The unholy trio!
Three legendary horror masters were born in the month of May: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. So, since I’m overdue for a theme month, I’ve decided to take a look at some of their films this month. However, rather than the classics, I’ve decided to dust off some of their lesser efforts and least talked about flicks. And it all starts tomorrow at Dread Media!
Written by Jason White.
I have a fond memory of watching the first Jeepers Creepers. It was back in the days when I smoked legally questionable herbs quite frequently. I was pretty high on said herbs when I sat down with a couple of friends to watch this one on my very first DVD player. Yes, it was that long ago.
Anyway, one of the friends I watched the film with was upset that the monster [SPOILER] wasn’t some deranged serial killer. And yet, it was because the monster was an honest to god monster instead of a human that had me. That scene where Justin Long prowls around the Creeper’s lair, with the dying dude wrapped up in a burlap sack and the walls with all the bodies of past victims (disturbingly preserved and stitched together) attached like some unholy cathedral wall painting is a scene that had my full attention. What the fuck is going on? was the question that spun around in my frightened, herb altered mind. (more…)
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Come have a listen. If you haven’t seen this movie, you might want to give it a go despite how brutal it is. There’s a lot to be said about this one, no matter if you’re talking influences or meaning behind it all.
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Jason and I recently talked a bit about found footage films. They have been a staple since The Blair Witch Project and a craze since Paranormal Activity. But what we rarely see is a straight-out fictional documentary—Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&Man are notable exceptions (the former a horror/comedy about a media savvy serial killer and the latter a dark, disturbing look at extreme horror). The best example I have seen so far is Lake Mungo, a release from After Dark Films*.
Lake Mungo is the story of the Palmer family—parents Russell and June, and son Matthew—who’s daughter/sister, Alice, recently drowned. Her death sparks a downward spiral of events. First, June demands an exhumation, fearing—hoping—her husband misidentified the body. When no doubt remains of Alice’s death, the possibility of a haunting presents itself. Matthew sets up cameras and documents what certainly looks like the ghost of his sister. But this is a film about secrets, and every time we think we have an answer, a new question pops up. The family seeks out a psychic who isn’t quite on the up-and-up, and they later learn that their neighbors have ties to Alice they never could have imagined.
Halfway through, our expectations and beliefs are shattered. The supernatural is replaced by a real-world twist that knocks us off balance. And makes us wonder where in the world the movie will go from there. We start to see a tragedy unfold—a drama about a confused, scared sixteen-year-old who felt she had nowhere to turn. Her journey—and her family’s as they retrace her last days—culminates at Lake Mungo. The answer they find is the creepiest thing yet.
This film works because it takes itself seriously. I don’t even use the term “mockumentary” because there is not a hint of satire or dark comedy. From the crackly 9-1-1 call that opens the action, to the verisimilitude of news coverage about Alice’s drowning, to the deadpan interviews of family, friends, and police investigators, Lake Mungo’s realism makes The Blair Witch Project’s famed efforts look like the minor league.
I should warn you that this is not a movie full of scares and screams. Writer/director Joel Anderson does not present a fright-fest. Instead, this quiet movie weaves a tapestry of intrigue, not jump scares. This film looks and feels like those Halloween episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. Or a spooky version of the tremendous documentary, Dear Zachary. The story is equal parts grief and ghosts, and the Australian stoicism of the characters presents a subtle yet absorbing tale.
The real payoff for horror fans comes with the end credits. It’s too good to spoil, so I shall just tell you to stick around until it’s all over. But the end result chilled me for days after I watched this movie.
Lake Mungo is a slow burn for sure, and it won’t be for everyone’s taste. But its subtlety entranced me. The ever-evolving secrets and mysteries kept me captivated until the end. And the absolute perfection of its documentary façade is beyond impressive.
Four Dweller Heads!
*After Dark Films produces some of the best horror films out there. Check out the festival’s “8 Films to Die For” and you almost can’t go wrong!
It’s always great to sit down and read something new by Greg F. Gifune. Luckily for fans like me he’s fairly prolific. In regards to prolific writers, I always worry that they might sacrifice quality for quantity. It’s there. I’ve read it from other authors.
Greg Gifune, however, pumps out quality after quality. And Orphans of Wonderland is a great example.
The novel follows Joel Walker as he investigates the murder of an old childhood friend. While doing so he is taken down the same road he travelled twenty years ago while writing an investigative true crime book about a Satanic cult and the ritual killing they committed. The story starts off as a whodunnit with Joel interviewing people close to the case. As he does so, he is disturbed to find that people are following him, and the cops don’t want him around. At all.
Something isn’t right with his friend’s death, but Joel has to know what happened, not only for his friend, but for closure of the past that still haunts him.
After a few death threats and Joel continuing on with his investigation, the story goes from that whodunnit to classic weird and dark fiction. It’s a near 180 degree turn, but Gifune handles the change masterfully.
The result is a book that leaves you asking questions and leaving you wondering about the world we live in. It’s well worth your time, especially if you like secret societies, Satanic cults, and weirdness in your fiction.
Five Dweller Heads!
Written by Michael Schutz-Ryan
Dogtooth is not a horror movie, but its twisted themes and dark storyline certainly warrant a mention here. The 2009 Greek film (and 2011 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film) tells the tale of the sheltered lives of three siblings, whose names are never revealed. A son and his two sisters are held captive by their parents, probably to safeguard them from the evils of the world, but we are never explicitly told their reasons. The absence of the question, “Why?” illustrates the foreign film sensibility that sets Dogtooth a step above the thrillers Hollywood pumps out. The movie knows that the “why” doesn’t matter when the “what” is so compelling.
The film opens with a tape-recorded vocabulary lesson, redefining words indicative of a world beyond the family’s back yard. “Sea” is a leather chair with wooden arms. “Motorway” is a very strong wind. Their routine is comprised of tests and challenges to earn rewards—mostly the honor of choosing the night’s entertainment. One of the most popular choices is videos—simply home movies of the family. The siblings come up with their own twisted games, too. The youngest delights in games of “endurance,” to see who can stand pain the longest.
Dad—the only one to leave the “compound”—brings home a woman, a co-worker, to fulfill his son’s maturing sexual needs. This is followed by a cheery group pose with the woman because the family doesn’t “have one with Christina yet.” Just how long has this been going on? Unsatisfied with the robotic sex, Christina begins to trade petty possessions for cunnilingus with the elder sister. Who then persuades her younger sister to lick her, and a recurring black comedy ensues as the girl takes to licking the elbows, ears, shoulders of her family members. It is one of these trades with Christina that open the elder girl’s mind to the great big world.
Wondering yet how the parents explain the airplanes flying overhead? Or what they say about the discovery of a cat in the garden—a creature the siblings have never seen nor heard of? Let’s just say that they are a deviously ingenious couple.
The film shows us this bizarre family right at their tipping point. The maturing children are beginning to doubt, to question. It is, of course, the son’s sexual awareness that brings in the outsider, and is therefore the catalyst for the final catastrophe. But it is the elder daughter’s plight that we most connect with. She has grown impatient and longs to know what lies beyond the property-enclosing fence.
Revealed with a sort of clinical detachment, the film doesn’t judge these people or events. It presents its own stark reality and allows us to laugh or cringe however a particular scene strikes us. Dogtooth is truly unique, dark, and disturbing, told with the abject realism only found in foreign and indie films. It may not be horror, but anyone interested in the more subtle terrors of the human mind will find much to like with this one.
Four Dweller Heads!
Written by Michael Schutz-Ryan.
When I say “extreme horror,” I’m talking about all those bloody and disturbing movies from Hostel to Flowers of the Flesh and Blood, with all the vile bits of August Underground in between. Tom Six’s sequel to his original The Human Centipede definitely has enough blood and viscera to hold its own against any gore-fest you can think of. But it also features a strong story and a fully realized anti-hero that propels this movie far beyond most extreme horror.
Within the first ten minutes, we are introduced to Tom Six’s artistic elements that elevate this movie. His choice of black and white is a bold statement. It makes the film stark, both ugly and beautiful. And when the blood starts running, the gore is monochromatic black. It’s a bit more palatable that way, though I am sure it is not for the audience’s benefit. It is more a reflection of the unaffected view our protagonist Martin takes of his violence. And the colors remind us not to judge these characters, but rather to see them and their choices as all the shades of grey imaginable.
Martin is an odd, repulsive character that David Lynch himself would be terrified to run into. He’s a crowbar-wielding, goggle-eyed, asthmatic, sweaty, fat, undoubtedly ugly parking ramp attendant. And he never speaks in the film, expressing himself with escalating grunts and piggish squeals. He makes me wonder what the casting call asked for!
The third element that strikes the audience is that in this world, The Human Centipede actually exists as a film by Tom Six. Martin is obsessed with the movie, watching and re-watching on the laptop he takes to work. And at home, he assembles a scrapbook dedicated to the film. The affection he shows for this book is the only loving moments in the entire movie.
Throughout The Human Centipede 2, we are given glimpses and mentions of Martin’s past. His father sexually abused him and landed in jail. Martin’s mother blames him for her husband’s imprisonment and tries to murder her son. And Martin’s psychiatrist is handsy, confiding with a friend that he’d like to fuck Martin, whom he calls “that retarded boy.” These horrendous offenses enlighten Martin’s psychopathy but do not even attempt to excuse it. This film succeeds by neither empathizing nor sympathizing, but rather presenting a blunt portrayal of events.
All these offenses have converged and led Martin to his one ambition: to create his own human centipede. Gone is the static, medically-accurate procedure we saw in the original. There are no tidy sedative injections—Martin simply cracks his victims over the head with the aforementioned crowbar to stun them into submission. And just as would happen in real life, his efforts at centipede construction go horribly wrong. Cutting into a prisoner’s buttcheek produces an overwhelming gush of blood. Martin has no sutures or training, so madly staples his captives in the ass-to-mouth position. And Martin is most interested in the single digestive tract creation, force-feeding the head (Ashlynn Yennie of the original, playing herself) and when unsatisfied with his centipede’s bowel movement progress, injects laxative into the human segments.
The Human Centipede 2 is the most brutal, intense film I’ve ever seen. The gore comes about organically and doesn’t feel rushed or superfluous. It may not have the verisimilitude of Cannibal Holocaust or Grotesque, but its depravity is unrelenting. Once it gets going it never lets up. But most of all, I found it to be a solid film that ranks right up there with Martyrs with its originality, story, and characters.
Four Dweller Heads!
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This week, Jason and Michael discuss the Eli Roth produced Clown from 2014 and some upcoming clown horror releases. It was a circus! Join us in the fun.
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Welcome to episode 30! This week Jason and Michael sit down to discuss the Kevin Smith movie Tusk.
Music that makes an appearance:
Torquemada 71 by Electric Wizard. It appears on their album Wictchcult Today. Both the song and album are available on iTunes and Amazon and any decent record store.