

By now, Alex realizes that the visions she’s been having are a psychic connection with the Djinn who is tormenting her and she scrambles to stop him. Her story is somewhat uninteresting, but not so much so that you would want to shut off the film. She’s just a rather dull character. The climax of the film is nearly mirrors the opening via Beaumont’s wish, but it’s a little more gory. The special effects remain consistently great throughout the entire film and I should point out that they are so good, that if you pay attention, the little horns or tentacles (whatever they are) that are coming out of the Djinn’s head are always wiggling around. I thought that was a really unique touch and something I hadn’t seen before. Wishmaster takes an old fantasy tale that been watered down by children’s movies for far too long and really turns it on its head, making it a really fun movie to watch.

For Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, they really took it by the horns and got nuts with it. Jack Sholder, who directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, directs this picture and I swear he must’ve lost his mind. Everything is dialed up, way up to the point of ridiculousness and some of it is so incomprehensible, you’ll be sitting there bug eyed, jaw dropped at some of the things you will see. I’ll tell you one, because it’s also somewhat sentimental to me. It was shortly after this started playing on HBO or Showtime, whichever, and my step brother and I tuned in right when a prisoner was telling this cartoonishly smirking jerk that he wishes his lawyer would go fuck himself. Sure enough, that man’s lawyer twists and folds over and begins to literally fuck himself. Do you have any idea how many guys out there wish they could do that? Alright, movie, enough with the hard sell. I’m already sold! And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. That may have to go to the film’s finale that takes place at a casino where a woman playing craps actually craps quarters. Yes, that happens in a movie. Complete with fart sounds and all. But hey, let’s talk a little about how we get here.

Once again, the main characters we are supposed to follow are the most uninteresting. A goth chick, Morgana (Holly Fields) and her boyfriend are robbing the Beaumont’s art gallery when things go south, it turns into a shootout, a bullet cracks open the statue, the stone falls out, Morgana finds it and yeah, you see where I’m going. Her boyfriend is fatally wounded by a security who Morgana kills in return, but seems remorseful about it on and off throughout the film. She never turns herself in, but turns to her ex-lover turned beefy hunk priest, Eric, for advice. It’s a priest, what do you think he’s gonna say? God this and god that, blah, blah, blah, I have feelings for you, but I can’t touch your cute little butt, because god, blah, blah.

Taking the blame for Morgana’s crime, the Djinn is now in prison to collect souls. Trying to expand upon what the first film started, the Djinn now needs a thousand souls in order to grant Morgana’s three wishes. This is not only a great way to take the character and story back just a little step and let the climax build, but also allow for more really great random character deaths! Some of these aren’t nearly as outlandish as the first, but as I told you earlier, some of them are pretty damn absurd. A prison has plenty of fresh souls willing to do anything in exchange for a wish, but not nearly enough. Maybe the filmmakers didn’t quite think out this one thousand souls idea, because the final act of the film at the casino feels like a copout. Not only is there far more souls, but the Djinn is now just granting the greedy wishes he overhears rather than having one on one conversations with people like he has previously. It feels like a plot writing device, because the scripts needs it done and quick and it was the only thing they could think of at the moment.

Nevertheless, our really boring duo of the goth chick trying to solve a supernatural crime, which honestly sounds like a failed CW show, learn of a way to defeat the Djinn, one of which is death. Unfortunately for those doomed souls, we find out that Morgana can’t be killed at the moment as she is being magically protected by the Djinn. Seems rather contrived, but I guess how else would you explain something we’ve all been thinking. Regardless, they head of to the casino for the final showdown that’s pretty amusing, mostly due to all the people running around panicking and an increase in the level of gore. That’s something I didn’t notice until the end is that this film is far less gory than the original. They ramp everything else up except for the gore, which is a rather odd thing to do. Sequels are usually bigger and bloodier and while this one is bigger, gotta say, not as bloody.

You can definitely say that like the original, the human characters are the least interesting, but with Wishmaster 2… boy are they REALLY uninteresting. As cute as Holly Fields is in this film, I just didn’t care what was happening to her or her relationship with that human plank of wood priest as her love interest. They were so boring, I didn’t even notice how bad the acting was in the movie until the very end. Not that any of that really matter, because Andrew Divoff as the Djinn appears in this movie more than he did in the first and he steals every scene that he’s in. He’s the reason you watch these movies. Well, him and the good special effects and interesting death scenes and I gotta admit that this one does have some interesting ones. Aside from the two aforementioned ones, my favorite and probably the best looking was when a man tells the Djinn he wants to walk through the bars of his cell. Bad choice of words, bub.

The Djinn is really brought to life, made both frightening and funny kinda like Freddy Krueger by Andrew Divoff. If you take anything away from the first two films, it will be his performance. He’s an actor that can pull his role off whether he is behind all that makeup or not. With some actor’s performances, you can tell whether or not they are enjoying themselves and Andrew Divoff is clearly having the time of his life and it shows. If not for him, this character wouldn’t work and in retrospect, I wondered why more people haven’t heard of this character or why he’s not as remembered as Freddy or Jason… and then I saw Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell.

And now is where the series not just nose dives, but nose dives and hits the side of a mountain. Hard. We’re talking only a few survivors, but they eat each other to try and stay alive, but the last survivor has gone so mad, that he can no longer return to civilization. Wishmaster 3 is… well, it’s… shit. I have no words for it other than “it’s shit.” Rather than expanding on the previous idea or building a new one in what could perhaps be the Djinn’s mythos, the film decides it would rather be a run of the mill, stale, uninspired slasher film that were coming out a dime by the dozen at that time. And if you’re thinking Andrew Divoff is gonna save you, you’re wrong. He’s been replaced by some wormy, lanky British guy who reeks of being a rejected Buffy the Vampire villain. Come to think of it, that’s the best way to describe this movie; like it’s the worst kind of fantasy/drama that not even the WB would show. It’s like an aborted Buffy or Xena episode. Now I know everything thinks a bad movie somehow equates to good because it’s bad, but some movies are just bad and shouldn’t be watched.

Wishmaster 3 revolves around your typical, cliched group of college kids that you instantly don’t care about and they aren’t relatable. Ok, not off to a good start, but unfortunately they are out leads. The center of which is a non-descript student, Diana, whose professor has an unhealthy obsession with her. Come to find out, he’s kind of a sexual deviant, which seems to always be a staple with these college-kids-partying movies. Well wouldn’t you know it, the pair uncover the stone that contains the Djinn and Diana accidentally frees it and almost immediately assumes the identity of Professor Barash. This is a good time to mention that not only has the whole subplot about the Djinn needing a thousand souls to become more powerful been completely forgotten about, but it’s different actors playing the Djinn, one in makeup and one out. Neither manage to capture the character you’ve come to know and neither even come close to living up to Andrew Divoff’s performance. This makes the entire film a chore to sit through, that nothing is worth mentioning.

As I stated earlier, the film is now a early 2000s paint-by-numbers slasher and the most unwatchable variety. Hell, even most of the victims aren’t friends of Diana’s, but more classmates. They weren’t developed, but they dress kinda slutty, so I guess we are supposed to care? In an attempt to try something different, Diana’s boyfriend becomes possessed with the spirit of Michael, an angle that I guess hunts down the Djinn. Sure, that’s fine and all except the previous films had gone out of their way to say that religion has nothing to do with them. Now I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure magical genies aren’t in the bible. Maybe if the film had anything I cared about, I would be more upset about retconning the most obvious thing, but this comes off as so stupid it would be like making fun of the biggest idiot in your class when he does something stupid. It’s kind of redundant.

Wishmaster 3, for whatever reason, is one of those films that was made for the falsely angst, Hot Topic teen that assumes this movie is both horror and fantasy. Nothing about it sticks out, nothing about is fun, nothing about is any good. Everything from the lighting to the cinematography screams TV drama. Angles are stale and the camera rarely moves and I consider this a problem in horror and fantasy, because your shots and lighting and determine whether or not there is any mood. The special effects are pretty bad this time around. The Djinn looks exactly like what it is; a guy in a rubber suit and since we’re cutting costs, the tentacles no longer wiggle. None of the death scenes were memorable or at least worth mentioning. There’s nothing bloody or over the top violent or even creative. It’s so uninspired and lackluster that I actually had to pop the movie back in and watch some of them to be sure I didn’t miss one worth mentioning. I didn’t.

But all the hatred I feel for the third film is nothing like I feel toward Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled. You would think that this movie killed my family and left me for dead with the way I feel toward it. I was seriously dreading watching this one, knowing that there would be nothing of enjoyment to come out of it. For some reason, I want to hate it more than I hated Wishmaster 3, but I just can’t. Seeing as it was shot back to back with the third film, Wishmaster 4 is the same level of quality, if you want to call it that. My complaints are the same only I feel slightly stronger about them, because absolutely nothing was improved. I know, they were shot at right after each other, so there was no time to learn from mistakes. Both are directed by Chris Angel and I know you are all thinking the Mindfreak guy, but no. This is a guy who primarily directs awful video shorts. Clearly, he’s your candidate for a full length feature that relies heavily on special effects and mythology.

Would you believe that this film actually has worse characters than the ones in the previous film? I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Bland college kids looking to party are the worst characters you could ever put into a movie, but Wishmaster 4 is full of sulking, overly brooding, self pitying characters that it’s impossible to even try and like them. The main two are a couple who seem to be so in love, having great sex and and drawing each other naked (you know, like every good relationship). The boyfriend, Sam, gets into an accident and can no longer walk, so he wheels himself around, drinking and feeling sorry for himself while being a total dick to his girlfriend, Lisa. Lisa also mopes around, but to her credit she at least tries to be caring toward Sam, even if most of the time it seems really spiteful. Their lawyer, Steven, is in love with Lisa and even offers her a gift that he accidentally drops and when it breaks open, wouldn’t you know it… the stone that contains the Djinn! How did it get there from the previous film? An explanation is never even attempted and quite frankly, I don’t care. Writing isn’t this film’s strongest feature.

The Djinn soon steals Steven’s face and if you thought the British guy from the previous movie was bad, hoo-boy. Wait’ll you get a load of this guy. He seems like he wants to emulate Andrew Divoff’s performance, but it comes off as a cheap Halloween discount store imitation. Rather than creepy and tongue in cheek, this performance is rather douchey and smarmy. Once again, he’s twisting people’s wishes and just as the previous film, none of them are memorable and not worth talking about. The only thing this film introduces that could have been really interesting was that Lisa actually makes three wishes, but there’s a catch; her third wish cannot be granted by the Djinn as she believes it’s Steven and wants to fall in love with him, so it’s up to her to grant her own wish. Unfortunately, the film fails at doing anything with this and almost seemingly forgets about it often. They also try to throw in another angelic figure that is now sent to kill Lisa so she can’t grant her third wish, although she already made it. Now, the film tries to be like The Terminator for a few moments as he chases Lisa like the T-1000 and trying to terminate her until he’s killed by the Djinn in a Highlander like sword battle. This film just can’t decide what it wants to be.

I would say it’s up to the viewer to decide, but it’s pretty unanimous that this film is total garbage. Like with the third movie in the series, Wishmaster 4 is unlikable and forgettable. Moments after seeing this you will ask yourself, “huh, did I just watch a movie?” Not to repeat myself, but nothing is memorable or worth mentioning. I could go on about the terrible special effects, but once again, I would just be repeating myself. Everything that made Wishmaster 3 a complete waste of time is present here at the same capacity.

All in all you could say that the Wishmaster Collection from Vestron Video is worth owning for the first two films alone and if you are some kind of masochist, then you can watch the last two. Personally, I have no desire to revisit Wishmaster 3 and 4 ever again, but upon watching the first two films, I had an urge to rewatch them. The first disc, which is all about the first film contains a good chunk of the bonus features that are worth checking out. There’s an audio commentary with the director Robert Kurtzman and writer Peter Atkins and another commentary track with Kurtzman and the Djinn himself, Andrew Divoff. There’s a good number of interviews with the cast and crew, including Kane Hodder, Tony Todd and Robert Englund, as well as a vintage making of featurette, some behind the scenes footage and the classic TV spots, trailers and so on. There’s enough for the first film to make this set worth it, but having Wishmaster 2 and all its bonus features is a plus, even if the bonuses are limited to an audio commentary with Jack Sholder, a trailer and the still gallery. Not that I’m complaining, because really that’s all you need for the second film. If you care, Wishmaster 3 and 4 also include audio commentaries, which may be worth it to hear if it’s delusional praise or to listen to them try and defend those movies.
So the Djinn may not have the staying power or notoriety of Jason of Freddy, but he’s far better than Horace Pinker from Shocker or the Trickster from Brainscan. Whereas the two latter villains were made to be horror movie icons, the Djinn wasn’t. He just turned out to be interesting and played by a talented guy. Wel, the first two movies anyway, which I highly recommend if you are looking for extremely imaginative horror/fantasy flicks and as for the last two films, I’d encase them in a stone and cement them so that they never may be found and curse the poor fool who unearths them, bringing armageddon to the eyes of those who watch it.

Ho-stess’s PS- Wishmaster Rocks!!! 😉 xoxoxo

#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