Thursday, August 28, 2014


So in the last chapter I was expressing my undying love of the first two Hellraiser films and a strong like of part 4. I wasn't shy about how much I hated part 3 and wasn't planning on revisiting it, but my wife wanted to rewatch it, since neither of us had watched it since we were in high school. So what the hell? After 5-8 we played 3 and...I have to apologize for all the negative hyperbole. I actually really
liked 3 this time around. There are still problems, but its no where near as bad as I remembered. It was just a strange experience; I remembered most everything, but I saw it in a new light and the film played better than I recalled. My take on 3 was that it was too commercial, not an artistic triumph like the first two, probably just a cash in, and finally, I wanted a Hellraiser film not a Nightmare On Elm Street knock off. I suppose I had unreasonably high expectations and possibly influenced by other fans of the series taking a dump on it. I treated Hell On Earth like it was the Star Wars Christmas Special and I retract that statement. It's at least as good as 4.
Right, deep breath, moving on. I plan to be vague in talking about these next four movies to avoid spoilers, except where absolutely necessary.
Hellraiser 5; Inferno was directed by Scott Derrickson, who also directed The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, Sinister, and will be directing the upcoming Dr Strange(!!!!!!!!!) film. It stars Craig Sheffer (he played Boone in the great Nightbreed) as a corrupt homicide detective who comes in contact with the puzzle box...and wackiness ensues! In a way, it's Bad Lieutenant vs. Pinhead (actually The Engineer, but I'll say no more). It's a strong film, despite a few flaws. Compared to the first four films it's quite a
departure in tone and focus, but the role of the Cenobites seems more in line with the fist film, than with Pinhead's world domination aspirations in 3 and 4. Inferno is a smaller, more personal film and sets the tone for the rest of the series. It's not very gory, but has some good scares and Derrickson does an admirable job of bringing a new take to the series instead of just a retread of the previous entries.
Rick Bota (House On Haunted Hill remake, Tales From The Crypt) directed the next three installments; Hellseeker, Deader, and Hellworld. If anything, Bota shows how a Hellraiser tv series could be a strong show and a lot of fun. My overall complaint about Bota's three films is that I wish they were hour long episodes of a series. While I enjoyed each (and I'll get into details in a moment) I feel like they each went on just a bit too long. Hellworld in particular could have used about ten minutes shaved off.
Hellseeker brought us Ashley Laurence's return to the franchise as Kirsty Cotton, but geez, blink and you'll miss her! Same with Pinhead. Like Inferno, Hellseeker is a hallucinogenic mystery about a man (Dean Winters) who's lost part of his memory after the death of his wife in a car accident. While it's a
fine film, I'm confused by which story Bota chose to focus on. When Heather Langenkamp returned to the Nightmare On Elm Street series in Dream Warriors and New Nightmare, she was all over those films. Ashley Laurence is at least as important to Hellraiser as Langenkamp is to NOES, but she takes a backseat to Winters. When the credits rolled I was left as dismayed by her lack of screen time as I was entertained by the film overall. Hellseeker could have used a bit more streamlining or maybe I'm just not a huge fan of how Bota shoots his films, because I have the same complaint about the next two films.
Bota followed up with Deader, starring Kari Wuhrer (Swamp Thing the series, Remote Control, childhood crush) as an investigative journalist who travels to Romania to report on a death cult. Deader is a stronger film than Hellseeker, more focused with a few better scares. Though the ending seems
tossed off, like everyone shrugged their shoulders and said "I don't know...chains?" "Sure, whatever." Considering Hellworld came out the same year as Deader, I get the impression these films were rushed on the cheap just to get product on the market.
Hellworld is the one I shake my fist at. Though it features Lance Hendrickson (Aliens, Pumpkinhead) it  doesn't have much else going for it, except a good idea that doesn't get utilized. The idea is that Hellworld is an online role playing game based on the Hellraiser franchise. Players have a tendency to become obsessed with the game and the friend of the main characters commits suicide at the beginning of the movie. Having Hellrasier as a film within a film is interesting, but the logic leaps and annoying cast tank the overall product. Not even young Superman, Henry Cavill adds any interest. But Hellworld does boast some cool set pieces, some good scares, and some decent gore. Hendrickson is fun to watch, and of course when the Cenobites finally show up it's sweet, but woefully short.
Inferno is by far the strongest of the second half of the Hellraiser series. I get the strong sense that
Bota's three films would have been much better had he been given a better budget and more time to develop the scripts. Which is not to say 6-8 aren't worth watching, they certainly are, just adjust your expectations accordingly.      


I can't overstate how much I'm looking forward to Bluetrane Productions' upcoming Murder Ballads. The teaser trailer dropped on line a couple days ago (you can watch below) and it reminds me of those great Dario Argento films like Deep Red or Tenebre. I only know director/co-writer James Branscome via Twitter but he seems like a righteous dude with impeccable taste, but I've know co-writer Jeffery X Martin for a hell of a long time. If you haven't read his books Black Friday or Stories About You then you need to get on that shit!
Bluetrane Productions has released the teaser for Murder Ballads to help build interest in the project and to seek additional funding. You can and should follow Murder Ballads progress on Twitter and Facebook at
And take a minute to read the press release and then watch the teaser.

Bluetrane Productions is pleased to announce the beginning of pre-production on their first feature length film production, MURDER BALLADS, a horror thriller in which a mysterious killer murders their victims in gruesome ways that resemble the lyrics of traditional folk songs. 

Co-writer/Director James Branscome describes it as a “hillbilly giallo.” 
“I got my fascination about the songs from my grandfather,” Branscome said. “He grew up listening to bluegrass, folk, and country music and played the banjo. I didn’t appreciate it right away, but once I did, I really got into it. As I did my research, I discovered I was drawn to certain songs. More often than not, those songs were the most morbid lyrically. And I started getting ideas of doing something based around the songs.”

“I’ve always loved gialli (Italian murder mysteries),” Branscome continued, “especially the films of Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, and Lucio Fulci. James DeHaven and I talked about wanting to write one for years, but we could never find the hook. Then I thought about the folk songs and suddenly it all came together.” 

“Since we’ve been working on projects over the years, I’ve always felt we were headed towards something great,” co-writer James DeHaven says. “I’m excited to be a fan of genre films, especially knowing that ‘Murder Ballads’ is so close to becoming a reality. We haven’t been given anything new in a long time. I think ‘Murder Ballads’ is going to fill a gap that genre fans have been longing to be filled. It’s a smart, gory horror movie. This isn’t your mother’s ‘Sound of Music.’” 

Creator of the horror fiction series, “The Elders Keep Project,” and film essayist Jeffery X Martin helped bring the story together. “I knew James from his earlier work, a comedy web-series called ‘Pumpkin Morgue Paranormal Investigations.’ I pitched him some stories and wrote a couple scripts. Collaborating with James was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. We saw eye to eye on almost everything right away. We’ve been working together ever since.” 

Martin is also a fan of gialli. “I know some people have tried to make American giallo films,” he says, “but they’ve always seemed to be missing a couple of elements. ‘Murder Ballads’ captures those great giallo aspects while making it something uniquely American, specifically the American South.” 

“Murder Ballads” combines a compelling murder mystery, filled with shocking gore and suspenseful set pieces, with a story that plumbs the depth of the history of American music. 

“We want nothing more than to share the things we love with the rest of the world. Folk music, giallo movies and horror that doesn’t insult anyone’s intelligence,” Martin says. “It’s an ambitious project, and we can’t wait for everyone to see it.” 

“At the end of the day, we’re fans,” Martin concludes. “We want to make the kind of movie we would want to see as fans. Hopefully, that will resound with other fans and make this a special event.” 

With the first round of casting done, Bluetrane Productions is preparing to reinvigorate the horror genre with “Murder Ballads,” an official selection in the Screenplay Competition of Fright Film Fest 2013.
And here's a murder ballad just for kicks...
The Louvin Brothers "Knoxville Girl"

Thursday, August 21, 2014


If you're a fan of British street punk like The Exploited then you'll love Special Duties. As much as I like old school Brit punk, I somehow missed Special Duties, which is a shame, because this reissue is a damn fine album. Tight and snotty, fast and nasty. In other words; right up my alley. Formed in 1977 Essex by three school friends, SD recorded their debut album in 1982, "'77 in '82". And then blasted Crass with the tune Bullshit Crass, which didn't go over well with distributors Rough Trade and Small Wonder, who refused to stock their albums. The band broke up a year later, but would reform a few times over the years.
Now Jailhouse Records is re-releasing all their material over two albums. Blasting this album makes me feel like I'm seventeen again. Lots of violent audio fun. This is a must for old school punk fans with a disdain for all the sun shiny overproduced pop crap.

Thursday, August 14, 2014



Thursday, August 7, 2014


It starts with a scum bag named Frank Cotton seeking a puzzle box that is supposed to unlock the secrets of the flesh, instead it opens a door that lets in four perverted explorers in the extremes of pleasure and pain from an alternate dimension that may or may not be the Biblical Hell. These explorers, known as the Cenobites, quickly decimate Frank's body, literally ripping it to shreds. Welcome to Clive Barker's Hellraiser.
My first exposure to Hellraiser came from watching Siskel and Ebert savage Hellbound; Hellraiser II. Even at twelve I knew those guys were blowhards and didn't care for scary movies. The Cenobites, Pinhead, Female, Butterball, and Chatterer were like nothing I'd seen before. Dressed in kinky black leather with mutilated flesh, these guys went beyond the pale and made Freddy's striped sweater look quaint. Based on the footage shown, Hellbound looked amazing, but I'd be sixteen before I finally got see the first two Hellraiser films. By then part 3, Hell On Earth was coming out, so I got to watch all three in quick succession while reading the original novel, Hellbound Heart.
My first films based on Barker's work were Rawhead Rex and Nightbreed and I'd read those stories and the Thief of Always. So by the time I sat down to watch Hellraiser, I was already a fan of Barker. The Hellraiser and Nightbreed comics from Epic were also highly sought after items for me.
My expectations were quite high for Hellraiser and I went into the first one with almost no info. To say
the least, I was not let down. I'd call the first two works of art that hold up well today. The gore is still sick, most of the special effects are still effective. Part 3 was a massive let down, with no redeeming qualities.
Hellbound was a film I re-rented often. I loved it's epic nature and how it stood out from other horror films. I didn't return to the first Hellraiser as often, because at the time it just disturbed me too much. I think it still has the power to disturb the uninitiated, but I'm jaded enough now, that I can enjoy it on a technical level. The rebirth of Frank is one of my favorite sequences in horror.
After Hellraiser, much of my art was colored by Barker's influence, even as my disillusion with horror films started to build through the 90's. The image of the four original Cenobites, Pinhead, Female, Butterball, and Chatterer is so iconic and unparalleled. Barker raised the bar for horror artists. With Hellraiser, Nightbreed, and Rawhead Rex crossing over in the comics and creating a big shared universe, Barker had created a mythos as exciting as Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos.
When I had the chance to see Part 4, Bloodlines, I was less than excited after 3. I sat in my car at the drive in for the double feature with Tales From The Crypt; Bordello Of Blood. Which sucked.
Bloodlines did not. I know some people balked at Pinhead in space (not nearly as much as Jason in space, I know), but I really enjoyed how the film traced the history of the Lament Configuration (puzzle box) from 1700s France to a space station in 2127. New Cenobites are introduced and the scope of the film restored the epic feel of Part 2.
Even though there have been five more Hellraiser films and part 4 didn't let me down, I haven't had any interest in seeing them until now. I went back to the original two and 4. There is no reason to retry 3. So this weekend I'm watching Part 5 Inferno and will continue through Revelations where we'll pick up  MHHABM Part 43; Hellraiser 5-Revelations.
In the mean time, keep watching the sky, nerds. And leave those puzzle boxes alone!

Here's the only good thing from Part 3, Motorhead "Hellraiser"