Thursday, October 20, 2016


You ever find one of those people on social media who constantly posts cool stuff that you always agree with and is a hell of a good writer to boot? Yea, that's Albert Muller aka @aj_macready on Twitter. He's a contributor to Horror View and now Daily Grindhouse (this link will take you directly to Albert's fantastic piece on 2002'S FRAILTY starring Bill Paxton and Mathew McConaughey.)

So continuing with our series of Top 3 Favorite horror films (scroll down for previous lists from Jeffery X Martin and Ghoulish Gary Poulin) I asked this 'writer and pop culture addict' for his...

John Carpenter's THE THING is the answer you give when someone says "all remakes suck." Not only does Carpenter honor the original film and the story that it's based on (WHO GOES THERE by John W Campbell) but he creates something wholly original and unique and constructs an experience very few movies can match for it's inventiveness and visual delights. A lone sled dog is chased by a helicopter into an American research camp in Antarctica. The crew take the dog in, but nothing is as it seems. It's not long before the seemingly innocent dog unleashes a Lovecraftian horror unlike anything we'd ever seen on screen before! Rick Botin's special FX work is fucking incredible-consider that it was made in 1982 with no CGI and almost every shot is a work of art. (Carpenter wisely set aside five months just for creating the special FX). THE THING delivers on being both scary and gory, but also on creating fully developed characters we can relate to and become emotionally entangled in their struggle for survival. It is as much a standard bearer for great horror films as '86's THE FLY or '78's HALLOWEEN.

Speaking of...

Let's face it, John Carpenter absolutely earned the title Horror Master. As a writer, director, and composer even when he's not at his best, he's still better than a lot of the competition! Halloween (1978) wasn't the first slasher film, but it sure as hell launched the slasher craze of the 1980s. Telling the story of Michael Myers aka The Shape who returns home after escaping from an insane asylum fifteen years after killing his older sister. He is pursued by his therapist, Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Michael unleashes terror on the town of Haddonfield as he slashes through some babysitters, working his way to Laurie Strode (the legendary top scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis-daughter of another great scream queen, Janet Leigh of PSYCO). Carpenter's score on it's own can strike fear in the hearts of adults. The slow burn, high tension masked killer flick is still scary almost forty years later and spawned a slew of sequels and remakes, not to mention an endless parade of imitators.

The Exorcist has a reputation for being one of the most frightening films ever made. It's not hype. Not
only is William Friedkin's amazing classic scary, but it is a shocking and nerve wracking experience. A girl named Regan plays with a ouija board and unwittingly opens herself up to demon possession. From there THE EXORCIST spirals into a dual with the Devil unlike anything captured on film before and rarely-and even then hardly reaching these dizzying heights-since. THE EXORCIST is an integral part of the birth of the modern horror film, which likely starts with Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in 1969, where the horror film 'grew up' and started catering to a more mature, even adult crowd. Where the rubber monster suit was put away and the monsters came from within or were our neighbors. In the case of the supernatural/paranormal films like THE EXORCIST, CARRIE, or the AMITYVILLE HORROR the old haunted house moved to the suburbs and reflected the skyrocketing divorce rates and the general decay of the traditional family unit. THE EXORCIST, based on William Peter Blatty's novel is as much a timeless film as it is a film that wormed it's way straight to the fears of the 1970's audience.

I don't know what else there is to say about these picks, I mean everyone has a different top three, but you can't disregard THE THING, HALLOWEEN, or THE EXORCIST. These are films that have survived and will continue to survive trends, generational tastes, and the highs and lows of the genre itself. Thanks, Albert for sharing your top 3 favorite horror films! 

Monday, October 17, 2016


Original art by Stephanie Murr 2016
Hands down my favorite director is David Cronenberg, by a country mile. Ever since I saw THE FLY it has been imperative for me to not just see, but own his films, especially anything from his body horror era. I was 10 when Siskel and Ebert reviewed THE FLY and the whole concept as well as the promise of a gory thrill ride was just too much for me to resist. Though I was still at a point where I was scared to death of a TV commercial of Friday The 13th, I had started watching TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, re-runs of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, and I was just getting into NIGHT FLIGHT and COMMANDER USA'S GROOVY MOVIES. A slasher was still a year so away from something I could handle, but THE FLY captured my imagination in a way that FRANKENSTEIN had when I was much younger and got the Remco 8" action figure. Monsters were something I'd long since embraced and in my mind they weren't horror, at least not in the sense that Jason or Freddy were. Monsters were often misunderstood, like Frankenstein, and I knew about the original THE FLY (1958) and he was misunderstood as well. I was 11 when I finally got to rent THE FLY and it definitely didn't let me down, in fact I'd say it went much farther than I was expecting and shook me up pretty hard. There were deeper ideas and concepts that flew over my head and I never imagined something so gory could actually exist.
Over the years, I worked my way through Cronenberg's filmography and through his various eras and was nearly always impressed and entertained. For the purpose of this series, I'm looking specifically at his body horror work starting with SHIVERS, skipping FAST COMPANY, and ending with THE FLY. DEAD RINGERS could probably be added, but it lacks that specific sci-fi/horrorific/fantastic element of the films that preceded it. Then there's NAKED LUNCH, which I could also probably add, but really NAKED LUNCH stands out as a singular work and I already covered my relationship with both the film and William Burroughs book.
Starting with 1975's SHIVERS, Cronenberg's debut is a towering achievement for a first time director and would set the stage for themes Cronenberg would continue to explore beyond his horror work. Set in a suburban high rise, where the inhabitants are being turned into sex crazed zombies by a parasite that spreads through sexual contact, SHIVERS turns George Romero's Living Dead weirdly and grossly erotic. Also, there's a strange kinship to JG Ballard's novel HIGH RISE, which was published the same year. SHIVERS isn't a flawless achievement, however, it's cheap and there are certainly scenes that drag a bit, but it has, without a doubt, a pretty amazing ending. Right up there with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

In 1977's RABID, Cronenberg takes the zombie threat outside the high rise. This time, the infection is being spread by a young woman with a thirst for blood after undergoing an experimental surgery. Her victims grow quickly plunging the city into madness. Starring Marilynn Chambers in her first non-porn role, RABID is a medical horror mashup of vampirism and zombies. With some similar themes carried over from SHIVERS, it ups the ante with production levels and better cinematography as well as better performances and a more thought out plot device. Chambers, known for her hardcore career, starring in films like BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR, showed some real acting skills, but I believe this was her only non-porn role. Between SHIVERS and RABID Cronenberg was treating us to a brand of horror we weren't used to-the monster wasn't out there, it wasn't 'the other', it was us, it was in us. These two films certainly helped inspire Dan O'Bannon while writing ALIEN.

I saw 1979's THE BROOD on USA, not knowing it was a Cronenberg, and it scared the shit out of me. I was probably 11 or 12 and those deformed kids in the snow suits were just frightening. THE BROOD is about divorce and the physical manifestation of rage. A creepy slow burn, more personal and nuanced than the previous films. (Less Lee More has a great review HERE.) Starring Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar, THE BROOD, on it's surface is about a father trying to protect his daughter from her mother who has been subjected to radical, experimental psychotherapy, but as with most Cronenberg films, the surface plot is window dressing for the subtext, which is always more creepy and enthralling.

Since the first time I watched 1981's SCANNERS I've wanted to see Cronenberg take on THE X-MEN, which he sort of does with this film anyway. Scanners are people with telepathic/telekinetic abilities, caused by a lab experiment. Michael Ironside stars as Darryl Revok, the film's Magneto, who leads an underground group of Scanners. THE PRISONER's Patrick MacGoohan is the film's Professor X, sort of, he created the Scanner's and enlists another Scanner, Cameron Vale, played by Stephen Lack, to stop Revok. It's a hell of a good story and spawned a franchise, which Cronenberg had nothing to do with. There were two direct sequels and two spin off films, SCANNER COP I and II. Like with many franchises, SCANNERS suffers from the law of diminishing returns, but that doesn't hurt the original, which stands head and shoulders above many other genre flicks for being such a unique experience, not to mention with probably the greatest exploding head scene in the history of cinema. I took on SCANNERS  in My Heroes Have Always Been Monsters Part 35.

1983's VIDEODROME is a subversive, hallucinogenic,  and philosophical masterpiece. It was Cronenberg's most ambitious film to date with some amazing special FX from Rick Baker and touches of the avant garde.  The story follows Max Renn (James Woods), a sleazeball TV producer looking for sleazier programming to satisfy his viewers' tastes. He discovers a strange program called Videodrome, which opens his world to a bizarre conspiracy. Also starring Debbie Harry, Videodrome is possibly Cronenberg's most rewatchable and quotable movie. The film has nightmarish layers that peel back as the film winds deeper  and deeper into it's creepy and bizarre brand of body horror-this time though, inanimate objects come to life, merging with the human form. The practical effects look so amazing. The idea that these guys were doing these things, like making a TV come to life, in camera is still amazing. The behind the scenes documentary that comes with the Criterion edition is really fascinating.

Also, from 1983, Cronenberg stepped away from body horror to adapt Stephen King's THE DEAD ZONE, starring Christopher Walken. Walken plays Johnny Smith who after spending five years in a coma awakens to discover he can see into the future. He uses his power to help the cops, but when he meets a slimy politician, played by Martin Sheen, and sees a horrifying vision of the future, he's forced to make some very difficult decisions. THE DEAD ZONE doesn't look or feel like a Cronenberg film, at least none produced up to that point. The horror is subdued, there is little bloodshed, and certainly none of his signature from-within horror. Even the small town Maine setting is a bizarre choice, yet THE DEAD ZONE is still a solid film, showing how versatile Cronenberg will become in his post-body horror era.

And that brings us to 1986's THE FLY. It's hard to express just how much I love this movie. This is the exact kind of science fiction I really dig. Spaceships and future-scapes are fine, but I like sci-fi when it's our world, with just a tweak-just a little off. Robocop and Alien Nation are good examples. With THE FLY, it's Seth Brundle's teleportation pods. The film stars Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum. Goldblum plays an eccentric scientist working on a revolutionary invention, the aforementioned pods. When he tests it on himself, something goes awry; a common house fly gets in the machine with him. Once the machine teleports him, his DNA gets mixed with the fly's and he begins to mutate, becoming more and more monsterous. Like VIDEODROME, THE FLY is inventive in the SFX department, from a rotating room to give the impression of Brundle actually walking up the wall and across the ceiling, to the sickening slow transformation Goldblum goes through. The film is elevated by the wonderful acting talents of Davis and Goldblum, not to mention their great on-screen chemistry (they also worked together on EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY and TRANSYLVANIA 65000). THE FLY is a remake of the 1958 film of the same name, starring Vincent Price. That film spawned two sequels. Cronenberg's only one, although I once read that Davis had planned to produce a second sequel entitled FLIES.

Cronenberg didn't completely abandon horror after THE FLY, there certainly touches of it through films like DEAD RINGERS, NAKED LUNCH, SPIDER, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, and MAPS TO THE STARS, but he moved on and has tried other things. Usually it works. For me though, I have no desire to rewatch his last three films, because they don't speak to me with the same intensity and vigor that VIDEDROME does. I think it would be great in Cronenberg would return to his roots one more time, but we should feel very lucky to have what we have, because no one else would have made these films.
***Also worth a mention is eXistenZ, while it features some signature body horror and some glorious set pieces, it really is more science fiction than horror, arriving in 1999, 13 years after THE FLY. It comes in between CRASH (adapted from another Ballard novel) and SPIDER (a psychologocal thriller) and feels like an odd choice in vehicles for Cronenberg since it seemed like he had moved away from this sort of storytelling.  In a way, it's VIDEDROME'S bad ass little sister, with it's fast and loose handling of reality and bio-tech fetishism.


Thursday, October 13, 2016


Do you read Jeffery X Martin? BLACK FRIDAY, STORIES ABOUT YOU, HUNTING WITCHES..? X is an old friend and an amazing writer. We used to perform at the same bar back in Knoxville. I was just a dumb kid and he was an early supporter. So I'm honored to run this, his second guest post for Stranger. Follow the LINK to get your hands on X's books. And now...

When I’m asked to make a list like this – and it’s always an honor to be asked to write anything for someone else – I realize how fluid my Top Ten list is. I watch a lot of horror, which makes sense given my occupation, and new great stuff pops up all the time. My Top Three, however, is pretty solid and doesn’t move about much. Well, not this week, anyway.

3. CARRIE (1976)  -- Not just one of the greatest horror movies, but one of the best films ever made. Carrie evokes so many emotions, watching it should be part of the Voight-Kampff test. Carrie is a stone cold classic. It manages to
excoriate organized religion, high school cliques, and the lack of information women receive about their own bodies. While things don’t end well for anyone in the film, Sissy Spacek is a marvel to watch as a girl who takes her personal power, embraces it, and uses it to set fires with her mind.  A pivotal piece of feminist cinema, and one of Brian De Palma’s finest directorial efforts,

2. JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980) – Carpenter’s follow-up to Halloween has often been looked upon as a flawed film (even by Carpenter himself, according to interviews), a soft lob after the non-stop intensity of the goings-on in Haddonfield. I respectfully disagree. Not only is The Fog as scary as Halloween, if not more so, it’s the best American ghost story filmed in the last forty years. It is a campfire nightmare come to life, complete with hidden treasure, the walking dead and ghostly lepers. It never operates outside of its own logic and the special effects, all practical, are surprisingly good. This solid scary movie holds up like suspenders, and is one of the few must-sees of the genre.

1.) SUSPIRIA (1977) – Dario Argento’s masterpiece is like nothing you’ve seen before. The story of an American girl who goes to Germany to continue her ballet training, Suspiria takes its fairy tale elements to the darkest corners of the magical forest. With a brilliant soundtrack, violent set-pieces, and witches that would make MacBeth run screaming from the forest, Suspiria sneaks into your brain and sets up residence. It will not leave. Suspiria is an assault on everything you’ve come to expect from the genre, and it stands alone as horror-art. Every horror movie that has come since owes some kind of debt to Suspiria. Not one of them has ever fully paid up.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Original art by Stephanie Murr 2016
I was very, very young. Younger than five, I know. I don't remember which house we lived in (we were moving every six months), but I remember the green carpet in the living room and being up with my mom waiting for my dad to get home. For whatever reason she didn't start making me go to bed until I was about five. I'd just be up playing with my Mego figures in front of the television. Often times I'd fall asleep right in front of the TV and I'd wake up when my dad was taking me to my bed. I usually didn't care about what was on TV, but I'd be half way watching it anyway. One night there was a movie on that I especially didn't care about, until this girl got a bunch of red stuff dumped on her.
"What did they just pour on her?" I asked
"Oh, it was just paint."
Then everything started going crazy. Doors were slamming shut, things were moving through the air, people were panicking. 
"What's happening?" There was this dread building in the pit of my stomach, I think it was that girl's eyes.
"Carrie's moving things around with her mind."
"She has a power."
Ah, like Spiderman, got it.
I distinctly remember that night, that movie, from the Prom scene to the end credits. I remember talking about it for days. Why did they pour paint on Carrie? Why did she use her power on everyone? These weren't questions that got serious answers, but I never forgot that movie. (Side note; Carrie was one of four horror films that one or both of my parents watched while I was in the room, pre-kindergarten, the other three were Jaws, which I loved, Alien, which I liked, but didn't fully get, and Dark Night of The Scarecrow, which scared the shit out of me.)
Well, it wasn't paint. It was pig blood. I found that out when I caught the movie on TV when I was about ten. I was pretty excited and I made note that the film was based on a book by Stephen King. The summer between fifth and sixth grade I got to read my first King novel, which was Cujo. The second was Carrie, which was King's debut. The film was directed by Brian DePalma and to me is still one of my favorite King adaptations. DePalma changed the narrative approach to the story, but that doesn't hurt the film as an adaptation at all.
Carrie is about a high school girl who develops telekinetic powers. Carrie is an outcast, raised by an insane, fundamentalist mother, and tormented by her classmates. After some bullies pull an incredibly cruel prank on Carrie she unleashes the full force of her powers on the entire school. It's a tale of budding sexuality, teen angst, and a lesson in being nice to the weird kid. 
The book came out in 1974 and the film in 1976. Carrie is as much responsible for my interest in parapsychology as The Uncanny X-Men and Scanners. I haven't reread the book since sixth grade, but I liked it better than Cujo and not quite as much as Pet Semetary. The film still holds up very well. For my money it's as indispensable a classic as The Exorcist, Halloween, Deep Red, or Psycho. It stars Sissy Spacek, Nancy Allen, PJ Soles, Amy Irving, and John Travolta.
I was an 80s kid, growing up in a Southern Baptist home, and I was an outcast. I had a lot of restrictions at home and was called faggot at school so much, I think some people actually thought that was my name. Though much more extreme than my reality, I identified with Carrie, and watching her revenge was a cathartic experience. 
The best thing about revisiting the film though has always been Spacek's performance in the climax. The look on her face, her unblinking eyes, and the silent menace she exuded remains awe-inspiring and entertaining. Add to that DePalma's amazing direction, the technicolor nightmare, the use split screen- it's really innovative and nightmarish-something Dario Argento has done, spread out into full features like Suspiria and Inferno. DePalma's stylish approach to filmmaking in general made him, at least with his earlier work, the closest we have to an American Argento, though he's often been accused of being nothing more than a Hitchcock wanna-be, which is so rudely reductive that it should never be brought up again.
DePalma masterfully pulls off one of the great bait-and-switches in cinema in the opening credits with a long, slow motion tracking shot inside of the girl's locker room. It's all very steamy, giving the shot a dream-like quality, showing several girls in various states of undress, including some full frontal nudity, before focusing on Spacek, the camera lewdly crawling up and down her body in extreme close up. DePalma is clearly trying to turn us on with some blatant soft core, right before yanking the rug out from under us by shoving Carrie's menstrual blood in our faces. The subject of a woman's period can still, in 2016 even, make some men queasy at the thought. That discomfort that many male viewers feel is reflected in the principle's clear uneasiness discussing the issue with the gym teacher after Carrie is brutally harassed and ridiculed for not knowing that the blood is natural. Spacek goes into full freak out mode, running to the other girls for help. They just laugh at her. They've known for years about their periods and here is the school outcast acting like she's dying. Depalma turns titillation into something cringeworthy, he continues to screw with the viewer until the climax. Going from a high school drama, to a story of twisted child abuse, to delving into the paranormal, and then to a brutal and graphic scene of school violence.  
Not to be dismissive, but I still haven't watched the remake starring Chloe Grace-Moretz and Julianna Moore. The trailer looks great, but I don't feel like I'd have any great kinship to the more modern take. I literally grew up with DePalma's version and it has made a lasting impact on my life. I mean, just this morning I rewatched it with my wife, and I could still remember how that old living room smelled the night I first saw Carrie covered in pig's blood. It has remained a horror touchstone for me, that I'd rank up there with Night Of The Living Dead and Halloween as an influence in me becoming a horror author.   

Thursday, October 6, 2016


If you're a horror fan then you probably know the name Ghoulish Gary Pullin. An amazing artist who has created many outstanding eye-popping pieces for posters, magazines, records, and films and a 2009 Rondo Award winner. In my personal collection I have Waxwork Records' original soundtracks for RE-ANIMATOR and CREEPSHOW which Gary created original artwork for. They are drop dead gorgeous! Gary and his work will also be featured in the upcoming film TWENTY-FOUR BY THIRTY-SIX!
So for the month of Halloween I've asked a few people to share their top 3 horror films of all time, for any of you planning a scare-a-thon for Samhain and are pressed for what to watch. Well Gary was kind enough to share his top 3, so take it from a true monster kid...

Gary's first choice is one that I haven't seen and I feel like a chump, because everyone I know who has seen it talks about how scary it is. Starring George C Scott (Exorcist III, Dr Strangelove, Hardcore), THE CHANGELING is about a composer who tragically lost his family. He's consumed by grief and his friends convince him to get away for a while, so he rents a turn of the century house, but things get worse when he discovers the house is haunted by the ghost of a murdered child!
...yea, this is the year I watch THE CHANGELING!

Gary's next choice is one we have in common, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON! What a fantastic picture-what an incredible monster...It's rare to find a full body monster suit from the 1950s that looked so realistic and gave such an iconic performance (there were actually two people who played the creature-Ben Chapman for the above the water scenes and Ricou Browning for the underwater scenes). In the film, a paleontologist discovers a fossilized hand with webbed fingers, marking the link in evolution from sea to land creatures and leads an expedition into the Amazon to try and learn more. There they encounter the curious monster who becomes enraged after being attacked, but also infatuated with the sole female member of the crew, Kay (Julie Adams). Though it came out much later than the original Universal Classics, the Creature is still counted among their ranks and will be included in the new line of shared universe remakes. One of the gems of the monster cinema and an unimpeachable classic. 

And for his number 3 pick, Gary chose a modern classic that just hit Blu Ray back in August.
SESSION 9 landed with little fan fare back in 2001, flying under the radar. It is criminal this movie wasn't a hit! I saw it at a midnight showing and it was seriously one of the scariest films I've seen. Shot in Massachusetts, SESSION 9 is about a crew of contractors hired to go into an old insane asylum and clean out the asbestos so the place can be torn down. Are they alone in the place, or is someone not what they seem? No frigging joke, the last half hour is intense! No spoilers and no more details, if you haven't experienced this underrated jewel, you need to add this your Halloween viewing schedule.  

Thanks, Gary, for sharing your top 3 favorite horror films! Too learn more about Ghoulish Gary and purchase his art you can go HERE to check out his official site. And you can follow him at @ghoulishgary on Twitter and Instagram and he'll be a guest at MondoCon, October 22-23 and Days of the Dead: Chicago, November 18 - 20. And check out the official trailer for TWENTY-FOUR BY THIRTY-SIX below...


Wednesday, October 5, 2016


What do you know about The Ramones? I mean really? How deep does your knowledge go, how many albums do you own, what are your favorite deep cuts? I can't imagine anyone not, at the very least, owning a best of or the first couple of albums. To the uninitiated or casual fan, the assumption is that The Ramones made one great album and kept making it. Well...yes and no.
The Ramones didn't evolve from album to album as radically as The Clash, but they certainly improved as songwriters and musicians and the production value generally improved as well. They kept the songs fairly simple, straightforward, and short-occasionally adding synths or horns or strings, but at heart, it was always "1-2-3-4!" and go! They always took great 60s pop and played it with the speed and tone of a buzz saw, throwing in a few pretty ballads along the way. To me, there were albums that weren't as good as others, but there has been no Ramones studio album that I would call awful. At worst, an album like Pleasant Dreams was perhaps not as good as Subterranean Jungle. 
Other than being great innovators and inspiration for countless pop punk clones, what makes The Ramones specifically relevant Stranger With Friction? The Ramones recorded some great horror punk songs. Some even before the kings of horror punk, The Misfits. Here's a 6 song playlist of great horror moments and dark humor from 'da brudders'...

"Mama, where's your little daughter?
she's here, right here on the altar
You should never have opened that door
now you're never gonna see her no more
You don't know what I can do with this axe chop off your head
so you better relax"
"You Should Never Have Opened That Door", from Leave Home (also available as a demo on the 1st album) is about, well, you read the lyrics. That's it. A mom walks in on some sort of witchy ceremony and whoever has her daughter is going to chop off her head if she doesn't relax. Dark as hell stuff in a super catchy song. Think of The Misfits' "Last Caress", what a sick song, but you'll never get it out of your head!

"Oh, oh, oh
Sitting here with nothin' to do
Sitting here thinkin' only of you
But you'll never get out of there
She'll never get out of there.
Texas chain saw massacre
They took my baby away from me
But she'll never get out of there
She'll never get out of there
I don't care, wohoho
When I saw her on the corner
She told me told me told me told me
She wouldn't go far
Ooh, now I know I'm so much in love
'Cause she's the only girl that I'm ever thinking of"
"Chainsaw" kicks off with screeching sound of a bandsaw, whatever, before launching into such a "Ramones" kind of love song, full of longing trumped by apathy. It's such a funny little tribute to one of the most horrifying films ever made, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. 

"Psycho therapy, psycho therapy, psycho therapy
That's what they want to give me
Psycho therapy, psycho therapy, psycho therapy
What they want to give me
I'm a teenage schizoid, the one your parent despise
Psycho therapy, now I got glowing eyes
I'm a teenage schizoid, pranks and muggings are fun
Psycho therapy, gonna kill someone
Psycho therapy, psycho therapy
Psycho therapy, psycho therapy, psycho therapy
Psycho therapy, psycho therapy, psycho therapy
I like takin' tuinal, it keeps me edgy and mean
I'm a teenage schizoid, I'm a teenage dope fiend
I'm a kid in the nuthouse, I'm a kid in the psycho zone
Psycho therapy, I'm gonna burglarize your home
Psycho therapy, psycho therapy, hey
Psycho therapy, psycho therapy, psycho therapy
Psycho therapy, psycho therapy, psycho therapy
Psycho therapy, psycho therapy, psycho therapy
Psycho therapy, psycho therapy, psycho therapy"
No, not specifically horrific, but considering how often mental illness plays into horror movies, "Psycho Therapy" fits right in.

"Everybody said so man you could see it on T.V.
They stood there ashamed with nowhere to go
Nobody wants them now the kids are alright
Every day is a holiday and pushin' people around
I'm making monsters for my friends
I'm making monsters for my friends
Someone caught one I could see so myself
I had to call 254 so they wouldn't blame me
We wanted to know how much trouble there was
When we asked our daddy he said it's just because
I'm making monsters for my friends
I'm making monsters for my friends
I don't wanna open a can of worms and
I don't want any Spagetti-Os
And I could always tell when
someone is holding a grudge
I'm making monsters for my friends
I'm making monsters for my friends
I'm making monsters for my friends
I'm making monsters for my friends"
I can barely make heads or tails of these lyrics, but it's got MONSTER in the chorus and so it goes on the list. Great song from The Ramones last album, Adios Amigos. 

"Hey, daddy-o
I don't want to go down to the basement
There's somethin' down there
I don't want to go
Hey, Romeo
There's somethin' down there
I don't want to go down to the basement"
Pretty typical of the debut album, short set of catchy lyrics repeated for about two minutes. It speaks directly to that kid in all of us who didn't want to go down into that dark, lonely basement with all the spiderwebs and shadows. Here's a cool fan made video to go along with it.

"Under the arc of a weather stain boards
Ancient goblins, and warlords
Come out of the ground, not making a sound
The smell of death is all around
And the night when the cold wind blows, no one cares, nobody knows
I don't want to be buried in a Pet Sematary
I don't want to live my life again
Follow Victor to the sacred place
This ain't a dream, I can't escape
Molars and fangs, the clicking of bones
Spirits moaning among the tombstones
And the night, when the moon is bright
Someone cries, something ain't right
I don't want to be buried in a Pet Sematary
I don't want to live my life again
The moon is full, the air is still
All of a sudden I feel a chill
Victor is grinning, flesh rotting away
Skeletons dance, I curse this day
And the night when the wolves cry out
Listen close and you can hear me shout
I don't want to be buried in a Pet Sematary
I don't want to live my life again
Oh no, oh no
I don't want to live my life again, oh no, oh oh
I don't want to live my life again, oh no, no, no"
There was a great synergy to The Ramones writing "Pet Sematary" for the film adaptation of the great Stephen King novel, since King references The Ramones in the book. This is certainly one of their top 20 songs of their career. 

If anything I hope you're inspired to dig deep into The Ramones' catalogue. There are several great tracks just as good as "Blitzkrieg Bop" or "I Wanna Be Sedated". And don't forget, if you're not in it, you're out of it! 

Saturday, October 1, 2016


There's not many directors as polarizing as Rob Zombie. From his difficult-delivery debut, HOUSE OF A 1000 CORPSES, to his last film, LORDS OF SALEM, Zombie has driven critics and fans alike crazy, especially when he took on the untouchable masterpiece HALLOWEEN and then followed it up with a weirder, more 'Zombie'-like sequel. Recently, I saw someone on Twitter remark, "I know Rob Zombie and Eli Roth have good movies in them, but they haven't made them yet. 31 isn't going to change this." 31 is Zombie's latest, currently with a 6.3/10 on IMDb. Which means more than half the critics liked it, but with a fair number of detractors. So it goes for Zombie-but is it because his movies aren't all that good or because they occupy a niche market that will just naturally repel common folks?
Zombie, once a production assistant for PEEWEE'S PLAYHOUSE, gained international fame with his original band White Zombie, before going solo in the late 90s. The thing that always impressed me about Zombie was his visual aesthetics. Whether it was painting the set of HEADBANGER'S BALL or directing a segment in BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD DO AMERICA or all the music videos he directed, I always admired his taste and style even if some of his music left me cold. When word came that he'd be directing a film (THE CROW 2037, never released), I, like many, was intrigued, but it would take a few years for HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES to finally come out.
Originally working with Universal, who refused to release the film because of the violent content, before getting picked up by Lionsgate, H1kC was met with mostly bad reviews upon release in 2003. It's not a perfect film by any stretch, coming off more like an extended White Zombie music video mixed with the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but the years have been kind to the picture and I enjoy far more these days than I did when I first saw it.
Set in 1977, H1kC follows a group of young people who run into the Firefly family, basically TCM's Sawyer clan as seen through the trippy, kalaidescopic, rock and roll eye of Zombie. We meet Otis (Bill Mosely), Baby (Sherri Moon Zombie), Mother Firefly (Karen Black), Tiny (Mathew McGrory), Dr Satan (Walter Phelan), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig)-a colorful cast to say the least all cult film stars. (A bit of trivia; McGrory's film debut was in the zombie flick HATE THE LIVING! which featured a mad scientist that looked like Rob, called Dr Eibon.) All the elements were in place for H1kC to be a killer throwback grind house horror flick, which it is, though it may have been a couple years ahead of it's time, as evidenced by the fact that it's sequel, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, didn't suffer as much critical backlash and is considered by many to be Zombie's finest film.
Stylistically HOUSE and DEVIL'S is quite different. Where HOUSE is a visual orgy, DEVIL'S plays more like a Sam Peckinpah (THE WILD BUNCH) western. A very fucked up, grind house western. Picking up in the aftermath of H1kC, TDR has Otis, Baby, and Spaulding on the run from a crazed lawman out for revenge. Mosely shines as Otis, delivering some amazing, unforgettable lines, like "Boy, the next word that comes out of your mouth better be some brilliant fuckin' Mark Twain shit. 'Cause it's definitely getting chiseled on your tombstone." and "I am the Devil and I am here to do the Devil's work." He is absolutely chilling, even outshining his signature role of Chop Top from TCM2. While TDR may visually be a more subdued film, Zombie pulls no punches with gut churning violence and squirm inducing situations.
Zombie's love of TCM is all over these films, so much so he would have been the perfect choice to head up the remake of TCM, instead he took on a different 70s classic, John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN. Bloody Disgusting named HALLOWEEN Zombie's worst film and lots of reviewers agreed. Many of the complaints stem from the fact that Zombie stripped the original story of it's subtlety and mystery and gave us a full blown Michael Meyers origin story with nothing left to the imagination. Something I balked at upon first viewing myself, but subsequent viewings have revealed what a well made film HALLOWEEN actually is. I love the cast, the cinematography, the intensity. It's a great Rob Zombie film, but sadly it's not a great HALLOWEEN film since it betrays the original to such an extent. I've reconciled that though, to me all Zombie's films feel like they take place in the same world-a Zombie-verse, if you will. His Michael is just the Michael of the Zombie-verse and doesn't diminish Carpenter's in that sense. I would venture to say that if more of the detractors could compartmentalize the films and really set Zombie's apart, they may find a better film than they remember. Not to mention that Tyler Mane plays an amazing Michael. Loved him. And Malcolm MacDowell as Dr Loomis? Fantastic choice.
As I mentioned before, Rob went full Zombie on HALLOWEEN II and for the most part it paid off, though there were moments that dragged the film down and could have been left on the cutting room floor. Sherri Moon Zombie played Michael's mother in the first film and returns as a malevolent guiding spirit in II. It adds a weird, dreaminess to the film that feels so out of place in a HALLOWEEN film, but makes sense in a Zombie film, with loads of cool and creepy visuals that may have been a warm up for his follow up feature, LORDS OF SALEM.
If you think of Zombie's films musically, his first four are exactly what you'd expect from the man behind such shock rock metal classics as "Dragula," "Living Dead Girl," "Thunderkiss '65," and "More Human Than Human". LORDS OF SALEM, though, was a more down tuned doom metal. A much more serious, solemn, mature, and slower film. LoS still fits the style of the Zombie-verse, but embraces more a ROSEMARY'S BABY vibe rather than TCM.
Starring Sherri Moon Zombie, Ken Forree, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Dee Wallace, and Meg Foster, LoS is about a rock DJ, Heidi (Sherri), who receives a mysterious record that triggers hallucinations and flashbacks to her town's dark past. On the surface it's a witchcraft film and a disturbing one at that, but since the first time I saw it, I've wondered if there wasn't some subtext there, as with the aforementioned ROSEMARY'S BABY, which also contained a subtext that spoke directly to it's era. To me LoS sort of seemed like a metaphor for impending motherhood, but specifically for someone with a checkered past that would lead to fear and anxiety about the prospects of the responsibility. Maybe I'm over-thinking, but LoS feels like a much deeper movie than the surface content would suggest. Unfortunately though, as well made as it is LoS is my least favorite of Zombie's films, mainly because it reminds me so heavily of Roman Polanski and like Polanski Zombie doesn't quite land the film in a satisfying way. It's all build up and right when it gets good it's over. It's why I don't like ROSEMARY'S or NINTH GATE. It's really too bad, since LoS is Zombie's classiest and most ambitious films. That said it's certainly still worth watching.
This year, Zombie has returned with a film that looks like a return to H1kC roots. The trailer for 31 gives us Malcolm MacDowell dressed like a Victorian-era aristocrat, Sherri on the run through a fucked up labrynth and a shit load of psychotic, homicidal clowns. Zombie has promised us a film full of blood and madness just in time for Halloween and I can't wait to see it. It also stars Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Kevin Jackson, and Meg Foster. It's about five carnival workers who are kidnapped and forced to play a game where you win by surviving a life and death struggle against the psycho clowns for twelve hours. It sounds like the most typically Rob Zombie film of all, which I think will probably also make a pretty fun ride.
People whine on-line that all Zombie's films look like the 70s never ended, but I want to know why that's a problem. It's a style, as I said-his own universe and it's consistent and well done. Look at David Lynch's films, especially BLUE VELVET and TWIN PEAKS, there's an idyllic 50s look and feel to those works, though they aren't period pieces. And take John Water's films, they certainly exist in their own Waters-verse, taking and leaving what they need from pop culture. There's certainly more than a little of both Lynch and Waters in Zombie, just like the way his music pulls from such wildly varying sources-metal, disco, hip hop, industrial, and rockabilly. While for now, Zombie probably won't stop being a polarizing filmmaker, I think history will be kind to his films. Even Cronenberg was savaged by the critics and now his films are indispensable classics.

(Final note, I did skip Zombie's animated filmTHE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPER BEASTO. So, no need to point that out, thanks.)

(Original Rob Zombie logo at the top of the article is by King Vulture, 2016.)