Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Horror Movies

For those of you who are looking to get into the Christmas spirit but aren't interested in Little Ralphie's BB gun or little boys who fight off bumbling burglars, here are a few horror films to bring you some holiday cheer:

Santa's Slay (2005) - Former wrestler Bill Goldberg stars as Santa Claus in this gruesome holiday tale of festive carnage. After 1,000 years of jolly gift-giving due to losing a bet, Santa now returns to his true form of being a brutal killer. The opening scene has a surprisingly distinguished cast for a movie of this calibre. James Caan, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan and Rebecca Gayheart all cameo in this horrific-holiday film.

Gremlins (1984) - Although not a true Christmas movie, the holiday backdrop is a nice contrast to the theme in this dark comedy. For those who don't know the story-line of this classic, a father buys his son a mysterious creature known as a Mogwai for Christmas. When he doesn't follow the instructions for caring for the Mogwai, it multiplies. After breaking a cardinal rule of not eating after midnight, the multiple ill-behaved Mogwais then transform into slimy Gremlins who wreak havoc through the small town of Kingston Falls.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) - Little Billy Chapman, who watched his parents' get brutally murdered by a madman in a Santa Claus suit, grows up to go on his own Christmas -induced killing spree. This film caused an uproar when it was released, but has grown to create a cult following. It spawned four sequels.

Christmas Evil (1980) - Young Harry catches his mother having an affair with Santa Claus, who unbeknownst to Harry, is actually his father in a Santa costume. 30 years later, Harry is all grown up and is obsessed with the holiday and wants to become the next true Santa. Harry spends Christmas Eve dressed in a Santa costume punishing those who are on his naughty list. It is a little slow moving for some, but 'Christmas Evil' is a good Christmas horror film from the golden era of the slasher film.

Black Christmas (1974) - Sorority sisters receive obscene phone calls while they host their annual Christmas party. The mysterious caller then breaks in to the house and systematically murders the sisters. Bob Clark, who later went on to direct the classic 'A Christmas Story' helmed this holiday horror film. The film was remade in 2006.

Holiday Horror TV Specials

Tis' the season for holiday specials! Rudoph, Frosty and Santa bring holiday cheer to millions of people with their respective Christmas stories. But for those of you looking for a more macabre Christmas tale, here are a few scary holiday TV specials to watch as you warm yourself by the fire:

Tales From the Crypt: And All Through the House - Larry Drake (The title character from 1992's Dr. Giggles) plays a madman dressed as Santa Claus who terrorizes a woman on Christmas Eve. This beautifully shot episode opens up on a house decorated for the holidays with a backdrop of gently falling snow. With Christmas tunes in the air, this episode opens up in the tradition of Courier and Ives. The set up contrasts the horror that is soon to take place. "All Through the House" is a fun story that never takes itself too seriously. It has a memorable villian and makes good use of the holiday theme making it a great horror viewing for Christmas.

Tales from the Darkside: Season of Belief - This story opens up with two children, tired of hearing the same Christmas stories, ask their parents to tell them a scary story. Their parents proceed to tell them a story about the Grither, a monster who lives in the North Pole, that comes for those who say his name out loud. The parents continue to tell the tale despite the children's request for them to stop. As the children become more and more frightened, the parents don't let up for a minute! They get more and more detailed about this winged creature who flies faster and faster the more his name is spoken. The parents even sing a song about the Grither sung to the tune of "O Come, All Ye Faithful." Without giving too much away, the story is based on the theme of belief, and what happens if a belief is so strong that it just might be true. Adding a little more holiday connection, E.G. Marshall, who plays Grandpa Art in "Christmas Vacation" plays the father in the tale.

The Twilight Zone: The Night of the Meek - One of the greatest horror/Christmas crossovers ever in the history of television. Art Carney plays a department store Santa who is fired on Christmas Eve. He finds a magical sack, which he uses to give gifts to those who are less fortunate. Though not very scary, "The Night of the Meek" does have real heart and displays the true Christmas Spirit.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Horror One-Hit Wonders

Not every horror character can be like Mike. Michael Myers that is. Not every character can return time after time to butcher unsuspecting teens like Jason and Freddy. Between Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Hellraiser, there are a total of 38 movies. Those characters showed staying power. Those characters showed tenacity and intestinal fortitude. Those characters created followings of fans who wanted to see their beloved murders return for more carnage.

But what about the ones that didn't make it? The one and dones? Who are the characters that started their careers strong, but then went away after only one outing? I have created a list of these sole adventurers, and tried to make a guess as to why they didn't return. Just who are horrors, "One Hit Wonders"?

1. Dr. Giggles (1992) - Dr. Giggles was a promising character in the world of horror. He was brutal, had his signature giggle as he disposed of his victims, and had enough one liners to make Freddy Krueger blush through his burnt face. A solid performance from Larry Drake (the killer Santa Claus from Tales from the Crypt) kept this character from appearing too silly. His large imposing presence juxtaposed the high pitched giggle that made Dr. Giggles truly memorable. Why did he not make it to a sequel? Maybe the studios didn't believe in his lasting appeal from the beginning. He was killed off pretty convincingly which made a return unplausable. Also, unlike the big boys in the genre, Dr. Giggles was a man without a mask or make up, meaning that they couldn't hide just anyone behind a mask for the role. Real people age, meaning that this character was given an expiration date from the beginning, if franchise had in fact been born.

2. Sleepstalker: The Sandman's Last Rights (1995) - The sandman killer was given a decent backstory and had a number of creative kills. For it's time, and considering it was low-budget horror, the effects weren't horrible. It seemed like this movie was being prepped for a couple sequels when it came out at the time. In fact, the producers had announced a sequel back in the 90's, but that movie never came into fruition. But the wind blew and left the sandman behind in a pit leaving this killer from Sleepstalker a one hit wonder.

3. Madman (1982)- This killer comes complete with big ax and a folk song to boot. Madman was born during the post-Friday the 13th craze that studios were churning out killer after killer to see what would stick. Some decent kills weren't enough to bring Madman Marz back for another outing.

4. Satin's Little Helper (2004) - On Halloween, a young boy is infatuated with a video game where the player plays as Satin and is rewarded for murdering innocent bystanders. He confuses fantasy and reality as he aids a real-life serial killer, dressed as Satin, in obtaining new victims. This movie attempts to include a social commentary obviously based on violence in games such as the "Grand Theft Auto" series, and their effects on young players. The had good kills, an intriguing killer and never took itself to seriously. The movie sets itself up for a sequel, but as of this time, Satin is still a one-hit-wonder.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Remake or Sequel? Friday the 13th: Part 12

Back in 1988, with the release of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, I started my own personal countdown. A number that for me was more important than Roger Maris's 61 Home Runs and more important to me that the Lakers 69 win record. What I was counting down to was "Friday the 13th Part 13"! Now THAT was something to look forward to. The event would be ground-breaking. Jason hitting lucky number 13 was as good as it gets in my eyes. So far in an 8 year span, we had 7 "Friday the 13th" Movies. I figured that at that rate, we would probably hit Part 13 by the time I was in High School!

The next summer, we were given Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Only five more to go! The next summer came, and no Jason. That's Ok, I thought. There were two years between parts 3 and 4 and two years between parts 6 and 7. But then 1991 came, and still no Jason. Jason has never gone consecutive summers with out a release. What was going on? Was he truly dead?

A couple of years later, when I started to give up hope, I heard that Jason would be coming back in 1993! I was completely, utterly stoked until I heard the name of the next film; "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday." That's OK, I thought. We've all seen how long "The Final Chapter" lasted. They wouldn't really kill Jason, would they? After being denied a ticket because I was only 13 years old trying to see a Rated-R movie, I begged a random guy who was there with his girlfriend to watch the movie to buy tickets for my friend and me. So I was in luck. We got into the movie with no problem. I wasn't disappointed with the movie, but it hurt a little to see Jason's mask be pulled down beneath the dirt.

It would be closer to a decade before we heard any rumblings about further Jason escapades. Jason vs Freddy (as it was always referred to) was nothing but an endless series of rumors until about 2001, when it was said that the now titled "Freddy vs Jason" was about to be put into production. Not only that, but we would be given another entry the following year, Jason X! That would put us up to 11 and with only two more to go, my childhood dreams could become a reality. With a healthy box office return, Freddy and Jason would most certainly be back for more.

Several years went by and there was no new news about the next Jason romp. Then it happened. I went to my favorite horror movie news site, and read the tragic news; "Friday the 13th" was being remade!!! NO WAY! We were almost there! We only needed two more to hit the legendary " Friday the 13th Part 13"! Couldn't they do two more before they remade it?!?! To be that close was completely heartbreaking.

So 2009 came and I was there for the midnight showing. (No matter my dismay, I couldn't miss a Jason movie) I examined closely for the key moment that would destroy the original series storyline and stomp on my childhood dreams. And you know what? It never happened! I watched it again and paid closer attention and realized that this reboot does nothing to erase the original storyline from happening. Let me explain.

In the remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" which took place in 1973, Leatherface got his arm chopped off. And the family name changed from Sawyer to Hewitt. That renders TCH 2-4 impossible to coexist with the remake. In the "Halloween" remake, all the family dynamics were changed and the storylines made it impossible to coexist with the original Halloween continuities. But with the "Friday the 13th" remake, nothing was done that erases the originals.

-First of all none of the characters in the remake were from the original series. No Tommy Jarvis, no Steve Christy, no Crazy Ralph and no Shelley. So none of them were erased.

-The year of the flash back set in 1980. They didn't change the date to the late 90's or early 2000's to update the story. They were referring back to 1980, the year of the original "Friday the 13th".

-The crazy lady with the Dog in F13 (2009) referred to Jason when she said that Jason doesn't like anyone going into his woods. It could be argued that she was referring to the killing from the original series.

Now on to Jason. People can argue that Jason was more deteriorated and that he lost his fingers at the end of "Freddy vs Jason." Well going by what was said in "Jason X", Jason has amazing regenerative powers. That is why he was being studied in the lab and not destroyed. With that in mind, Jason had over 5 years to regenerate after the battle with Freddy in 2003.

The only scene that can challenge my theory is the quick flashback of Alice decapitating Mrs. Voorhees. But that could have been more of a symbolic recap compared to it actually happening.

So after explaining my evidence, I personally see "Friday the 13th" the real "Friday the 13th Part 12'! Which means that the next Jason movie will be "Friday the 13th Part 13" and my childhood dream will become a reality!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Remaking the Horror Genre - A Filmmakers Perspective

Remakes, remakes, remakes. Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre have all been given the remake treatment in the past several years. That means that the big four horror franchises of the 70's, 80's and 90's have all been restarted. Many horror fans are up in arms and are demanding for the remakes to stop. Mainly for the reason that the original story line continuities that we grew up with have all come to an end and consequently replaced. Why do the studios come out with, what seems like, remake after remake instead of giving the fans original horror stories? Is it because they don't have any new ideas? Is it because they are nervous to try something new? Or is there a different reason why they give our favorite series the reboot treatment?

As many of you know, I produce "Scared Stiff', a web horror series. It is through my work on the show that opened my eyes to why Hollywood studios decide to remake our favorite movies. Now I produce the show with the sole purpose to entertain fans of the horror genre. The goal is not to make money, but to share my stories with as many people as possible. Success through my show is tracked by the amount of views I achieve and through the positive comments people leave for it.

Now Hollywood is a business, and the way that they rate the success of a show is by the amount of money a movie makes. For this example, I will equate the hits that my shows get with a dollar amount that a Hollywood movie would make. For sake of comparison, I will say that 1 hit of my show equals 1,000 dollars that a movie would make in a theatre.

Now I put a lot of time into making original horror stories based on original characters. I have had thirteen original horror stories to date. So far each episode has garnered an average of 1,400 hits on YouTube, with the top one getting close to 3,000 hits. So with the equation, we will say that on average my movies would do $1,400,000 in box office receipts.

Over the years, under a pseudonym I have made fan films starring the likes of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. The hit count of those films are substantially bigger than those of my original shorts. In comparison, "Tiny's Halloween" which is my highest totaling "Scared Stiff" episode, has yet to reach 3,000 hits, while one of my Michael Myers starring "Halloween" fan films has been seen over 500,000 times. There is absolutely no comparison. For sake of our dollar/hit ratio, my fan film would have made over 500,000,000 million dollars, making it one of the highest grossing films of all time! Now for a more realistic comparison, let's change the ratio to 100 dollars for every hit. My "Halloween" fan film would have made an equivalent of 50 million dollars and my original story "Tiny's Halloween" would have only made 300,000 dollars. A bomb by film standards.

So if I were a studio and had to put 20,000,000 dollars into producing a movie with hopes of making a profit, would I put the money into an original story, or would I put money into a franchise that already has proven successful at the box office? The safe bet would be to put the money into an established franchise with a built in fan-base. That is what a lot of fans fail to see. The Movie Business is just that. It is a business. That doesn't mean that everyone in Hollywood is out to make a quick buck. It is just that movies cost lots and lots of money. The people that invest the money are not going to put out millions and millions of dollars to make art. They want a return on investment. You can't blame them for putting their money behind a proven franchise over investing in an unknown horror film that may or not make money.

I know that fans are upset over the amount of remakes out there. But, the Movie Business would cease to exist without one major component: the Business.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Re-casting Freddy: It needed to be done

Freddy Krueger is an international horror icon. The Fedora, green and red sweater and razor bladed glove is forever etched in the hearts of horror fans around the world. It has been almost seven years since Freddy has been on the screen. Sixteen years since his last stand-alone movie, and nineteen years since his last true Springwood nightmare movie. Usually when Freddy comes back to the big screen for another round of dream hauntings, it is a time for celebration. This year for some it still is. But there is a large group of fans in the horror community that yell blasphemy at the thought of someone other than Robert England playing the role that he made famous.

While I know that it is difficult seeing someone other than England playing the role that he has been the face of for over a quarter century, a re-casting was needed to be done to continue the reign of terror of our favorite nightmare man. Robert England has played Krueger through eight theatrical films and has played him several more times in "Freddy's Nightmares" and in many other media appearances. But over the years, England has stated that he was ready to move on from the character and have someone else try their hand at wearing the glove. He had a very difficult time with the physicality of the role during the filming of "Freddy vs. Jason" and said that it would be the last time that he would play the role wearing the make-up.

That being said, in order for the franchise to continue, a new Freddy needed to be casted. If not, Freddy would be truly dead. No more Nightmare on Elm Street movies...EVER! Who would want that? And this isn't the first time that a famous role has been recast in a major franchise. Imagine if they refused to recast Dracula because Bela Lugosi was not going to do the role anymore? We would have never had Christopher Lee's amazing performances. Imagine if the Bond Series ended after Sean Connery left the role? We would have lost several decades of Bond movies. And imagine if the Batman series didn't get into recasting the lead role? No "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight"!!!

Recasting Freddy had to be done. And I am glad that it did. Now we will have many more "Nightmare on Elm Street" sequels to look forward to, and the residents of Springwood will have many more sleepless nights.

Horror Movie Conventions and Bootlegs

We've all been to horror movie conventions. How can we not love meeting the celebrities, examining horror merchandise as if we were in a museum, and ahh...the bootlegs. I know that I personally have spent many an hour looking through hard/impossible to find DVDs of shows from my formative years. The chance to own a show that I grew up memorizing as a kid is tantalizing.

At a recent show, I was talking to one of the vendors, who owned a very impressive collection of TV shows and movie bootlegs. This guy was like a "bootleg king" He was selling hundreds of box sets. Everything from the entire series of "The Twilight Zone" to all seven seasons of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" He was telling me that he sells his bootlegs full-time going from convention to convention. When he is not selling at a convention, he runs a website that sells his vast collection of bootlegs. It is a pretty legit site too, with a Pay Pal option and everything.

It surprised me that this man was so open about his business considering that 100 percent of his inventory was illegal. He must have SOME reservations about it considering that there is always chance that his business could be taken away from him at the drop of a hat and land him in jail.

Well, the point of my ranting is not to pass judgement on the bootleggers. (I have purchased Bootlegs of unreleased shows myself. I typically only buy them if there is no way to buy a legit copy because the poorer quality really irks me.) It just bring up a few questions that have always been on my mind.

1. Do studios not know of the large quantity of bootleggers that exist at these conventions? Obviously, someone must have tipped them off at one point. I remember being shocked back in 2003 at the Halloween 25th anniversary convention to see bootlegs of the Halloween 6 Producer's Cut sold when series Executive Producer Moustapha Akkad was present!

2. Why do these vendors get away with selling the bootlegs for 50 dollars and up? They know damn sure that they only spent pennies duplicating a disc. How do they justify selling poor quality copies of shows at the same price that you would be purchasing it for at a Best Buy?

And a challenge for those risky types...
3. if someone walks up to a bootlegger and grabs a bunch of box sets off the table, says "Good day" and walks away with out paying, what can the bootlegger really do about it? Now, he can't call the police. What would he say? "Officer, that man stole my illegal bootlegs?" He would be dumb to chase after the guy and make a scene. Would he risk having the cops show up and see all of his bootleg merchandise, jeopardizing his "company"?

Now, I repeat I am not making a judgement about those bootleggers. I know that those those vendors are the reason that some people attend a horror movie conventions. I am just surprised at how open and available the illegal acts are. There is the argument that some of the DVDs that are available are not available on DVD, so the studios aren't losing any money off of it. But that's like a burglar stealing jewelry from you and saying "It doesn't matter, they weren't gonna wear it anyway." On the other hand, maybe if the studios see that fans are willing to pay money for their copy of "Salute Your Shorts" on DVD, maybe they would decide to release a copy of it instead of forcing people to but it thought one of those vendors.

Why Twilight is Good for the Horror Genre

Edward, Alice, Esme, and Jasper Cullen. Those names usually are enough to make horror fans sick to their stomach. Most horror fans like their vampires evil, soaring through the night, looking for a soft neck to turn into their next meal. A heartthrob vampire that falls in love and glitters in the sun is sacreligious to the horror loyalist. Though make no mistake about it, the 'Twilight' series has been an absolute cultural phenomenon, and has changed the way a lot of people see Vampires. When the younger generation hears the word "vampire", Dracula and Lestat are no longer the first names on their tongue. Edward, Jasper and Carslisle are what the new generation considers to be the definitive vampires. That may drive the more traditional horror fan mad, but whether they like it or not, the horror genre may very well benefit from the existence of the Twilight series. 

Twilight has more than peaked an interest in vampires for a new generation of readers and movie goers. In the last couple of years, vampire series such as HBO's "True Blood" and the CW's "The Vampire Chronicles" have hit the airwaves and quickly became very popular shows. If you walk down the teen aisle of your local Barnes and Noble, you will quickly notice the onslaught of books and series about vampires. And vampires are not the only ones benefiting from twilight's populatity. The Quillete clan in the 'Twilight' series have also introduced a new audience to a new generation of werewolves, which is sure to spawn several new books and movies. 

For this new audience, this new fascination with vampires and werewolves may act as a gateway to other horror movies. Maybe these new fans may want to see further battles between vampires and werewolves and rent a copy of "Underworld". Maybe they want to find out more about vampire lore and maybe buy a copy of Anne Rice's "Interview with a Vampire". Maybe their interest in the macabre will expand their horizon and bring them to watch a 'Saw" movie or even rent a "Friday the 13th" film.

You may hate the thought of a twinkling vampire but whether they want to admit it or not, horror fans can only benefit from the explosion in popularity of the Twilight Saga.