It’s time to get ready for a fight, horror fiends! In 1976, director John Carpenter released Assualt on Precinct 13 and almost single-handedly created the modern siege film. The story of a policeman with a couple of other officers, secretaries, three felons, and a hysterical man trying to keep at bay gang members who are trying to break into a closing police station in an abandoned section of Los Angeles to kill them all was groundbreaking. The gang members were a nameless, faceless threat, while the people keeping them out were charismatic and likable. The film also highlighted a characteristic that would be synonymous with the siege drama: urban blight. These films and stories would literally not be possible if the locations under siege – once functional structures occupying the heart of booming, populated areas – had not been left behind, abandoned by urban growth. Since the film was released, the genre has become a favorite subgenre within Horror (even Carpenter himself returned to it several times) so today, we are going to dive into a siege double feature with John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars and Joe Begos’ VFW.Continue reading “Cineray Under Siege!”
Let’s take a deep dive today, fiends! Today’s double feature is all about monsters from deep down in the ocean. In my opinion, today’s double feature entries broke the ground for a film like last year’s Underwater to be made. That’s right, deep-sea diabolists, today’s double feature is Deep Star Six and Leviathan.Continue reading “Deep Sea Cineray”
Let’s get physical, fiends! And I’m not talking about aerobics. Nope, what I am talking about is sex! And not just sex, but freaky sex at that!
You may ask what this has to do with horror movies. Well, when the intercourse involves a human and a non-human creature, it becomes incredibly horrific. So let’s get it started with today’s double feature of The Special and The Untamed.Continue reading “Cineray’s Freaky Sex Party!”
Good evening horror fiends! If you did not imagine that said in the voice of the one and only iconic Vincent Price, then get ready because this Cineray is perfect for you. But this is not a double feature recommendation; no, today I have decided this is a triple feature of my three favorite Price films. The reason for this is I could not settle on just two of his movies, and I feel like three is the limit for suggestion all in one sitting. Also, it’s been a bit since I suggested an excellent triple feature, and what better excuse than to watch the films of one of the great actors of horror. So today’s recommendation is The House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, and The Comedy of Terrors.Continue reading “Cineray Vincent Price Triple-Feature!!!”
It’s time for payback, fiends! If you are any kind of horror fan, you know that there is a revenge sub-genre. It has existed almost as long as horror movies have, with Tod Browning’s Freaks being one of the earliest examples I can think of. What separates horror revenge films from revenge thrillers is the level of violence and gore that bridges typically into the territory of exploitation. Other prime examples of the genre are The Last House on the Left and The Day of the Woman, aka I Spit on Your Grave. These films are known for their extreme levels of violence and gore. So with revenge in mind, today’s double feature is Revenge and Mandy.Continue reading “Cineray Wants Revenge!”
It’s time to giggle, fiends!
Sometimes we all need to take a break from people turning into demons and zombies and just have some fun (What the f&*k is so not fun about people turning into demons? – Shawn). I’m not just talking about fun, but the kind of fun that has goofy energy. Maybe you just want a movie you can enjoy with the rest of the family and still keep your horror love intact while you watch. If that’s the case, I’m here to help because today’s double feature pairs Elvira: Mistress of the Dark with underrated cult classic Rockula.Continue reading “Cineray Goes Goofy”
Alright fiends, let’s get cheesy!
I make no pretense about my love for cheesy cinema. Some movies are just so bad that they wrap around into the realm of being good again. Sometimes this is because of absurd plots that progress in bizarre or insane ways. Other times, the films are so poorly acted that they border on comedy gold; you know the kind, those movies worthy of group watches where the jokes that arise make viewing experience. Well, for today’s double feature, both films make such odd choices that they are charmingly eccentric and worth a watch, especially with friends (We’re getting there folks, but stay safe – Shawn). That’s right, today’s films are Don’t Panic and Doom Asylum.
Both of these films are so filled with cliches from the genres they draw from that I liken them to pizza, in that even bad pizza is still kind of good (definitely wouldn’t agree there – Shawn). One is the old “demon- summoning-by-mistake movie,” and the other is a straight-up slasher. In each case, these films know the tropes to exploit and the beats to hit and they do so with flair.Continue reading “Cineray – WTF?”
Alright fiends, let’s get metaphysical! Today the double feature goes into the territory of Horror-Science Fiction. Usually, when this particular subgenre of Horror gets mentioned, aliens and/or the future are the central focus. Not with today’s film selections, though. These films’ primary focus is the concept of identity and how it is tied to our bodies. Today’s Cineray double features are Possessor, directed by Brandon Cronenberg and Come True, directed by Anthony Scott Burns.Continue reading “Cineray Contemplates Identity”
Let’s get hairy, fiends! Today’s Cineray recommended movies are two of my favorite werewolf movies ever!
Ever since I was a kid, werewolves have been among my favorite monsters. Something about the lore and the look and the general terror associated with the creatures fascinates me. The concept of being a noble, good-intentioned person cursed to become a monstrous beast driven to attack people by the changing moon is mesmerizing. It’s not Jekyll who keeps taking his potion or an evil vampire driven by bloodlust. No, this is a person trying to control a beast within and trying to cure themselves of it. So today’s double feature is Werewolf of London and Dog Soldiers.Continue reading “Cineray Gets Furry”
Let’s get imaginary friends! For today’s double feature, we need to all try and remember back to our childhoods. For some, it may have been a while – it certainly is for me. If you were a single child or did not have siblings near your age, you may have had an imaginary friend. Someone as a young child you imagined playing with when other kids were not around, or you just felt lonely. Maybe that friend was harmless, or perhaps they made you do bad things or things you were not supposed to do. You know, stuff like dancing on tables, writing on walls, getting into things you were not supposed to, throwing that annoying kid down the stairs. Wow, wait, did I just write “throw a kid down the stairs?” I sure did because today’s double feature is about imaginary friends that are a lot more malicious than usual in Z and Daniel Isn’t Real.Continue reading “Cineray’s Imaginary Friends”
Let’s get meta fiends!
To be fair, today’s Cineray double feature is not entirely about being meta. These movies are also focused on crazy gore, blood puking, and 80’s hair metal soundtracks. Why? Well, because when Italians make horror movies, they like all those things and if they can do it with trapped victims they create cinematic magic. If you have not guessed it yet, today’s Cineray recommendations are the sequels Demons and Demons 2.Continue reading “Cineray Exercises Demons!”
Class is in sessions, fiends! All right, today I am recommending a double feature of foundational horror. Horror, like any other film genre, becomes more entertaining when you know its history. For one, the work that became the foundational building blocks are usually fantastic movies in their own right and are still as entertaining now as they were when they were first released. Knowing these historically significant films can enhance the viewing of later entries because they typically reference them. For today I have picked two films that were the building blocks for the slasher genre. They also have their genesis in the true-life story of the notorious serial killer Ed Gein. Today’s Cineray double feature is Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, directed by Tobe Hooper.Continue reading “Cineray: Slasher Fundamentals.”
All right, fiends, let’s get disturbed! I tend to build my double features based around my interests and what I find entertaining, but honestly, that can be short-sighted. I have long championed the opinion that just because a movie or genre is not my thing does not mean it is not good or worth a person’s time. Everyone has a right to their own opinions and tastes, and with that in mind, today’s double feature is one I have watched but don’t think I would put myself through again. Today’s territory is serial killers, and the movies are Random Acts of Violence and Found.Continue reading “The Serial Killer Cineray”
Greetings, horror fiends. Think about it: we spend our days working or doing whatever we have to, and every night we sleep to restore ourselves. But sometimes sleep is not restful at all; sometimes it’s worse than being awake. Sleep can be troubled, our dreams plagued with the anxieties of our daily lives, nightmares filled with demons of the things we fear. Today’s double feature focuses on nightmares and the monsters that call them home. No glove-wearing, crispy-skinned killers here kids, today’s double feature is Dreamscape and Dream Demon.Continue reading “The Cineray of Your Dreams… or Nightmares!”
It’s Cineray time, fiends! All right, if you are like me, the last year has been challenging. And if you are a lot like me, you have been watching a lot of horror movies to escape the stress of this year. Certainly, there have been times this year that have felt like life itself is the most fearsome thing in our lives. And that concept that life can sometimes be the monster that stalks us is the concept at the heart of today’s double feature of Fingers and Are We Not Cats.Continue reading “Cineray Loves Weirdos!”
Hey there fiends, today’s Cineray recommendations are going to seem bizarre together. Both were released in the last year, and they are going to seem completely unrelated at first. And yet, therein lies the power of this double feature. You see, both films have surprise twists at their conclusions that tie them together. That’s right, today’s recommendations are Underwater and Castle Freak.Continue reading “Cineray Explores Strange Connections in this literary Double-Feature”
All right, today’s review is for Society by Brian Yuzna with effects by Screaming Mad George. Word of warning right up front, this is going to be a spoiler-heavy review. It just seems like it would be impossible to critique this movie without discussing the final act and its grotesque imagery. Honestly though, if you have not watched this one as a horror fan, shame on you. The film is infamous, and while it might have been hard to come by once, Society is now readily available to stream in multiple places, although if you have Shudder, I’d recommend you head over there and see it with Joe Bob Briggs as your guide. His presentation is fantastic. Joe Bob adds some fun trivia, and the way he breaks up the movie with his interludes may distract you from the lack of horror in the film and the over abundance of Story.
The story revolves around Billy Whitney, played by Billy Warlock, who has anxiety concerning his family and their increasingly strange behavior. His parents are wealthy, and his sister Jenny is a popular girl whose only concerns seem to be about fitting in with the right crowd. This may all sound like your standard teenage anxiety, with there’s something else going on with the Whitney’s, Billy begins to fear may be incestuous, what with all the strange sounds he hears at night and Jenny’s ex-boyfriend’s urgent, coded messages that he has to tell Billy something about his family.
Amplifying Billy’s familial concerns are his own girlfriend’s odd behavior, as well as navigating the popular crowd at school, a caste he is supposedly born into as a Whitney, but one he has a growing schism with. As the story unfolds, Society sometimes feels more like a soap opera with thriller elements than a horror film – perfect because Billy is played by actor Billy Warlock, who was indeed a soap opera star.
The story evolves slowly, and honestly, there are just not enough horror elements in this movie. There are the remnants of a car accident with blood all over the concrete and a throat-cutting, but really, it’s not until that final act that the Horror with a capital H rears its head. Because folks, this is where Yuzna’s film goes bananas. When we get to the reveal that the popular kids in school, Billy’s parents, friends, and pretty much the entirety of the popular kids at school are all members of a Secret Society things get really interesting. And when we learn these folks aren’t human at all, but some sort of species living alongside humanity pretty much since the beginning of time with a vampiric appetite for human flesh, the film goes all out.
The whole process of shunting, the activity during which Billy learns the truth, is monstrous, with an orgy of flesh that’s soft and gooey, malleable and interchangeable, well, let’s just say you might be thankful for your gag reflex. The whole thing reminds me more of an alien on Deep Space Nine who could take whatever form he desired but had to spend a certain amount of time as a puddle in a bucket.
I don’t want to bash the film entirely. The way no one throughout the film believes Billy is done well. It really creates a paranoia about what is happening. You can never be quite sure as a viewer if Billy is disturbed, he is going to therapy after all, or if his suspicions are right. The scene when he zips up his sister’s dress and the love scene with Clarissa both create the real sense that you might not be able to trust Billy, either. From a social critique perspective, the film lavishes in its suspicion of the social elite. It’s not as thoughtful as They Live, but it still raises solid points. I feel this one could have used more of that critique and maybe some more candid glimpses of Billy. However, following that path may have proved difficult without sabotaging that shocking final act. Also, we should definitely take into consideration that this was Brian Yuzna’s directorial debut, so it’s possible he just did not have the experience as a storyteller to think of this or some of the overabundance of story in this film.
My honest take on this movie is I would be hard-pressed to want to watch it again. So much of its power comes from that ending that knowing it means I am watching through this soap opera of a movie just to get to the messed up final act. I feel like if I were to rewatch it would be a Cineray double feature to show friends who have never seen the film and wait in eager anticipation of the final act to see how repulsed they become. But Society just does not seem to have a great amount of rewatch-ability.
On a final note, it’s impressive grotesque work by Screaming Mad George but if you want to see a film that is packed with his impressive work, check out Freaked; almost every moment of that one is filled with his work.
All right, horror fiends! Today’s suggestion for a double feature will feature two of the best sequels in horror movie history. You may ask why not recommend the first movies in these series. Well, you almost certainly will either have seen them or already have plans to see those movies already; they are classics. But I will champion the opinion that these two sequels are better than the original films. I’m talking about Evil Dead 2, directed by Sam Raimi, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, directed by Tobe Hooper.Continue reading “Cineray’s Killer Sequels Double-Feature!”
Ready to get intense horror fiends? Today’s Cineray double feature recommendation is not just going to very time-consuming, but it will also be emotionally taxing. But some movies are worth it. Some films truly transcend entertainment and become emotionally courageous works of art that challenge our morals and ideas about right and wrong. Today’s two movies are Midsommar and Suspiria.
Directed by Ari Aster, Midsommar stars Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor. The film is an intense exploration of grief and family and the distance that grows between people. Pugh stars as Dani, a young woman in college dating Christian played by Reynor. Christian has reached a point where he feels the relationship over, and despite the ridicule he suffers from friends, he is still too cowardly to end the relationship. Christian and his friends see Dani as needy, while she is just seeking as much attention as Christian invests in everyone else. And then Dani is destroyed emotionally when her sister and parents are killed. A strained relationship becomes even more strained when Christian now does not know how to be there for Dani in her grief. When a trip to Christian’s friend Pelle’s home village comes up, she asks to go with, more as a distraction to her suffering. Christian wants to say no but doesn’t. So with his friends and Christian, Dani heads for the Midsummer festival in Hälsingland. At first, it seems like a harmless European trip with some drugs involved, but things seem off when they arrive in the commune. They will all discover something they were all unprepared for, and for Dani, something she may need more than she realizes.
Like Aster’s first feature, Hereditary, this is not a simple horror movie. Aster infuses his work with complex characters with real emotional trauma and fears. The film almost immediately gives one a sense of films like The Wicker Man, but this commune is not as simple as a group of pagans looking for a sacrifice. The first people we see die are suicides, as are the second, and it challenges in our cultural standard of understanding suicide versus the commune’s moral standard. The film continues in this manner, suggesting that moral concepts are a lot more fluid than we perceive. Pugh is fantastic and raw in her performance as Dani, a young woman trying to stifle her grief when its existence is real and life-changing.
The second feature is another journey of self-discovery for a young woman, Suspiria, directed by Luca Guadagnino. This film is a remake of the Argento classic but trust me, even though the original is a masterwork of beautiful horror, this is definitely worth giving a chance. Guadagnino’s film is a moody meditation on female sexuality, power, and self-acceptance. The film centers on Susie Bannion, a young dancer who has come to study at the Markos Dance Academy in West Germany. Meanwhile, she discovers her arrival coincides with another student’s disappearance after she revealed to her psychotherapist Dr. Josef Klamperer, that she believed a coven of witches known as the Three Mothers runs the school. Susie quickly rises in favor under the tutelage of Madame Blanc, the head dance instructor. Meanwhile, the rest of the coven conspires to make Susie the new host for their aging Madam Markos. Dr. Klamperer is also approached and aided by another student, Sara, as he investigates the school.
This reimagining of the Suspiria concept has a lot of new and thoughtful material added to the mix. The film takes place in 1977, and the backdrop of political upheaval adds to the feeling of tension in the Academy. The violence and gore are intense and memorable and very well done. And the performances are outstanding all around. Dakota Johnson is fantastic as Susie, a girl seeming very driven and innocent hiding a lot of foresight and ability. Tilda Swinton is not just one character in this film as Madame Blanc but also Dr. Klemperer and Madam Markos, giving impressive performances under a ton of effects makeup. The dances are a lot more present in this version, and they also become a ritual hidden in plain sight by the witches. The witches’ power is rooted in their gender.
Now back to the lengths of these films. Horror films generally last about 90 minutes, with only the adventurous going longer. These two films, however, are a lot longer. Midsommer in the theatrical cut is 2 hours and 18 minutes, while Suspiria is 2 hours and 32 minutes. I know that sounds like a lot, but these films do not waste scenes or characters in telling the stories of these films. The stories do not languish, and both move at a great pace and are tension-filled.
These two together is going to be a trial but a rewarding one. It also may be a daunting challenge to anyone not ready for the level of emotional investment, especially in female-centric movies, these demands of a viewer. Then again, with our society moving towards female empowerment and battling toxic masculinity, these are movies for the times we live in now. These films can be found at various sources for rent or purchase, but your best resource is amazon prime as both films are available free, and if you have a UHD TV, they are available as both UHD and HD presentation. Oh, and stick around till the end of Suspiria for an after-credits scene.
Happy Holidays, fiends! If you are like me, somewhere in an old family photo album or special holiday frame is a picture of a child version of you sitting on Santa’s lap while crying your eyes out. As we grow up, our parents tell us that Santa brings us presents and, therefore, we should not be afraid of him. But maybe that childhood instinct is correct. Perhaps, trusting a fat old man with beard dresses In a red suit who loves kids is a lot sketchier than we give the story credit. Today’s Cineray holiday recommendations are a couple of films about some very dangerous Santas and the badass kids who battle against them in Dial Code Santa Claus and Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.
Dial Code Santa Claus – AKA Deadly Games – is like a demented and scarier Home Alone with a kid that has watched all the best 80’s action movies. The story takes place on Christmas Eve in the home of Thomas. Thomas is a brilliant boy with a grand imagination and a wealthy mother that indulges him. He dresses for his day like a mini Rambo and spends his day capturing his dog in trap doors. Thomas has installed a camera system throughout his entire house and can see everything from a remote on his wrist.
The camera system is the least of his security measures.
Thomas also spends his days with Papy, his grandfather, and works to repair his mother’s old car while Julie, his mother, manages a department store. Meanwhile, a man spots the store is hiring for a Santa and takes the job. When a girl accuses Santa of being fake, the jolly bastard slaps her. Julie sees this happen and fires him immediately. He steals her address, though and after killing a delivery driver and stealing his van, goes to her home. When he breaks in, Thomas mistakes this criminal for the actual Santa until a brutal event shows him the truth. Thomas has to mount a defensive to save himself and his grandfather from the psycho Santa.
What makes this movie great is the motifs and sequences it borrows from 80s action movies we know and love. It’s not a movie with a lot of kills, but it’s smart with the kills it does have and fills in the gaps with action. I would even hazard that one kill can be downright polarizing for viewers and may anger them to consider stopping the film right there. But I think it’s a bold move to establish the unforgivable evil as the crazy man simply known as Par Noel and put him in a Santa suit. It creates an eerie undertone beneath those 80’s action motifs.
Take the opening scene of Thomas suiting up with boots, toy knives, and camouflage, all laced up and strapped on to a knock-off hard rock soundtrack. These shots would usually be close-ups on the tight, rippling muscles of a Stallone or Schwarzenegger, but here they’re of a kid whose only resemblance to those 80s action stars is a spectacular mullet. And considering the odds and events Thomas has to deal with, he’s a total badass. It’s not a perfect film by far; there’s an opening that is heavy with exposition, and some of the callbacks overstay their welcome. But it’s a French take on over-the-top American Cinema, so it kind of makes sense.
Next, we move from a psychotic Santa to a demonic one.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is an extremely original concept that is really brought to life by a fantastic cast. The story starts with a survey crew on a mountain. They’re using a drill to take soil samples and find what they’re looking for when the foreman presents Riley, the man finding the operation, with soil that contains sawdust. Riley is excited as he explains the dust’s presence as evidence of something trapped in ice. Riley tells his crew they are close to finding what they set out to find, none other than Santa Claus, or at the very least the being that the Santa myth is based on, frozen in this ice.
Nearby, local boys Jusso and Pietari are sneaking around the site, listening to all of this. They hurry home, and Pietari begins to read up on this creature buried in the mountain. He discovers old folklore about a horned man with goat’s feet who once ran free, whipping and sometimes eating children who misbehave. The next day during the town’s annual reindeer hunt, Pietari’s father Rauno and some other men discover the corpses of hundreds of reindeer, all gnawed and eaten. They believe wolves have been driven wild by the mountain’s excavation, but when the disappearance of some local children follows this, it’s Jusso and Pietari who know the truth. The kids know better than the adults because adults are conditioned to disregard folklore, while the children are open to the fantastic.
Rare Exports‘ crisp, sharp cinematography and excellent production and set design make it a joy to watch. Nothing here looks fake, and similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing, this entry into the “monster thawed from the ice” subgenre feels very original.
Again these are both foreign films with subtitles, one being French and the other Finnish, and they both are great. As is usually the case with a good foreign film, at some point, you forget you are reading as you watch and just start doing it automatically and enjoying the movie. To watch these, you can stream Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale from several places, with options to watch for free with ads or with the cost of a rental or subscription but as usual, it’s on Shudder along with Dial Code Santa Claus so why not watch there.
Well, it’s that season again, fiends! That time when we get crap for watching horror movies during the “holidays.” It’s also when we get together with family and take part in that thinly veiled dance where we try not to get angry at family members we have not seen for a while. So why not watch a couple of horror movies that take all those thoughts about the holidays we have and take them to the violent nth degree. Today’s Cineray holiday recommendations are Red Christmas, directed and written by Craig Anderson and Secret Santa, directed and co-written by Adam Marcus, and co-written by Debra Sullivan.
Red Christmas is a slasher movie with an unusual killer and a mixed political message. This one starts at an abortion clinic that is bombed by a pro-life activist. In the aftermath, the bomber finds and takes with him the surviving result of a late-term abortion. Flash forward 20 years to Diane, played by Dee Wallace, hosting her family at her home in Australia. Tensions are high and old wounds show as the festivities begin. Her daughter Ginny is nine months pregnant and likes to smoke pit with her husband, supplied by her uncle, and her sister Suzy arrives with her pastor husband. The two clash and argue a lot with the family between them. And then a mysterious stranger named Cletus, wrapped in bandages, wearing a cloak arrives, and before they understand what’s happening, he is picking them off one at a time.
The slasher element of Red Christmas is pretty inventive, and once the kills start, they are pretty brutal. In typical slasher fashion, the killer has come for revenge, except here, his origin and rationale are pretty inventive. The kills could be a little more revealing, especially for a slasher, but it being an independent film, maybe that was the best way they felt they could keep down the cost. The special effect on the barely seen Cletus is cheesy looking, and honestly, the mystery of how he looks should have held for the entire film, but it’s quick and easy to see past. Finally, it’s a little muddled in its politics.
The next feature Secret Santa follows with more of a family killing spree but a lot more killing and some excellent dark humor. The film follows a family who meets for Christmas Eve dinner and their annual Secret Santa Ritual. Though blood, these are all different people with histories and issues between them. Tensions are high because, well, old wounds often do not heal. During a tense argument, violence ensues, and people start attacking others and complaining of feeling hot while others try to protect themselves and escape. But one of them has engineered the events of this evening and secretly knows what is going on.
The humor and violence of this film are entertaining, and the actors are great. It’s easy to hate some characters as the film progresses, but there’s a complicated family narrative afoot as well. Take the shrewish family matriarch Shari, played here in spiteful, vengeful glory by Debra Sullivan. Even though it’s an independent feature, the film spares no expense with the practical effects. The kills are fantastic, and some are outright funny. There is one WTF moment of particular gruesomeness in the film that will make you laugh out loud.
Now, to be completely honest, my fondness for Secret Santa transcends how great I think the movie is. This is because, when the Horror Vision podcast was only into its fifth episode, we got the chance to sit down and interview Adam Marcus and co-writer and star Debra Sullivan, and the film’s producer Bryan Sexton about the film. They were all excellent guests and very personable and open about the film process. Adam is generous in his advice and very positive, and Debra could not be farther from her character onscreen. She is very friendly and a great actor, considering how much you hate her character onscreen. That being said, more people need to see this horror film, and it’s always part of the reason I pick my Cineray features. Red Christmas can be rented from all the usual places but is free with Prime, Peacock, and Shudder, while Secret Santa is available for rent or purchase through Prime and YouTube.
Hey, there horror fiends! Today I am going to recommend a couple of movies with monsters. But not just any monsters. Nope, today I am recommending two films that feature monsters from the briny deep. No sharks, octopus, or Cthulhu either, although watch for the future on the later. No, today we are watching two movies that feel like sequels of each other. Today’s fishy Cineray recommendations are Creature from the Black Lagoon directed by Jack Arnold and Humanoids from the Deep directed by Barbara Peeters.
First up is Creature from the Black Lagoon, a classic tale of a forgotten monster and the explorers who have found him. The Gill Man, as the creature is known, is a creature who has evolved from fish over millennia hidden away in the Amazon undiscovered. When a fossilized fin with claws that looks a lot like a human hand with webbing is found, Dr. Carl Maia enlists the aid of his friend and former student Dr. David Reed to help along with Reed’s boss Dr. Mark Williams and Reed’s colleague and girlfriend Kat Lawrence in finding more fossils. What they find is more than they bargained for in the living Gill Man. Before they know it, the monster has killed members of their party. He also has taken an interest in Kay, and they resolve to leave. But the Gill Man traps them, and they must protect Kay and themselves from the murderous creature.
It may seem like a cliched story, but that’s because this is the film that originated this particular trope. Movies like Rogue, Anaconda, or even Aliens, to an extent, have borrowed the “explorers caught by a monster and desperately try to escape” story from this film. And as the story in those films progresses, so too does Creature from the Black Lagoon. The monster’s attraction to a human woman is not all that original even in 1954, but where the motives of the Gill Man’s interest in Kay in this film are not explained but only hinted at, the monsters’ motives in Humanoids from the Deep are very clear.
Humanoids from the Deep has all that you can want from a monster movie: a great monster and lots of monster attacks. The film starts with fishermen being attacked by an unseen creature, which causes an accidental explosion that kills everyone. At the fishing village in Noyo, California, the explosion is ruled an accident. A company named Canco is moving forward with their plans to open a cannery in the town while attacks on people near the water intensify. In each attack, the men are killed and mutilated while the women are attacked and raped by the humanoid fish creatures. As the time for the town’s annual festival approaches, a villager named Jim and Canco scientist Dr. Drake deduce what is happening and fear the attacks are about to get much worse.
This film has a great monster, and the effects and action are excellent. The monster looks like an evolution of the Gill Man, with longer arms, larger fangs, and much more prominent fins. It’s all practical, and there are several monsters. They also do not choke their victims to death; they mutilate what they kill.
The movie is thin on characters, but it has many monster attacks, which is exactly what you want in a monster movie. This movie plays to its strengths. The monsters are also a lot more clear in their intentions for the women. They are here with a strong biological compulsion to assert themselves by reproducing with women and killing men. The ending also has a twist that has since been copied.
Finally, I think I picked these films because they are fun. Creature from the Black Lagoon may be my favorite of the Universal Monster movies. The Gill Man is so clear in his intention, and the movie moves so well. These men have invaded his territory, and he is going to assert himself and take their woman. And Humanoids from the Deep follows in that tradition and includes a critique on science. Creature from the Black Lagoon is available for rent on all the usual streaming services, while Humanoids from the Deep is free on Prime and Shudder and Tubi and Shout TV if you can stand the ads that will run during the film.
Hey horror fiends! This week was Thanksgiving, and if you are like me, you had enough turkey to last you a while. But thankfully, we never get tired of horror. For this week’s Cineray double feature, I have decided on a couple of slasher movies. One is legitimately set on the Thanksgiving holiday while the other is not, but there is a theme that ties them together I will reveal later. Today’s recommendations are Blood Rage, directed by John Grissmer, and The Mutilator, directed by Buddy Cooper.
Blood Rage is a great slasher that happens to take place on Thanksgiving. The story focuses on twin brothers Todd and Terry and their mother, Louise. One night while at a drive-in, Louise, played by Louise Lasser, begins to make out with her husband while her sons sleep in the back of the station wagon. Terry wakes up and wakes his brother and tells him to sneak out of the car with him. While out looking in car windows and around, Terry finds an ax. He happens upon a couple having sex in their car and gets caught pepping with Todd standing behind him in the distance. Terry hacks the man’s face to death, then gives the ax to Todd and smears blood on him. Todd is traumatized and left catatonic and institutionalized. Ten years later, after Louise visits on Thanksgiving, Todd escapes. Meanwhile, after Louise announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Terry gets triggered into a killing spree at the apartment complex where they live.
Blood Rage is a fantastic slasher movie with lots of gore and a pretty inventive plot. Once Terry starts offing people, it’s pretty great. He hacks and slashes his way through his victims, and the effects are all practical and excellent. The dismembered hand clutching a can of beer is pretty memorable. Mark Soper plays the twin brothers Todd and Terry, and he does a great job of it. Terry is ruthless and cruel in his actions, while Todd, by comparison, is soft-spoken and just kind of lost in how to stop his brother. As the film progresses, there is an indication that there may be an incestuous Oedipal relationship between Louise and Terry. From a man killing to eliminate competition for his mother’s love, we shift to a movie whose action focuses on a man’s accidental murder of his mother.
The Mutilator focuses on the story of Ed and his father, Big Ed. One day while his father is out, Ed is cleaning one of his father’s hunting rifles to surprise him when the weapon accidentally discharges and shoots his mother in the next room, killing her. When Big Ed comes home, he blames Ed and has a psychotic break. Many years later, Ed is now in college and decides to go with his college friends to his father’s beach home for Fall Break. What they don’t know is that Big Ed is hiding at the beach house, waiting to exact his revenge on his son after all these years.
What makes this film fun is how odd of a slasher movie it is. It’s fairly formulaic in its plot and structure, with the killer ramp up in violence and the characters indulging in episodes of making out. But the tone of this film is bonkers. It starts with the very stark, almost overly dramatic mother’s death and then cuts to the friends meeting and deciding to go to the beach house, which is a very light-hearted scene. And then the film’s original title Fall Break, comes on screen over a music montage more fitting for a cheesy 80’s comedy. The film does this more than a few times. It will be a slasher movie one moment and then decide it wants to be a teen sex comedy for a moment or two.
These films are worth a watch because they have largely been forgotten about, even amidst the increased market for regional slasher movies. Plus, both films both focus on killers motivated by family relationships and anger. If you have been on either a zoom call or a small family gathering, this season chances are you may feel homicidal too. The Mutilator is on Amazon prime video, and Blood Rage is on Prime, Kanopy, and best of all Shudder. Now you can watch Blood Rage all on its own, but as I always do, I recommend it watched as part of the
All right, all you hip horror hounds, it’s time for another groovy Cineray double feature. If you are picking up what I am putting down daddy-o’s, today’s recommendation is a couple of films that celebrate the hay days of 60’s drive-in horror movies with a modern twist. But first, perhaps I should offer a little backstory on how all this got started.
Movie theaters are still shut down here in Cali for the most part. Yours truly and Shawn – who is kind of the Horror Vision podcast group CEO – have recently attended a handful of drive-in presentations. For me, it’s been many years since watching a movie from the car, and these recent experiences have rekindled a lot of great old memories. So in celebration of the drive-in experience, today’s double features are Chillerama and Psycho Beach Party.
Before I get into each movie, let me get into a bit of drive-in trivia and the movies of the drive-in. For those too young to have experienced the drive-in experience or did not have one in your area, the drive-in is a pretty different experience from the theater. For one thing, you are in a car with whomever you have come with and are somewhat isolated from the other patrons. This isolation allows you to make comments or even talk during the movie without worrying about bothering other parties (But not too much, Ray! – Shhh!ing Shawn).
The Drive-in was also known as a popular make-out spot, something which both films I will talk about today showcase. And there was a particular type of cinema that thrived at the drive-in. These films were second-run, independent ones, not the big, new releases that played at the then-burgeoning multiplexes. So giant monster movies and the more schlocky or cheesy movies were the more popular fare. Therefore, I wanted to make both films I recommend today homages to that time and those types of films.
First up is Chillerama, a horror anthology featuring the directing talent of Adam Rifkin, Bear McCreary, Adam Green, Joe Lynch, and Tim Sullivan. The connection to the drive-in is both the setting, the framing device, and the subjects of the short films within the film.
The wrap-around or ‘framing’ story surrounds a group of characters at the drive-in for the last night before it is closed and demolished to watch a presentation called Chillerama, a set of short films we as an audience watch along with them, checking in between films to see their story as it unfolds.
The first story in Chillerama is a giant monster movie called Wadzilla, followed by I Was a Teenage Werebear, a monster movie called Diary of Anne Frankenstein, and the wrap-around story called Zom-b-movie. All of the shorts are filled with humor that verges on parody. Sometimes the jokes get a bit juvenile, but ultimately they are all gruesome fun with gobs of modern gore.
Similarly, our second feature, Psycho Beach Party starring Lauren Ambrose and Nicholas Branden, is also infused with a lot of humor. The film centers on Florence, a 16-year-old girl in the 1960s who enjoys going to drive-in movies with her best friend. One night a girl is murdered at the drive-in, and the police investigate. Meanwhile, Florence is invited by the popular Marvel Ann (Amy Adams) to the beach and sees Starcat (Brendan) and his friends surfing. She asks to learn, but they laugh her off. Florence goes to the surf guru the Great Kanaka and, after freaking him out by exhibiting an alternate personality, intimidates him into teaching her. While the bodies pile up, Florence earns the nickname Chicklet as her surfing improves, and she experiences more strange episodes.
These films are enjoyable without any prior knowledge of the genres referenced but even more so with said knowledge. It’s worth your time and enjoyment to watch some old horror movies for those looking for some of that knowledge. Particularly giant monster movies like Them, Tarantula, or similar giant monster movies, Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, the early zombie movies of George Romero, I was a Teenage Werewolf and the teenage Beach movies of Annette Funicello. Knowing these films enhances your perspective of how well these movies reference the material and help with some of the more subtle jokes. The first time I watched Chillerama, I only liked it a bit; however, after viewing a lot more of the material it references, I enjoyed it a whole lot more.
Finally, if nothing else, I hope these films serve as a jumping-off point to consider more of the classic cinema that has become the road some of our beloved movies have walked down. The filmmakers who made movies like Hatchet and Mayhem that we love now grew up on these older movies and informed who they are and what they created. Also, consider finding where your nearest drive-in is and having a night at the drive-in. Besides the other great attributes I already listed, drive-ins usually feature double features and allow you to bring in your own refreshments, which is a tremendous deal over the theater experience. Both of these movies can be found on Prime video, Chillerama is free, but you will have to rent Psycho Beach Party.
Hey fiends! So Halloween has come and gone, and if you were like me, it was somewhat uneventful while you sat at home being safe. But maybe you are not ready to let the season go by quite just yet. So why not take in a couple of great anthologies that are perfect for saying goodbye for the season with Scare Package and Tales of Halloween.
Scare Package is a fun anthology of horror shorts all tied together by a couple of framing devices and tons of fun horror and gore. The film is not just an homage to the horror genre but is also how most horror fans over the age of 30 were first introduced to horror movies, the local video store. The film’s primary framing device is Rad Chad’s video store, where the stories usually have their genesis as either a story or a videotape being played or discussed. Rad Chad is the know-it-all horror guy, and Sam is one of his customers, the attention-seeking horror nerd. Later Chad acknowledges his role as a know-it-all horror guy and that he is a part of a horror movie. Most of the characters in the meta situations are easily recognizable in horror, and the way they are used and displayed is comic and fun.
Many genres of horror are referenced, and usually, every short references more than one. From slashers to monsters to devil worshippers to body melt to black government scientists, so many troupes are referenced and made fun of but in the most loving of ways. The people involved in this love horror movies and wanted to create something that showed that love. There is a fun reference early on to a horror icon who later makes a cameo as a character. Among some of my favorite moments are a short involving body melt and a secret government experiment. There is also a wrap-around framing device and an entertaining character in it.
Tales of Halloween is a lot less meta but still pays its share of homage while utilizing a more cemented location and a fun run start to finish. The film takes place on Halloween in a suburban town. A local DJ, played by Adrienne Barbeau, narrates and is heard throughout the film when characters listen to the radio. For fans of the Fog, you will live the use of Barbary. Some of the stories are very horror focused while others are horror-comedy. Among the genres referenced are urban legends, vengeful ghosts, devils and imps, slashers, aliens, witches, and demons. I tend to like the more comedic, but a couple took me by surprise with their twists.
I think the order of Scare Package and then Tales of Halloween is the better choice because of how the stories are presented. Scare Package tends to ramp up and even ends with a bang. Continuing with Tales of Halloween is a good way to end the night because it’s almost a cool down and all of the tales take place on Halloween night. If you feel ambitious or just have lots of time, you could always make this a triple feature with Trick-r-Treat if you did not already watch it this past Halloween season. I would probably place it right between the two or after Tales of Halloween, but that one I will leave for you to decide.
Finally, both Scare Package and Tales of Halloween are available on Shudder, where I suggest watching them. For one, they are both conveniently streaming in one place, so whether you are watching from a computer or smart tv you can stay in one application. Tales of Halloween is on the main page under a Shudder Halloween and Scare Package is in the separate category Exclusive and Original. But I would recommend looking up the Last Drive-In presentation of Scare Package just to add another element of fun with Joe Bob Briggs.
All right fiends, its time for some vampire fun. Now I normally don’t like to make a double feature that includes sequels. It just feels lazy to me most of the time and usually, I like to try and create double features that focus on interesting connections and thematic elements. But there is something so perfect about putting Fright Night and Fright Night Part 2 together as a fun night of horror-filled fun.
To be clear I am recommending the 1985 and 1988 original films, not the remakes. Both are clever and funny films that pay homage to the history of horror they reference in the films. As I discuss each film I will highlight those qualities. They are also horror movies that never stop considering that they are trying to be fun. Whether it’s through comedy or fantastic effects or scares, these movies focus on you enjoying what’s on-screen.
Fright Night was directed and written by Tom Holland and starred Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowell, Amanda Bearse, and Stephen Geoffreys. Ragsdale stars as Charlie Brewster, a young man who lives with his mother and is dating Amy (Bearse). One night while he and Amy are in his room, he looks out the window and sees his new neighbors moving in, which arouses his suspicions because who moves after dark. The next day he falls asleep watching Fright Night, his favorite late-night horror tv show where Peter Vincent (McDowell) showcases horror movies. When he wakes later in the night and goes to turn off the TV, Charlie passes the window and sees his new neighbor Jerry Dandridge with a woman in the middle of sex.
While Charlie watches, Jerry grows fangs. As he goes to bite the woman, Jerry spots Charlie. He connects eyes with Charlie and then closes the shade. The next night Jerry attacks Charlie in his room, but Charlie’s mother overhears the commotion and Jerry flees. Charlie tells his friends Amy and “Evil” Ed (Geoffreys) and even calls the police, but Jerry outsmarts Charlie and appears innocent. In desperation, Charlie goes to enlist the aid of Peter Vincent, who is doubtful but comes to believe Charlie. Meanwhile, Jerry has become enamored of Amy, and Charlie has put everyone in danger because they know Jerry’s secret. Charlie and Peter are headed for an eventual confrontation with Jerry or die.
What makes Fright Night so good is how it references films from the past while telling its story. To start, it uses the Fright Night tv show that plays in the background as a device to pay homage to horror hosts and their shows from the past. Before there was streaming and even home video, people sat down on Friday and Saturday nights to watch old horror movies hosted by people like Elvira and Zacherley. They played all different types of films with much focus on horror from the ’50s and ’60s and Hammer horror movies, many of which were vampire films. Peter Vincent is a direct reference to those times, not only as a host, but his name is a reference to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, and his outfit is reminiscent of Cushing’s Dr. Van Helsing’s costumes. The structure of the story and action is also very similar to those films. A vampire arrives and starts killing young women, which arouses the locals’ suspicions. They enlist a vampire hunter to help stop him before taking a woman as his bride (usually the love interest of the main character). This film also is very respectful of vampire lore in a way some play fast and loose. One is Jerry’s use of a ghoul that is his daytime protector, a character that has seemed to disappear over time. Another is the way certain items affect Jerry. Garlic has been a referenced ward against vampires, but roses and other aromatics are usually forgotten but used in this film. And the holy cross as a talisman is utilized, but it places importance on the ward’s use being dependent on its user’s faith. Oh, and Geoffreys as “Evil” Ed – Charlie’s hapless friend that is turned into one of the most famous side characters with very little screen time – is iconic. These elements are carried over into our second feature Fright Night Part 2.
This sequel opens on a brief recap of the first movie with Charlie discussing the events with his therapist. Charlie is now a college student and is convinced that the whole thing was a delusion to create a logical explanation that Jerry Dandridge was a serial killer and that vampires do not exist. Peter has meanwhile returned to being a tv horror host with a show that has waning popularity. One night while visiting Peter at his apartment with his girlfriend Alex, he sees people moving in with large crates and becomes attracted to one of them, the beautiful Regine. Later, Regine reveals to Peter she is a vampire, and Jerry’s sister comes for revenge on Peter and Charlie. While Regine slowly begins to change Charlie into a vampire, Alex starts to see Charlie was not delusional and turns to Peter to help her save Charlie.
Fright Night Part 2 builds on many of the first film concepts and adds some great new characters and story elements. Again the story structure and events are referential to horror films like Vampire Circus; the family of a killed vampire comes to exact revenge on the exterminators. It’s also clever that Regine not just wants to kill Peter but steals his show away from him. To aid Regine in her revenge are not only her ghoul but a werewolf and a transgender roller-skating vampire named Belle. Yeah, you read that right. Although Belle – played by Russell Clark – never says a word, he makes a lasting impression. This character is also a reason I love horror as a genre more and more. Whereas mainstream media was slow to use or deal with queer characters and themes, horror was doing it for a while. It may not seem like much, but doing so leads to the more inclusive and accepting environment we live in now.
Before I tell you where to watch these films, I have an interesting trivia piece to share about Fright Night Part 2. At the time of its release, the sequel was a bomb; it in no way was the success the first was. It did not get a major theatrical release and was hardly promoted but has become a cult classic since. This status is not because of the film but rather because of its unfortunate ties to an infamous piece of history. The story goes that the sequel’s director Tommy Lee Wallace and Roddy McDowell had a meeting with Live Entertainment CEO Jose Menendez about the film’s planned distribution and ad campaign one day. That evening Jose was murdered along with his wife by their sons in events that would become known as the Menendez murders. As a result, the film lost its nationwide distribution opening in LA and NY before hitting video store shelves with no advertising. This also killed the plans for another sequel that director Tom Holland and actor Roddy McDowell planned.
You can find Fright Night on Amazon, Apple tv, Fandango Now, Redbox, and Youtube for rent or purchase, as well as streaming free on Prime Video. Fright Night Part 2 is not available for rent or purchase, but thankfully it is streaming for free on youtube in HD.
All right fiends, let’s get weird. Horror as a genre is an interesting one when you consider what it encompasses. From giant monsters to slashers to Giallo mysteries to devil worshippers, all these things make up our beloved genre. Sometimes Horror is also bizarre and odd, even if it is also very funny. Today’s recommendations are The Greasy Strangler, directed by Jim Hosking and co-written by Hosking and Toby Harvard, and Forbidden Zone, directed by Richard Elfman and co-written by Elfman, Matthew Bright, Martin Nicholson, and Nicholas James.
The Greasy Strangler is a slasher movie hidden inside a bizarre and sexual narrative with the sense of humor of Napoleon Dynamite. The story focuses on Big Ronnie and his son Big Brayden who live together and run a strange tour of disco spots in Los Angeles. The tour is odd because attractions will, for example, be a doorway that Big Ronnie claims was the exact spot the Beegees thought of the song “Night Fever,” as if someone could know exactly when a person thought of something. But the tour is the family business, and Big Brayden makes his father’s meals to compensate for living with him. The meals are usually sausage, and never quite greasy enough for Ronnie. It’s an odd father-son dynamic, to say the least.
One day on tour, a young woman named Janet takes an interest in Big Brayden. They begin seeing each other. Meanwhile, Big Ronnie goes out at night and murders people while covered in grease. After a while, Big Ronnie becomes jealous of his son and asserts his masculinity by stealing Janet and starting a sexual relationship with her. While Big Brayden tries to get back Janet, he also begins to suspect the greasy strangler is his father and that Janet may be the next victim. That may sound strange enough, but the movie continues to amp up the bizarre over the course of its run time.
Despite how clean and well-shot The Greasy Strangler looks, and how everyday relateable the settings are, the soundtrack, characters, and costumes are from another world. This movie looks great, not always the case in the cinema of the bizarre. Usually, the camera in this genre is obscured or strange, and the sets skew toward the bizarre themselves. Here, if you did not know it, there are moments that could be mistaken for a common drama. However, any accidental normalcy begins to deteriorate when the soundtrack kicks in, letting you know things are about to get weird.
The soundtrack might just make the film.
Then there are the characters.
Big Ronnie, the overly aggressive and sexual older man with an enormous penis. His son Big Brayden, a wimpy man-child, and Janet, the girlfriend who seems willing to have sex with anyone at least once, especially if they will, ah-hem, eat her ass.
Other eccentric characters include Big Paul, the blind disco man who runs a car wash all hours of the day, and the three tourists who stand around a hotel parking lot at night discussing the broken snack machine. And finally, there are the costumes – or lack thereof to be more precise. Yes, Big Ronnie and Big Brayden wear matching pink shorts and shirts, but they wear far less when they are home. Big Brayden usually wears only briefs, and Big Ronnie is usually nude with his massive member hanging free. He is equally bare when he kills unless you count the grease he coats himself in, which may be the least bizarre element to the kills. That said, I don’t want to go into any of them here and possibly spoil them. Simply put, The Greasy Strangler must be experienced first-hand to be believed.
The next film up, Forbidden Zone!
Forbidden Zone is a far less polished film than the first. However, with its musical elements and intentionally campy story and look, this one is perhaps more entertaining. The story surrounds the Hercules family, who have recently moved into a home in Malibu. The family consists of Ma and Pa Hercules, Grandpa, and the kids: their son Flash and daughter Frenchy. When Frenchy hears from Flash how their transgender friend has disappeared into a portal to the Forbidden Zone in their new home’s basement, Frenchy is intrigued. Pa gets angry and tells her to stay away. He warns her of the Forbidden Zone’s danger.
Later at school, a fight breaks out between some students and the teacher, and Frenchy returns home and falls into the portal. Once in the Forbidden Zone, Frenchy attracts the interest of King Fausto, because they are both French, and the ire and jealous wrath of Queen Doris. The Queen places Frenchy in a cell while the King tries to romance her. Meanwhile, Flash realizes his sister is in the Forbidden Zone and enlists Gramps’ help to go after her.
The story may sound bizarre enough but add in surreal sets, musical numbers, and strange casting choices for even stranger characters, and it all makes perfect sense. And personally, having Oingo Boingo do the music certifies Forbidden Zone as a bizarre-O masterpiece.
The film’s history goes back to the late 1970s before Danny Elfman was the successful soundtrack artist he is today, before the band had any stature at all. Back then, they were known as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, and were more of a performance troupe whose show included elements similar to the film. Danny and his brother Richard – the band’s lead singer – collaborated to make the film. They chose to shoot in black and white, which adds a certain charm to sets reminiscent of what one might expect from a community college theater group. The props and makeup effects are equally cheesy and low rent. Adding to this already outlandish approach, the casting is intentionally off-putting as well. Take for example, Flash, a teenage boy played by an elderly vaudevillian. A twenty-something-year-old French woman plays Frenchy, and adults likewise play all the kids at the school. Finally, Herve Villechaize plays King Fausto. It’s a hard film to completely encapsulate, as its demented madcap absurdity is, as our first film, easier seen first-hand.
Now, you may ask, why would a Horror column take this detour into the bizarre. Well, my response is, why not? To appreciate Horror in all its multifaceted greatness, one must also consider the murky genres surrounding its radiant shores. Sometimes it’s fun to watch something that screws more with you as a viewer more than the characters on screen.
To me, Horror is a broad term, and although some may not think The Greasy Strangler or Forbidden Zone are horror movies, others would say they definitely fit in that category.
Finally, I usually try to tell you where to see or rent the movies I discuss in this column. Not today. No, today, I am going instead to introduce you to a new tool for your watchlist: the justwatch.com website and app, available for download. These are excellent tools for finding the films on your watch list. Simply search for a title, and justwatch will show where it’s available online for streaming. In the last few months, this has helped me find films and save a little money on some of those movies I have been trying to mark off my watch list.
For today’s Cineray recommendations, the focus is on the early career of David Cronenberg with the films Shivers, Rabid, and The Brood. These films are very early in his career and are great examples of his abilities and both showcase a talent that would become famous for his imagination, imagery, and signature body horror. There is no one quite like Cronenberg to really disturb you and make you feel so trapped by the flesh we live in and how easily it can be manipulated.
Before Cronenberg became an English major and film student at the University of Toronto, he was an honors science student. Now, this may seem like a minor fact, but it was that interest in science that has informed his films ever since. You will not find ghosts or supernatural elements in the films of Cronenberg. His focus is on creating horrors based on scientific possibilities and the power of the human mind. Going even further, Cronenberg is an atheist and believes that there is no spirituality. So despite the viewer’s ideologies, the visions he creates are entirely based on scientific possibilities and make them that much more terrifying.
I would say Shivers is a good place to start this party, as it’s Cronenberg’s first feature film and perhaps the least seen. The story revolves around urban professionals living in the new Starliner apartment complex, a place that caters to the young urban professional looking for all the amenities of the city (Montreal), without actually having to live there. You know, gym, doctor’s office, pharmacy, movie theater, etc. Dr. Roger St. Luc discovers his coworker has killed a woman and reports it to the police. Roger then learns that the man killed himself while developing a parasite to take over organ function in the human body.
Meanwhile, the film also follows a young man who becomes a breeding ground for the parasite after having an affair with an infected girl. As it spreads, the tenants of the building begin to act more sexually aggressive. Roger discovers that Hobbes was trying to turn the world into one big orgy, and it becomes a race against time as Roger attempts to stop the parasites’ spread.
What makes Shivers so damn interesting is why it’s terrifying. Unlike zombie movies where the person becomes a mindless flesh-eater, here there is a piece of the original person left. But their inhibitions have been stripped away until what’s left is little more than animals, sexual beings of a ravenous appetite, stripped of moral constructs or any ideas beyond satisfying the most animal of instincts. It’s fascinating to peek into fear from a very logical mind. From medical experimentation, the next film delves into the dangers of experimental medicine.
Our second feature Rabid is more famous for Cronenberg’s use of pornstar Marilyn Chambers as his star than the film itself, which is a shame. The film centers on Hart Reed and his girlfriend Rose, played by Chambers, who has a motorcycle accident riding in the country. Hart suffers minor injuries while Rose is seriously injured and burned. They are taken to the Keloid Clinic for Plastic Surgery, where head surgeon Dan Keloid decides to use an experimental treatment on Rose. He uses morphogenetically neutral grafts to her chest and abdomen in the hope that it will differentiate and replace the damaged skin and organs. Rose remains in a coma, while Hart is released. When she does wake, Rose does so screaming, and another patient goes to comfort her. While he does this, Rose pierces his skin and takes blood from him. He has no memory of the incident, and while he is transferred to another hospital for observation, Rose escapes. While Hart begins to search for Rose, she attacks more people, as do those she has fed on.
Again the loss of oneself in a monstrous transformation is horrifying but so are the doctor’s actions. Although it’s not as stressed as it could have been, Cronenberg is still pointing out the dangers of medical experimentation. Recently the Soska sister’s remade this film, and they certainly made a strong emphasis on this concept with a story twist. But it’s important to remember this is an original concept and only the second feature film by a great director. From the dangers of medical experimenting to the dangers of exploring the human mind, we head into our last film on the list.
The Brood is another highly original concept, but there are times the premise gets a little hokey. The story centers on Frank Carveth. He is dealing with his wife Nola, who is legally embattled with for the custody of their 5-year-old daughter Candice. At the same time, Nora is being treated at the Somafree Institute, where psychotherapist Hal Raglan, played by Oliver Reed, is using an experimental technique called Psychoplasmics. The technique encourages the patience to let go of their mental disturbances to manifest their repressed feelings as physiological manifestations. Frank has no respect for it and is annoyed he has to bring his daughter there to see her mother. After bathing Candice, Frank is incensed to see she has bruises and believes Nora is responsible. While he leaves his daughter with her maternal grandmother Juliana to visit a lawyer, he also informs Raglan he is ending visitation rights. Raglan decides to intensify his therapy sessions, and during a session with Nola, he discovers she beliefs her mother abused her while her father ignored the abuse. Not long afterward, Juliana is killed by what appears to be a child, Candice overhears the incident and discovers the body. Soon more people Nola is angered with are attacked by the strange mutant children while Frank struggles to protect Candice and Raglan tries to find a way to stop what he suspects is happening with Nola.
The whole “mutant killer children” concept is a little on the hokey side, but there are some great performances and really cool ideas in this film. To start, Oliver Reed is fantastic in every scene he is in. Honestly, it’s hard to pin down your emotions about him onscreen as he transitions from a character you despise, as an arrogant doctor to a man caught up in something beyond his imaginings and desperate to stop it you root for. And Samantha Egger’s Nola has a fantastically creepy final scene that is both disturbing and chilling. The concept of emotional disturbances manifesting physically to the extent they become physical embodiments of your rage strikes me as very original. There have certainly been films where characters have psychic abilities to attack people, but they are literally an angry person who manifests a mutant being that then attacks the source of the person’s rage. I cannot think of another film that uses this same concept, but I would sure like to know if others exist.
Finally, you will have to do a bit of navigating to see all these movies, as I am sorry to say they are not all on one service. Shivers is available on Apple TV, Vudu, and YouTube for purchase or rent. Rabid is for rent on Vudu or Amazon and free on prime and free also on Kanopy. The Brood is only available with a subscription through HBO max or Criterion or free on Kanopy. I think they make for a great triple feature because they showcase the start of Cronenberg’s career and make for great pairing because they have about the same impact. Unlike some of his more famous films with a much more significant impact emotionally and ranking a lot higher on the weird scale, these are fine films and pretty easy to watch in one shot.
All right fiends, the summertime is about to come to a close! But before it does, how about some fun summertime slashers? Today will be a little different because I am suggesting a triple feature of camper-killing fun. No Fridays here, sorry to disappoint anyone, but I wanted this list to represent what I feel are under-viewed films from the Slasher genre: The Burning and Sleepaway Camps 2 and 3.
Released in 1981, The Burning is an early Miramax production written by Peter Lawrence and Bob Weinstein. To be clear, Bob is the brother still working in film, and Harvey is the now notorious abuser. The Burning is their take on the New York Cropsey urban legend. In this film, Cropsey is the caretaker at Camp Blackfoot. One night some boys sneak out of their cabin to prank Cropsey while he sleeps. They plant a worm-riddled skull with candles in the eyes on his bedside table and then bang on the window to his cabin to scare him. Cropsey wakes startled and knocks the skull over, causing everything in the room to go up in flames, including Cropsey. After running to the lake, Cropsey survives and is taken to a hospital.
Five years later, Cropsey is released. Still horribly scarred after failed skin grafts, he hides in a hat and trench coat. On the streets of New York City, a prostitute lures him up to an apartment, and he murders her with scissors in a fit of rage. From there, Cropsey returns to the camp with his mindset on exacting revenge on campers. It takes a little bit for him to start murdering campers. This film is somewhat reminiscent of Michael Myers in Halloween, as both killers appear in shadows around the characters, and we get the view from Cropsey’s perspective throughout the film instead of peeks of him. When he does start murdering campers, the effects are fantastic, created by FX master Tom Savini.
The Burning is pretty standard fair as slasher films go. The story of a mistreated weirdo who gets his revenge is nothing new, but I appreciated the concept of his being mauled by fire and driven to revenge. I am not saying I would hunt down and murder people for a prank gone wrong [Editor’s note: Ray would totally do that!], but it does make Cropsey a lot more sympathetic than the usual slasher. The film has a small twist reveal in the finale, and the cast is littered with future stars like Jason Alexander, Holly Hutton, and Fisher Stevens.
Our next two films in this triple feature, Sleepaway Camp 2 and 3, go together well and are very similar. I did not include the first film in the series because most horror fans will have seen it by now. The story picks up years later, Angela is now an adult counselor at Camp Arawak. She has been through therapy and full sexual reassignment since the first film and deemed sane. She is an enthusiastic and chipper counselor who leads the camp in singalongs and has been chosen as one of the camp’s best counselors. The girls she is in charge of are somewhat unruly and don’t like Angela. When she catches one girl out at night with some boys at a campfire, she murders her and says she had to send the girl home to the rest of the camp. It’s not long before Angela is hacking up and murdering anyone she deems unfavorable and explaining their disappearances with the story that she is sending them all home.
This one is a lot of fun with the kills and dark humor running throughout. Angela is played by Pamela Springsteen, Bruce Springsteen’s sister, and she plays the role with a demented chipper persona akin to Kathleen Turner in Serial Mom. The kills are creative and somewhat gruesome, with a couple making me laugh out loud. The film runs fast, which is perfect because you can jump right into the third film next.
The third movie, Sleepaway Camp 3, takes place a year later. Camp Arawak has been shut down, and the police are on the hunt for Angela. She kills and assumes the identity of a girl who is about to leave for a new camp being conducted on Camp Arawak’s grounds. Camp New Horizons is composed of half juvenile delinquents and half rich kids doing community service. The adults in charge are Officer Barney Whitmore, a man whose son was murdered by Angela, and owners Herman and Lily Miranda. Veteran character actor Michael J Pollard plays Herman. Pollard is known for playing lovable weirdos, but in this role, he is a creep. It’s awesome. When one of the girls takes a liking to him, his character returns the affection with a pervy zeal. Unlike the previous film’s campers, many of these characters deserve Angela’s version of moral justice. The so-called good kids are mostly creeps, and the others are outright punks. Although you may feel a slight sadness when the punks get killed, I did. They are just so prototypical of the 80’s era bad kids that they are somewhat endearing.
Sleepaway Camp 3 is also a good way to end because it’s a comedown from the second film as far as kills go. Yes, there is a murder with a lawnmower, but the blood is more of an understood concept; you don’t see it. Not quite sure why the filmmakers decided to tone down the violence in this third film. Maybe it was to return the original Sleepaway Camp’s tone, where except for the bloody severed head seen in the last moments, the kills in that one are somewhat tame.
These films are easily accessible on Shudder, and as a horror fan, if you don’t have a subscription get on it. It’s got a lot of great horrors and exclusive films every horror fan needs to sit down and watch. Of course, many of these films are on other sites, but for $5.99 a month, it’s about $2 a movie and a whole month of more content. A note, shudder is not a sponsor of this column or theHorrorvision.com; we are all just fans of the service.
Hey there horror fiends, for some summertime vampire fun, this week’s double feature is Vampires directed John Carpenter and Near Dark directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The weather is starting to heat up, and it’s the perfect time to watch vampire movies that take place in desert settings. Locations like these present some interesting problems for sun-sensitive creatures and the people or victims who interact with them.
I would recommend Vampires as the first of these to watch as its fast-moving and pretty action-packed. The film centers on Jack Crow (James Woods) and his Vatican-sponsored group of vampire hunters. Crow’s group of mercenaries are not men of god, but killers who enjoy the hunt, and when they are not exterminating vampires, they are hard-partying. This is something the priest on the team objects to, but Jack allows because of the horrors they experience fighting and killing vampires. After a day of successful vamp killing, the group celebrates with a party and hookers at a hotel.
During their party and with most of the team drunk, a master vampire named Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) attacks and kills most of the team and the hookers. Only Jack Crow, his second in command Tony Montoya, and prostitute Katrina (Sheryl Lee) survive the attack. Katrina, however, gets bitten. After the attack, Crow is assigned Father Adam Guiteau by the Church. This new, three-man team brings Katrina on their pursuit of Valek, who is searching for a relic that turned him into the first vampire.
Katrina is a quasi-prisoner, and the bite is slowly changing her into a vampire, which gives her a psychic link to Valek, which Crow exploits to aid in their pursuit of him. Complications arise from Montoya’s empathy and attraction to Katrina that threaten the team. As they get closer to Valek, the danger gets worse, and there is more going on then they may suspect.
Vampires is not Carpenter’s best film, but it is an enjoyable movie. Woods is perfect as the anti-hero Crow, the kind of guy you are glad to see do his job, but not someone you would ever want to meet. The film moves at a nice brisk pace, and the action is great. The team’s method of harpooning and then dragging vampires into the sunlight using vehicle hoists is impressive, and considering the strength of these vampires proves a great solution for helping them keep their distance from the creatures. The film also has somewhat of a western feel that leads into the second feature nicely.
Near Dark, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is an excellent horror movie with western elements that has thankfully only grown in popularity and cult status since its modest release. The film stars Adrain Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Janette Goldstein, and Joshua John Miller. Henriksen, Paxton, and Goldstein were all featured in James Cameron’s film Aliens, leading to their casting in this film after Cameron suggested them to Bigelow.
Near Dark concerns a young man named Caleb (Pasdar) living on his father’s farm in a small town who meets Mae (Wright) one night. Mae is a pretty drifter, and after spending the night together, she bites Caleb just before dawn. She then takes him in the RV the group she travels with calls home.
The new addition to their group causes problems in Mae’s vampire family. Severin ( Paxton) wants to kill Caleb, but Jesse (Henriksen), the group’s leader, decides to give it a week to see if Caleb can hunt and kill. Caleb refuses, however, Mae helps him survive and hide this from the others. Paxton is fantastic and terrifying as the bloodthirsty and murderous Severin. Henriksen is excellent as well. Miller is also great as the child vampire Homer, a decades-old vampire trapped inside a child’s body. There is a fantastic line of dialogue that implies Jesse is an old confederate soldier and that he and Severin are responsible for at least one tragedy in history. The desert setting adds a nice challenge for the group, providing some fantastic cinematic moments. Watch for the bloody bar scene – you’ll know it when you get to it. Near Dark is on the moody and slower-moving side, but its fantastic moments of intensity more than make up for that.
So, why these two together, you may ask. It’s interesting to see how two different directors handle the vampire mythos in similar settings. Carpenter’s approach is a lot more pedestrian and very clear on what the movie is about, from the title through the film to the clearly delineated protagonists and antagonists. Near Dark, on the other hand, is a lot more moody and subtle; the term vampire is never used in the film, and it’s a lot more ambiguous as to who are the protagonists and antagonists. The only problem with these picks is availability. Vampires is readily available from all the usual streaming rental sites; however, Near Dark is unfortunately not only out of print at the moment, but also not streaming on any services. This one is a used copy find, but honestly, very much worth buying.
Welcome to Cineray, the first article of a new column where I will write movie reviews and suggest cool flicks for you to spend your time watching. I’m a guy who loves cinema, but what’s more, I have a bit of education in the field as well. I have taken a couple of cinema courses, and I’ve studied screenwriting in a classroom environment. I also read film theory for fun, and I watch A LOT of movies.
I jumped at the chance, and here we go.
For my very first recommendation, I am going to start with a double feature: Planet Terror, directed by Robert Rodriguez, and Death Proof, directed by Quentin Tarantino, collectively known as Grindhouse.
You can certainly search and watch the two films separately, but I can’t strongly recommend the Grindhouse presentation enough. For one thing, the entire presentation will include the faux theater ratings and the Acuna Boys restaurant ad, but it also contains the great mostly fake trailers made by some famous director. I say ‘mostly’ because the first faux trailer before Planet Terror is Machete, which Rodriguez eventually turned into a film. When that happened, I held so much hope that we would eventually see all those trailers turned into movies by the same directors, but it never happened.
What’s great about the whole presentation is how the creators involved tried to recreate the entire Grindhouse experience of the ’70s for an audience in the present day complete with missing reels, and all the pops and scratches that were present in the films of that era.
The trailers themselves are mini works of art that reference 70’s films in various ways. Machete harkens back to films like Death Race 2000 where the fun is the body count as well as the lone hero films like Billy Jack.
Rodriguez has upped the violence and gore and brought a more current political climate to the tale. The rest of the trailers appear after the presentation of Planet Terror and I will discuss them in the order presented.
Werewolf Women of the SS from Rob Zombie references Nazi exploitation films with a great historical reference twist. The regency is after the fall of Nazi Germany in WWII, there was a German Nazi resistance movement called Werewolves. Knowing his history, Zombie takes that knowledge and smartly twists it into a concept of a Nazi scientist trying to create werewolf soldiers and hey why not throw in fictional supervillain Fu Manchu played by Nick Cage.
Again this is Zombie flexing his knowledge as Fu Manchu was not just a villain of comics and films but a literary creation of the 1920s and would have certainly been a part of movie serials.
Then there is Don’t directed by Edgar Wright who blends the style of Hammer and haunted house movies like the House on Haunted Hill into a demented little gem with shocks and laughs.
What I have also found so impressive about this one is that it no only references the films but if you have ever watched film trailers of the era it very much has that pattern starting with one jump scare into another until it builds to a mania of them. Finally, there is Thanksgiving directed by Eli Roth that is not only a reference to the Halloween films but even more so to the gorier slashers of the 80s like Blood Rage and the Mutilator. When I saw this film in the theaters I literally heard gasps during this trailer.
Moving onto the films, Planet Terror is a fun gory quasi-zombie movie with lots of great moments. The scenes involving Dakota and her needles have been known to make several of my friends squirm for example. Its storyline is not so much an homage to a single film or genre as several from the siege films of Carpenter to the zombie movies of Romero with a lot of Rodriguez’s trademark violence and humor. And of course, there is a memorable cameo from Tarantino. The one thing to note about the story of this one is that it moves a lot quicker and has a lot more substance to its characters than most of the grindhouse cinema of the era. The one-story element I feel like is a throwback to those movies is the lack of explanation of El Rey’s infamy and Dakota’s quick turn around after the death of her son. A characteristic of grindhouse is honestly thin backstories and bizarre character evolutions and motivations.
The second film Death Proof by Tarantino is not so much a horror movie per se and a lot slower but still very enjoyable. Tarantino has stated he wanted to make a slasher film but felt the genre to constraining and so decided to blend another of his favorite genres to create a style closer to his style of filmmaking. This movie is more of an homage to the road/car movies of the ’70s, several of which are said by a character in a conversation. I have often heard the pace of this movie is too slow but when you realize the films he is homaging you understand what he is trying to do.
Finally going back to the audience’s reactions I experienced is another reason I love this one so much. It was Tarantino and Rodriguez making something they wanted to see and were not as invested in what would work for audiences. It’s probably why it was one of the more unpopular ventures of the two men but that’s also why I champion the movie whenever I can. It is going to be easy to find the movies separately but the film is available for streaming in its entirety on Vudu and iTunes and best of all free on YouTube in HD. Finally, get some popcorn and a soda or your favorite beer and a pizza and seat down and watch it all in one big 193-minute viewing, trust me it’s the best way.