Halloween Scene: My Horror Toys Part 2

Last week, I showed you all a detailed view of half of the mostly-monsters toys I lined up in my office this year to get into the Halloween spirit. The first batch included a Masters Of The Universe Classics giant, one of Jack Kirby’s hottest creations, Buffy, a trio of Stranger Things characters, my guy Beetlejuice, a pair of Hellboys and horror icons like Frankenstein’s Monster, Freddy Krueger and Pinhead! Want to see who else made the cut [cue cleaver chopping sound effect]?

Enter, if you dare…

Halloween Scene: My Horror Toys Part 1

To say that this Halloween season will be unlike any other is like saying that Leatherface has a unique take on cosmetics. My wife and I are still taking the pandemic seriously (it’s incredibly stupid that anyone has to say that, wear a damn mask) so trick or treating for the kids is all but cancelled. We’re trying to figure out a new way to celebrate, but we’ll see how that goes. Personally, this year will be very different for me because I’ve got a house full of people who want nothing to do with horror movies (or are too young to see them). So, I’m doing my best to squeeze them in where and when I can, but am also focusing on a lot of comics and books. But, I also decided to decorate the shelf in my office with a small army of fiends in action figure form that date all the way back to my childhood!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: My Horror Toys Part 1

Halloween Scene: The Great Chronological Franchise Project

It’s that time again. Some horror fans celebrate October by watching a movie or two a day. Others do deep dives into all their favorite franchises. I’m mixing the two up and putting a slightly different spin on it all with The Great Chronological Franchise Project! Because I”m some kind of glutton for punishment, I decided to put all of the original (non remake) films in the Psycho, Romero Zombie, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Scanners, Phantasm, Return of the Living Dead and even Final Destination series’ in release order and watch them. Here’s the list I’m working off of:

Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Great Chronological Franchise Project

Halloween Scene: Shock Value By Jason Zinoman

shock-valueIf you’re keeping track, and I’m not sure why you would be at this point, I’m still muddling through Stephen King’s The Stand. And yet, I stray away from time to time to check out other books like Jason Zinoman’s Shock Value, which I stumbled across while looking for various horror films in my library’s database. With a subtitle like How A Few Eccentric Outsiders Gabe Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, And Invented Modern Horror, how could I not bite, especially around Halloween! Continue reading Halloween Scene: Shock Value By Jason Zinoman

Halloween Scene: The Old School

noesEven though I had a lot of luck with new movies, as documented in this earlier post, I still went back and watched some old movies I’d never seen, plus a few I had seen but only once and an old favorite or two. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Old School

Ambitious Halloween Reading List: Creepy Archives Vol. 1

creepy volume 1 Back when I was still at ToyFare, I got a pretty epic box of books including the first two volumes of Dark Horse’s Creepy Archives reprints. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that they’ve been sitting in my closet pretty much ever since. I might have pulled volume one out a few times, but never really dove in properly until this year. Not only was I excited to get into these stories as part of the Ambitious Halloween Reading List, but I was also able to make some money off of it by working on a fun list over at Topless Robot called The 10 Best Stores from the Early Days of Creepy.

I talked about some of the history over there, but basically, back in the mid 60s Warren Publishing figuratively picked up the mantle of EC Comics and rekindled quality horror anthology comics with books like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Many of the old school EC guys came over and did art while most of the stories in this volume were written by editor Archie Goodwin. After reading a few EC collections, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Creepy, but I’m glad to say I had a wonderful time reading these stories.

The big problem I had with the Tales From The Crypt and Weird Science books I’ve read is that, while the art is often amazing, the stories are hokey, boring or built in such a way that the twist ending is just so obvious it’s not even entertaining. I was worried that the Creepy tales would be along those lines and was delighted to find that that wasn’t the case.

ambitious halloween reading list 2013In fact, this book had some incredibly unique stories that I’ve never seen anywhere else which is really saying something. In that regard, these stories reminded me of The Twilight Zone because there was such a variety of stories being told, which is all the more impressive when you think that one guy was writing most of them.

But, the real eye-opening aspect of this book was introducing me to some classic comic book artists that I’m not very familiar with. Classic guys like Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres and Joe Orlando came in ready to rock as did Frank Frazetta whose gnarly style fits perfectly with those vets (not that he was any rookie by this point, but you get my meaning). The one artist that really blew me away, though, was Gray Morrow. His work has such depth and quality to it that you almost wonder if these were more modern stories slid into these others from the mid 60s. I’m so intrigued by him that I want to check out books like Orion and Space: 1999, which both happen to be on my Amazon Wish List if anyone wants to get me a little something.

Anyway, as you can tell, I’m pretty darn far away from reviewing these supposedly Halloween-themed books in a timely fashion, but I’m enjoying this mix of books still and will continue on until I find myself distracted by something else. I’m partway through the Wally Wood book and about a third of the way through The Fall right now, so maybe I’ll actually finish this one out before the end of the year (but probably not).

Halloween Scene: Friday The 13th (2009) & Jason Goes To Hell (1993)

friday the 13th poster 2009 For the most part, when it comes to remakes of prominent 80s slasher films from the past decade or so, I’m not a fan. I really disliked Rob Zombie’s Halloween and wasn’t a fan of the Platinum Dunes version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (though I kind of liked TCM: Beginning, so go figure). It’s not so much that I can’t believe my beloved crazy murderers are getting updated or changed, it’s that there should be certain parameters that get addressed and ideas hit in any given property or franchise otherwise you’re dealing with a completely different thing. I fully understand that that’s exactly what an old fuddy duddy would say, so I guess that’s where I’m at.

Even with all that said, I actually liked the 2009 reboot of Jason Voorheese in Friday The 13th. The movie acted as more of a remake of the first three films from the original series with nods to Mrs. Voorheese being a maniac, Jason killing while wearing some funky headgear and him finally grabbing the hockey mask. The film doesn’t actually involve any campers which is a bit of a bummer, but this holds with reality better than the original films when you think about it. Who’s going to keep opening camps on a lake where a madman has created his own private hunting grounds? Those elements were still in the film, though, in the form of the abandoned camp.

It’s buildings like these where Jason has made his home. He’s basically been living in the woods for 20 years on his own, killing and maiming as he sees fit. His warped mind is reflected in the home he’s made for himself which looks like what you’d expect from a hulking man with the emotional capacity of an 8 year old (who also happens to murder people).

And boy, does he murder a lot of people. There are actually two sets of victims in this film, the first is basically pre-credits fodder who show the audience what Jason is capable of and then the second that’s staying at a rich asshole’s parents’ cabin near Crystal Lake. Meanwhile, Jared Padalecki’s traveling around trying to find his sister who was one of the women from the first batch. As you’d expect, they run afoul of Jason and he starts picking them off one by one, utilizing his trademark machete as well as a bow and arrow and a few other tools he finds nearby.

The movie’s nowhere near perfect, though. It definitely follows that late 80s slasher trend that was continued throughout most of these 00s remakes where the soon-to-be victims are all either complete asshats or, at the very least, unlikeable caricatures of stereotypes. This movie’s got the drug obsessed potheads, the jerky rich guys, the girl who sleeps with the guy as soon as his girlfriend leaves the room and the unfortunate nice girl who gets swept up in all this madness. The general idea behind creating characters like this is that audiences won’t mind seeing jerks get iced. There’s a bit of truth to that, but many horror fans would argue that it’s far more interesting to see characters we like in danger than ones we could care less about.

Still, this is a slick looking horror film with a super-intimidating actor under the Jason mask plus a story that mostly makes sense within its own rules. Some characters make wildly stupid decisions, but that’s to be expected when they’re drunk, post-coital, high or on the run from a maniac the size of a redwood. While the movie doesn’t necessarily add anything but slickness to the Friday the 13th franchise, I also don’t think it detracts like the Halloween remake did.

I would like to pose a question to my fellow Jason fans that gets into spoiler territory for this film as well as the original, so if you haven’t seen them you might want to move on. What did you think of the very end where Jason pops out of the water to grab the survivors? Personally, I’m on the fence. On one hand, I like the homage to the original, but it also felt really forced. We spent this whole time dealing with what seemed like a very human villain and then he comes back with this supernatural craziness? If they wanted to go with this kind of ending, maybe it would have been wise to avoid a wood chipper as a means of stopping him. How does he come back from that with his head intact? If it’s a dream, like some of the other water pop-outs, it’s not my bag.

jason_goes_to_hell In the process of watching all the F13 films, I of course returned to the one I liked the least, Jason Goes To Hell. This is one of those cases where I remembered not liking the film and read my old review which was overly negative, but couldn’t remember any specifics aside from the fact that they got rid of Jason and used a worm-thing to transfer evil from one body to the next.

Maybe I’m in a much different place mentally these days or maybe a complete lack of expectations made for a better viewing experience, but I like this movie more this time around. I mean, it’s not great (or even all the way good), but it’s not as terrible as my memory told me it was. There are three main problems with this film: it shouldn’t be a Jason movie, the directing is wonky and the casting was bad.

If this was simply a supernatural slasher movie about an evil transported from body to body in search of a perfect specimen, it’d actually be pretty cool. But when you take one of the most iconic killers of all time and remove him from all but two big chunks of the film, you’re not really making a new Friday the 13th movie.

As far as the directing goes, I don’t think this needs much explanation. Some elements of this film are just dumb. But, even if they weren’t there are some supremely strange choices. Jessica returns to her house to find her mom’s co-worker (and a childhood friend, possibly) cleaning her dead mom’s blood out of the carpet. This scene isn’t necessarily acted poorly, but it is staged in a supremely strange manner. These two old friends start catching up (not weird) about five yards from the gigantic blood stain (weird). Oh, also, the friend doesn’t know about Jessica’s baby even though she spent a lot of time with the kid’s grandma AND knows the father. That just doesn’t make sense.

It’s not easy separating the acting choices with the directing ones in this film. Everyone related to Ma, the diner owner, is awful. They’re poorly constructed characters performed in this ridiculous, over-the-top manner that made me bristle. On the other hand, you’ve got Steven Williams as the bounty hunter who somehow knows EVERYTHING about Jason and yet has never killed the maniac himself. This guy thinks he’s so Eastwood it’s annoying. You don’t need to growl everything to let us know you’re a badass.

And yet, I can’t completely write this movie off. Like I said, it’s an interesting story. Plus, the special effects are pretty great at times. The part where that guy basically melts was pretty gross and that little Jason monster made me cringe.  At the end of the day, this could have been a better movie with a few changes or maybe another pass or two in the editing/writing phase.

The First Ambitious Halloween Reading List

ambitious halloween reading list 2013I knew I hadn’t been doing very well on the most recent Ambitious Reading List, but then I checked the blog and realized I started it back in November of last year and have only since read three and a half of the books. So, with Halloween in the offing, I figured it was about time to toss that one aside and start a brand new one, this time with more of a focus.

So, I now have nine books that I’m trying to read this month. It probably won’t happen because I’m a damn slow reader, but why not give it a shot, right? Here’s the basic rundown.

The Listeners by Christopher Pike. I was a huge fan of Pike’s young adult books as a kid and figured I’d give one of his adult titles a read. I actually stumbled upon this used book store purchase while looking for the next book in the pile, but it felt appropriate to check out this month.

Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice. This is one of two re-reads on the pile this time around. I can’t remember the first time I read this book, probably late grade school or high school, but I’m curious to get back to it and then give the adaptation another watch.

The Shining by Stephen King. You might not be able to see my Kindle on the pile, but I assure you it’s there. I read this book in high school then lent it to a guy I worked with at the bagel shop when I was 16. He got fired and I never saw him again. So, it’s been quite a while since I’ve given it a read. I will follow this one up by watching all of Kubrick’s film version FOR THE FIRST TIME! By the way, it’s only $4 for Kindle right now!

Vicious Circle by Mike Carey. This is the second Felix Castor novel from Carey. I used to interview him all the time for Wizard and really enjoyed the first installment The Devil You Know. The book explores a world where everyone knows ghosts exist and have to deal with them on a regular basis.

The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Since reading The Strain, I’ve actually been able to get my hands on the other two books in the series at Barnes & Noble for less than cover price of one book! I’m really curious to see where this story goes and hope to read all three installments before the TV show premieres.

The Dead Boy Detectives by Ed Brubaker and Bryan Talbot. I read this Sandman spinoff series once before and am a big fan of Brubaker’s. While looking at my trade shelf, it seemed like a good fit for the theme.

Eerie Crime & Horror by Wally Wood. I fell in love with Wally Wood’s artwork after reading Weird Science Volume 2 and have been on the hunt for more of his work since then. I picked this book up earlier this year and figured now’s as good a time as any to finally read it (or possibly just scan it for the pretty pictures depending on how good the writing is).

Creepy Archives Volume 1. Featuring stories by some of the greatest artists in the comics business, I’ve been sitting on this book for years. It’s about darn time I finally sit down and have some fun with it.

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History Of Friday The 13th by Peter M. Bracke. No kidding, I have a whole shelf filled with coffee table books I’ve never read. This oral history of one of the all-time greatest slasher franchises is one of them and seemed like a good non-fiction entry in the list.

Alright gang, so here goes. Hopefully this stack o’ books will get read more efficiently than the other. I’m already working on two of them right now, so I’m thinking it won’t be too long before the first review goes up.

Halloween Scene: Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

Friday-the-13th-Part-5-New-Beginning Every now and then a film slips through the cracks. For the longest time, that film for me was Friday The 13th Part VI, but in the case of this blog, it was Part V: A New Beginning. As it turns out, even though I’ve seen this movie a time or two, I didn’t remember too much about it. Since I’m working on a Friday the 13th-based list for a freelance gig and the site is lacking a review, I figured it was high time I remedied that.

This film seems to pick up where Part IV left off with the return of Corey Feldman’s Tommy Jarvis, but as we quickly find out, it’s all a a dream taking place in the head of an older Tommy (John Shepherd), one who’s on his way to a camp for emotionally troubled teenagers. Things get heavy pretty quickly as one of the patients straight up murders another with an axe in an early scene. From there, it seems like Tommy’s biggest fear has come to life and Jason is back on the hunt. But, as many fans of the series already know, it’s not really Jason this time around, it’s SPOILER the true father of the patient murdered by axe earlier in the film.

I did a little reading about this movie and, apparently, the original idea was to have Tommy Jarvis somehow take over as Jason in this film, but that’s not wound up happening. Instead, we’re treated to some wildly confusing dream-within-a-dream-within-a-possible-dream stuff at the very end that left me scratching my head a bit.

As a whole the movie’s a mix of interesting and kind of pointless. Without getting too much into the idea, the film explores the effect of a killer like Jason on the world he lives (unlives?) in. He’s such a powerful figure that a man pushed to the edge will take up his identity — or a facsimile of it — and try to continue on his murderous work, targeting any number of random victims. On the other hand, since the movie doesn’t actually feature Jason — just people altered thanks to his existence — it feels a lot less important.

At the end of the day, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning feels a bit like one of those comic book crossover tie-in issues that aren’t completely necessary to the larger story but do feature an interesting aspect of the larger story. Cast-wise you’ve got an okay mix of oddballs, but most of them are pretty one-note. Meanwhile, the kills are serviceable. Not the best of the bunch by far, but probably not the worst. Shavar-Ross-in-Friday-the-13th

By the way, I’ve just got to take a few sentences here and talk about how awesome Shavar Ross is as Reggie in this movie. If you’re like me, you might remember  him as Dudley on Different Strokes (I will not spell that title the “correct” way  based on grammatical principle alone). He’s not only more emotionally balanced than all the older kids around him, but he pulls some pretty impressive moves at the end of the film to take out Faux Jason, including hitting him with fairly large piece of equipment.

Friday Night Fights: Freddy Vs. Jason

*Friday Night Fights presents crazy fight and battle scenes from movies with little-to-no context. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll probably want to skip the clip. *

 Freddy-vs-Jason

In honor of Friday the 13th, it seemed ridiculously appropriate to present the epic throw-down between two of horror’s biggest icons from the 2003 flick Freddy Vs. Jason. This fight is pretty much what we wanted the entire movie to be, but apparently you need scared teenagers for these kinds of things to work and not mutilated monsters trying to murder each other for 90 minutes.