On today’s episode, I’m running down five rad horror authors working right now who are not the master Stephen King. Over the course I talk about a dozen different books that have really hit me over the past decade or so. Hopefully you’ll find someone new to read as you listen!
I’ve written about a lot of these books here on the site: Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied, A Head Full Of Ghosts, HorrorStor, Paperbacks From Hell, Locke & Key, Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, NOS4A2, 20th Century Ghosts, The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters.
Well, here I am about a week away from Christmas and I find myself watching even more holiday themed horror flicks. I posted about Red Christmas and A Christmas Horror Story last week and have been going through plenty of others since then.
I’m a big fan of Silent Night, Bloody Night, but for some reason that movie doesn’t work its way into my brain very well and I can never remember it. I also watched Black Christmas which completely failed to grab my attention. I was distracted, so maybe I’ll come back to that one again next year.
From there I dipped back in to favorites like Gremlins and Rare Exports and now I’m looking at a few other new ones. As an unexpected and early Christmas gift, Netflix double shipped me two films this week: Better Watch Out and Dick Maas’s Sint, two films that held plenty of surprises.
I’m pretty bummed that Blumhouse.com went through whatever changes they did because that means I can’t parlay my weird predilection for watching new Christmas horror films into cash. However, that hasn’t stopped me from continuing this yearly tradition. This year, I’ve checked out some classics like Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 and Gremlins, but also a few newer entries.
First off, I watched an Australian horror film called Red Christmas by writer-director Craig Anderson. I heard them talk about this one on the last episode of Shock Waves (#76 if you’re curious) with co-host — and my former BH.com editor — Rebekah McKendry saying it was bad and guest Brian Collins of Horror Movie A Day fame saying he kind of liked it.
My wife and I are love watching classic Christmas movies this time of year, but even with a set list of go-tos like Holiday Inn, White Christmas and Miracle On 34th Street, we keep an eye out for new ones to watch. Enter: Christmas In Connecticut, a film neither of us had ever seen before. We popped it on last weekend and gave it a watch in the glow of our Christmas tree, but also with two very noisy children so we didn’t quite catch everything.
In fact, I completely missed the set-up while getting something for my daughter and my wife missed other parts so we had to fill each other in, but here are the basic details of this madcap holiday comedy. Like a lot of the movies that came out around this time, this one starts out in WWII as a wounded soldier named Jones (Dennis Morgan) flirts with a nurse in an attempt to get better food in the hospital. The plan works, but backfires when she falls for him and wants to get married. He says he’s not the marrying type so she writes a letter to magazine publisher Mr. Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet) to ask if Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), an advice column writer who lives on a farm with her husband and baby will put the soldier up during the holidays so he can get a true sense of home.
The problem? Elizabeth is actually a single woman living in New York City, but if Yardley finds that out, she and her editor will get fired for lying to him and the public. So, she agrees to marry this dude who’s been after here for years that also happens to have a farm. They get engaged and almost get married several times, but then Elizabeth meets Jones and clearly they have chemistry. Oh and Yardley shows up to make matters even worse.
My wife and I basically spent the whole movie wondering how Elizabeth would get out of the various holes she kept digging for herself thanks to fill-in babies, burgeoning romances and other wacky conflicts. I don’t think CIC will oust any of the other favorites, but it makes a great addition to the line-up!
While looking around Google for the above poster, I also discovered a 1992 TV movie version of CIC starring Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson, Richard Roundtree and Tony Curtis! Even crazier? It’s directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger! I don’t think I’ll have time to get that one from Netflix before Christmas actually hits, but here’s hoping I remember to add it to the top of the ol’ queue next season because that thing sounds BONKERS.
One of the highlights of my podcast-listening week is seeing a new episode of How Did This Get Made pop up. I’m a huge fan of this show about wacky movies hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas. Sometimes I watch the movie before the episode goes live, sometimes I’m pretty familiar with them already and other times, I just go along for the ride and check it out later. In the past few weeks, I’ve actually watched a trio of films inspired by the podcast and figured I’d group them all together. I also just realized that these three movies feature three of my favorite action stars, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone in some of their most bonkers movies ever.
The gang covered the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sinbad holiday comedy Jingle All The Way on their first Christmas episode back in 2011. I watched this one a few weeks back, but thankfully took notes to help jog my memory. The movie finds workaholic dad Schwarzenegger going crazy trying to find an action figure for his son, played by future Anakin Skywalker Jake Lloyd. Sinbad moves in an out of the movie doing the same thing. Meanwhile, it seems like Phil Hartmann is moving in on Arnie’s wife Rita Wilson and this is all leading towards a huge holiday parade in what’s supposed to be a snow-covered town, but is clearly a side street in LA in the spring.
I thought I had this movie figured out for the first 20 minutes or so. That part is basically a movie for kids with over-the-top, cartoony style gags. Heck, there’s all kinds of talk in the first 10 minutes that set up the entire film (toy, parade, snow, etc.). Cool, I got it, let’s roll. And then things start getting weird and dark. The whole Hartman thing was pretty crazy, plus Sinbad is a nutso postal worker (remember when that was a thing?) who actually hands a cop a bomb that explodes! Luckily, he’s okay because he’s apparently facing off against the Road Runner. The whole thing culminates in a big parade where Arnie dresses up as the action figure hero and has a pretty epic fight with Sinbad. I feel like I could use the word “bonkers” to describe roughly everything in this movie. I wound up watching the end with my kid and I’m pretty sure she didn’t pick up on any of the insanity, so maybe you can get away with this one with a tyke if you have one. Maybe just cover their eyes when Arnie punches a reindeer in the face. That might be damaging.
Before moving on, if you’re looking for any kind of message, don’t. The obvious and seemingly intended point is that commercialism is not the point of Christmas, but that being with people is. And yet, the ENTIRE MOVIE is actually about commercialism, getting things, taking them away from other people and keeping them. You can’t just tack on a nice moment from Lloyd at the end and flip the whole script, you know? Ah well, moving on…
This spring, HDTGM covered one of the greatest bad video game movies around when they did Street Fighter starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen (who’s as wooden here as she is on S.H.I.E.L.D., zing!), Kylie Minogue and Miguel A. Núñez Jr. who was in both Return Of The Living Dead AND Friday The 13th: A New Beginning. I’ve probably only played a Street Fighter game for about an hour in my whole life and know next to nothing about the franchise, but it’s still clear from watching this movie that the writers didn’t really care about any of that as far as plot goes and instead decided to just shoehorn in nods to the games.
Basically, Julia plays a guy who wants to not so much rule the world, but his own country. JCVD isn’t down with that, especially after Julia captures one of his pals. Thankfully, JCVD leads some kind of UN-type military group that wears bright blue camouflage for no reason. I honestly can’t remember many of the details beyond that because every single character in this movie is lying about what they want or why they’re there. So many of them switch sides that you practically need a score card. Actually, that’s an overstatement as the good guys are clearly good and the bad guys, well, usually wear masks, hats or have crazy blades on their hands.
The funny thing about this movie is that, I was pretty sure I’d seen this back in my high school days or maybe when I lived with my buddy Rickey and we watched a ton of JCVD movies. When I went to Netflix to give it watch, I laughed because it asked if I wanted to watch again and the screen capture was of the end credits. Guys, I can’t stay away from a good-bad JCVD movie and this is one of the best-worst. If you do watch this movie, please do yourself a favor and listen to the episode. They point out so many awesome bits of craziness that I kind of want to listen to it again right now.
I realized yesterday that Netflix Instant is about to cut a ton of titles on January 1st. Turns out there are 25 of those soon-to-be-gone flicks in my queue so I figured I’d watch a few when I can. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot popped out from the batch because of one thing: How Did This Get Made (episode 61 to be exact). Since Lu had laid claim to the big TV, I actually broke out the Kindle Fire and watched that way which worked pretty well.
Sylvester Stallone plays a supercop in this one whose mom — Estelle Getty — comes for a visit only to witness a murder that she teams up with her son to solve. This movie is so all-over-the-place that it’s really hard to get a handle on. It starts off with a solid action scene which eventually leads into an airport scene where a group of stewardesses comment on his physique based on pictures — many of them baby pics — that Estelle showed them. One of them even says something about him being attractive in a diaper which is just so weird and gross that it’s hard to handle. In fact, there’s a lot of awkward sex jokes that leave you off balance.
Keeping you further off balance is a scene where Estelle — who is super annoying in that way that moms of this time were on TV and film — actually washes his gun with soap and water in the sink. Up to that point she was just overbearing, but at this point she’s dumb verging on insane. That gets compounded by the fact that she brought an entire suitcase of canned pineapple as well as another one with cleaning products. That’s obviously pre-intense airline security, but I’m fairly certain you can make something terrible with at least one of those cases.
Oh, I forgot to mention that his house is kind of crazy too. He’s got a ton of random stuff all over the place from a ceramic pumpkin and a rubber ducky to a bunch of board games and a tiny red gumball machine. And there’s a dream sequence where Stallone’s in a diaper. And Estelle Getty shoots a guy. And there’s a henchman thrown out a window. And, and, and. None of this is actually about story so much as the crazytown things thrown in to launch an admittedly silly plot over-the-top into bonkersville.
Again, do yourself the service of listening to this episode if you decided to watch the movie (or even if you don’t, it’s that good). They point out a lot of the elements I noticed but also so many more. And remember, while you’re watching this one, remind yourself that Stallone has an Oscar for writing.
I’m not always the biggest fan of Christmas horror movies. It’s not that I feel like the holiday is being desecrated or anything like that, just that usually by December I’m in the action and/or holiday portion of my internal movie cycle. But, I’ve been hearing about Rare Exports for a few years now, saw it while flipping around Netflix and decided to give it a watch the other night.
While horror Christmas might not be in my wheelhouse, movies where kids stand up against incredibly powerful supernatural forces certainly are. In the case of co-writer/director Jalmari Helander’s film, a group of foreign excavators wind up blasting a mountain in Finland that’s actually a prison for a demonic version of Santa Claus. The locals — three adults and a kid — start to think something’s up when their reindeer wind up dead. After doing some exploring they wind up meeting an old gaunt naked dude who looks an awful lot like Santa and seems preternaturally drawn to kids and cookies. From there we get a few twists that I won’t spoil in this paragraph.
I will SPOIL them in THIS paragraph, though. What we find out is that our heroes don’t have Santa in their house, but instead one of the elves. Turns out the excavators did find Santa and he’s actually a giant, horned demon frozen in ice. The elves even swiped all the heating elements in town to defrost him as well as the kids. While the adults start freaking out, the kid — who of course did his research earlier in the film — steps up, develops a plan and helps save the day!
The beauty of this film — aside from how pretty it looks all around — is that it’s got a really cool, fairly high concept, but doesn’t over do things. Helander and the other writers didn’t include a bunch of scenes depicting a crazy-huge Santa that would wind up looking super crappy thanks to low budgets and bad CGI. Instead, they did a lot with people, practical effects and the occasional computer addition which not only makes the film feel more solid, but will also make it more timeless in the long run. And, man, the very end of the film is such a clever turn that I didn’t not expect, so kudos all around!
Do note, I watched this one on Netflix Instant and the only version available on there is in Finnish. It starts with English, but then gets right into subtitles for most of the rest of the film. I was doing something else when it started, but wound up giving the movie my full attention once the subs kicked in, which tells you how much I was into this movie.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Muppet Babies lately. Part of that is because I recently re-listened to The Muppets soundtrack and then watched the movie again, but also because I heard Dave Coulier on a recent episode of Talkin’ Toons With Rob Paulsen and he apparently did a lot of those voices. I mentioned in a post how I realized most of my Muppets knowledge comes from the animated adventures of their younger selves. I wish the series was available on DVD so I could show my kid. I remember it being pretty fun with plenty of movie, TV and book parodies to help introduce her to a different generation of entertainment.
The last piece of the recent Muppet Babies puzzle was the fact that my in-laws gave my daughter a little toy Fozzy toy that I remember coming with McDonald’s Happy Meals way back in the day. So, I figured that would make for an interesting TCT. The commercial’s definitely an interesting animal. It’s from Canada, so I’m not sure if it’s different than the one that ran in the States (I have no memories of this particular one). However, I do remember these toys. I had quite a few and even realized that the Fozzy my inlaws actually gave Lu came with Kermit’s skateboard instead of his horse. Funny how the two pieces were in close proximity to each other all these years.
As an added bonus, check out the above McD’s commercial for the Christmas-themed stuffed Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzy. I want to say all three of these are living in a box somewhere in my parents’ house. I don’t have much to say about this one aside from the fact that the tiny box in the beginning of the commercial could have probably been placed a little better. Did Ronald McDonald beat the Lonely Island and Justin Timberlake to a joke by a few decades? “Step one, cut a hole in the box…”
Hey gang, posting’s going to be a little light this week because we’re spending part of the week in New England then heading back to New York and hosting my parents. If you’re checking out the internet for whatever reason, I highly recommend checking out this commercial from Child World, which, near me as a kid, was known as Children’s Palace. I vaguely remember this commercial from my childhood and was definitely that kind of kid for a long time. I was a worldclass snooper up to about high school or so and then I let it go because one year I found all my presents which made opening them on Christmas a little boring. I like surprises, so I gave it up and have been clean ever since.
I actually snapped these pictures at our local Hallmark weeks ago, well before Thanksgiving, but forgot about them until now. Hopefully you’re all set on your Christmas shopping, but if not, the geek in your life will surely enjoy something from this line-up (assuming they’re still available, I really have no idea). Either way, I’d love to get my hands on the giant cardboard Darth Vader wearing red cloves and cape AND a Santa hat!
It seemed like there were a lot more available this year, which is pretty cool. I guess geeks like to go all out when decorating their Christmas tree. Of course, I know this. A few years back, we only had a tiny artificial tree that I decorated entirely with the superhero, movie and TV ornaments I’ve been given over the years. Speaking of superheroes, considering the huge summer they had at the box office, it comes as no surprise that they’re featured so heavily. You’ve got Spidey, Catwoman, Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Captain American, Green Lantern and of course Lion-O. That last one is the most exciting to me as it seems to come out of nowhere (especially because it’s in the classic style instead of the new-but-failed style of this year’s excellent remake).
Of course, you can’t have a giant cardboard Vader and not have a goodly offering of Star Wars ornaments. Looks like you’ve got your choice between a TIE Fighter, Hoth Han on Tauntaun, General Grievous, Darth Maul and a pair of Lego dudes. I have a longstanding love of Hoth Han, so I really should get my hands on that ornament.
I’m also a big fan of the movie and TV ornaments they make. I’m as much a product of the thousands of comics I’ve read as the hundreds of movies I’ve watched over and over again, so I’m just as, if not more excited by the Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshamallow Man, ET with flowers and Caddyshack groundhog dressed like Rodney Dangerfield as I am about the superheroes. Looks like a pretty darn good crop of ornaments to me!