10/31/18 – OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE PICK #31 – Halloween (2018).

Today’s post is going to be a little… different.

It’s going to be very long.

And it’s going to get surprisingly personal.

I know that sounds bizarre when I’m essentially just doing a horror movie recommendation, but bear with me and you’ll understand why. I initially wrote this post weeks ago, right after I saw the movie, because I had so many complex emotions. But I held it to post today because today’s the perfect day to both recommend, and discuss my personal connection to, Blumhouse’s new modern take on the Michael Myer’s saga. Today is all about 2018’s Halloween.

First off, before I get into the personal connection, I want to focus on the movie itself. Taking it solely as a fan, I really dug this new Halloween. Quite a bit. It’s both a fantastic follow up to Carpenter’s masterpiece, and quite the love letter to it as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure this might be my 2nd favorite Halloween movie after the original (or possibly 3rd favorite, because I do LOVE me some Halloween 3.) The decision to erase all the Halloween sequels and make this one a direct sequel to the original was both a risky move, and a pretty genius one. This new Halloween picks up 40 years after Michael Myers was captured, and has been locked away ever since. Meanwhile, Laurie may have escaped, but her entire life has been altered because of their original confrontation. Now, after all this time, the two are on a collision course once again. This new Halloween manages to both hold the original in respect, and give us something new at the same time. What worked best is how it managed to capture the mood and atmosphere of what made the original so great, and place it all within a modern day setting. It absolutely feels like the same world, and I give it mad respect for being able to pull that off. Jamie Lee Curtis is outstanding, as always, as is the rest of the cast. There are quite a few twists and turns that keep you on your toes, as well as just enough of that Danny McBride humor. Plus, there are a ton of homages to many of the sequels directly for the fans (even though these sequels technically didn’t happen any more.) Overall, it’s really a standout new film in the series and it’s damn good fun.

Now… onto the personal stuff.

Most of you who know me are fully aware of the roller coaster history of my TV show, The Final Girls, and specifically with Jamie Lee Curtis. If you need a refresher, here are some old posts from years back:

Here’s how it began:
My Big News – An Explanation & Initial Internet Roundup.

Here’s how it ended:
Let’s Finally Discuss What Happened To My Show And Jamie Lee Curtis

Long story short, I went from living my absolute childhood dream of creating and selling a slasher TV show with my one of my idols, Jamie, to having it all taken away from me in the blink of an eye. Well, actually it was a long and drawn out process. A blink would have been easier and far less torturous. Regardless how horrible that whole experience was, to have everything and then nothing, I’ve moved on. The trauma healed.

Well, life isn’t without irony.

My series The Final Girls focused on girls that were survivors of slasher scenarios and the PTSD they still endure. Essentially it was all about what happened AFTER the credits of a slasher movie rolled. They had PTSD. They needed help. They required someone who had been there as well to help usher them through this recovery process and finally take on their slashers that ruined their lives. The new Halloween movie focuses on Laurie Strode, a survivor of a slasher scenario and the PTSD she still endures. Pretty much the same scenario. And now, in a diabolical twist, now I myself, am living in that same scenario. I’m having some PTSD having to relive the trauma of losing my TV show from years ago. Sadly, all the garbage I went through feels fresh once again.

Before I continue I want to make this PERFECTLY CLEAR. I am not, in any way, claiming that this new Halloween was a direct result of anything from my series, The Final Girls, or Jamie’s connection to both projects, or ANYTHING like that. My series was an idea conceived by a massive horror fanatic, and this new Halloween is a movie conceived by massive horror fanatics. Various kinds of mental concepts are always in the ether, and I full understand that. For that reason, when your ideas actually get made (or on the verge of getting made), it really is like hitting the jackpot. A lot of things have to line up. And with The Final Girls I felt I’d finally had things line up. But alas it wasn’t meant to be. Although I am, in fact, happy, that this new Halloween was able to make these concepts come to life. The post-slasher PTSD concept is a fantastic one and I love that it was the actual Laurie Strode going through it. Saying that, it doesn’t make what I’m about to explain any easier to handle.

There are many things about my TV show that wasn’t made public, for numerous reasons. I still won’t list most of that, but I will say one key thing because it pertains specifically to this situation and why I’m having PTSD. When I wrote and conceived Jamie’s character in The Final Girls, a strong, older, slasher-survivor, going by the (self given) name of Ma’at, she was always supposed to have been… Laurie Strode, all grown up. I obviously didn’t have the rights to do that, but as a fan and writer I always wanted that to be who this character was, and that concept to be the driving force. When Jamie came on board, holy lord, it was like I truly won the horror lottery. I will never forget our hours spent together (along with fellow producer and horror icon Steve Miner) pitching around town. Such amazing memories. But I digress…

Alas, when we sold the show, we were told we had to plan a 7-episode first season. As we mapped out that season, even though the leadup focused on the other final girls, the finale was always envisioned as having Ma’at finally confront her original slasher villain in a final battle of baddassery. I still remember Jamie’s amazing ideas for how she wanted to kick some serious ass. Jamie always had amazing ideas, which is but only one of the many reasons why I truly loved developing this show with her. She’s an amazing woman, through and through. Anyway, for those of you who have seen the new Halloween, you can probably understand why this was difficult for me. What I watched on screen… played out in an extremely similar fashion for what we always planned for my TV show. It’s such a strange feeling to watch your same ideas play out, but in a different project. And yet it’s complex, because like I said, these ideas are in the ether. This is what ANY insane horror fanatic would kill to see. They would kill to see Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, all grown up, kick some serious Michael Myers ass. This is what I envisioned. This is what the new Halloween filmmakers envisioned. This is what I would guess a million other horror fanatics have envisioned over the years. So while I had a wonderful time watching the film from a pure horror fan perspective, the fact that I had to relive all my own past traumas and experience some PTSD, exactly like the characters I was watching on screen, made it one of the most complex viewing experiences of my life.

Ma’at may not have ever lived to kick ass on the small screen, but dammit all to Hell, I’m SO happy that Laurie got to finally do it on the big screen.

Anyway, thank you everyone for both reading this, and letting me work through this extremely complex situation. Writing, as it has always been, is my catharsis.

Well, with that bit of horror therapy, our October Horror Pick time has come to an end for 2018. As usual, I’ve had an absolute blast doing this, even though I’ve spent FAR too much time on it that probably should have been dedicated to my current projects. I thank each and every reader from the bottom of my heart for coming along with me. Because like I’ve said a million times, the only thing better than watching a horror movie, is watching it with an entire community. Thanks all for being my community.

Peace out, and see you in 2019!

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10/30/18 – OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE PICK #30 – Cemetery Man (1994).

Earlier this month I brought you Michele Soavi’s nutty nutbar religious flick, The Church. Today is all about another of his movies, and the one I think most consider his masterpiece — Cemetery Man. The original Italian title is Dellamorte Dellamore (which contains a much deeper meaning, more on that in a bit), but US audiences know it as Cemetery Man. There is so much to say about this flick; it’s actually hard to put into words. The early 90’s were kind of a dry season for inventive horror films, and Cemetery Man was a light in the tunnel. As a constant subscriber to Fangoria, my first knowledge of this film were in its pages. I couldn’t get some of that imagery out of my head. I’d never seen anything like it. To this day, the grim reaper that appears within the burnt ashes of a phone book is one of my favorite images ever. Cemetery Man is two movies in one — the one on the surface, and the one below. On the surface this is a zany comedy horror film about a caretaker of a cemetery where the dead keep coming back to life. And its his job to put them back down, no matter what. But then he falls in love, and things get a lot more complex. Gore, sex, nudity, and slapstick hijinks abound and it’s an absolute blast. At times it even feels much like Peter Jackson’s masterpiece Dead/Alive (one of my all time favorite movies). But then… there’s the movie below the surface. The movie below the surface isn’t a comedy horror slapstick zombie movie. Instead it’s a deep, meaningful, European art house film about life, death, love, and the meaning of everything. Dellamorte Dellamore translates into “Of death, of love.” And what this film tries to do is figure both of those out. Although instead of typical methods of poetry, instead it uses ossuaries, severed heads, corpses with trees growing out of them, self-chosen castration, and well… you get it. This movie is BONKERS, but it’s also incredibly deep. I’m telling you it’s the most bizarre combo ever. Trust me, it’s not easy to take in this duality at first, since the goings on feel a lot more like a gorehound Three Stooges than Ingmar Bergman. But let this movie sink in and it will pay you dividends. Your brain will not stop thinking about its meanings. I find Cemetery Man utterly intoxicating. It also blasted Rupert Everett onto the scene in a huge way, as he is incredible in this movie. Honestly, I can’t say enough amazing things about this movie. But I will end with this, I can 100% guarantee you will not see where this movie is going from minute to minute. You think you have it figured out, and you don’t. It’s magical. It’s poetic. It’s funny. And it’s gory as all hell. There are things you never imagined you’d ever see, but then smile in respect of its complete originality. Cemetery Man (or the better title, Dellamorte Dellamore) is a true masterpiece of Italian cinema, and a gory art house gem. See it now. Think about it for weeks.

10/29/18 – OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE PICK #29 – Messiah of Evil.

Here’s a movie that has kind of been lost to time, and that’s a shame. Unless you’re a hardcore horror fan, or a classic film guru, you’re more than likely not going to know the ethereal, dread-filled film that is 1973’s Messiah of Evil, but you should. This movie is absolutely chock full of artistry, mood and atmosphere. Plus, there’s an unnerving creep factor in every frame of this film. I simply love it for all these reasons. Messiah of Evil starts out with a young woman searching for her missing father. He left for a small artist colony in California (Point Dume, just north of where I live) and has apparently disappeared. We follow her journey in trying to piece together where he is, and what’s happened to him. What she begins to discover is that this “artist colony” isn’t exactly what it appears to be. As she tries to piece together some answers, she comes across a traveling threesome, who are also trying to figure out the secrets of this town. And away we go. Messiah of Evil is one of those early 70’s films where the art and the “openness” of the time period is in full display. With our modern day minds, there’s an oddness to the free love aspect of the trio she meets, but in a way it adds to the strange artist vibe that runs through this entire movie. And to me that’s what sets Messiah of Evil apart — the art. Art is everywhere. The angles of shots, the colors of each frame, and even the strangely placed music, all have an artistic feel. Filling her father’s house are all sorts of pop art murals and paintings that create such a striking visual aesthetic that sometimes you can’t tell what’s a human and what’s a painting. For a movie that begins to delve into crazy (almost Lovecraftian) mythology like blood moons, a “dark stranger”, and cannibalism (even touching on the Donner Party scenario), it’s amazing how it never feels like exploitation. Instead it all feels rather… artistic. Even the creepy zombie-like townspeople have an artistic uniqueness to them. Messiah of Evil is one of those “dream-like” movies where sometimes things happen in strange ways, or with a lack of direct explanation, so if that isn’t for you, move on. But for me personally, the dream-like quality, that flows with a constant narration of her father’s diary as he falls into madness, is intoxicating. If you enjoy surreal, artistic movies, Messiah of Evil is fantastic 70’s odyssey into madness. Give this hidden gem a view.

10/28/18 – OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE PICK #28 – Revenge (2017).

People who aren’t serious horror fans just think all horror is horror, that it’s all under the same umbrella. But we true fans know there are endless sub-genres under the overall “genus” of Horror. The breakdowns start broadly in known categories like supernatural, slasher, monster, etc. But when you get further down there are a ton more niche sub-genres. Now I admit, one of these niche sub-genres that for the most part I don’t really enjoy is the “rape-revenge” category. While I can respect a few of the classic ones like 1972’s Last House on the Left, I don’t have much room for films like I Spit on Your Grave. This is a much longer discussion, but I simply don’t enjoy the experience. It glamorizes too much of the brutality and awfulness, and never feels like it rings true from the female perspective. Well, I’m about to change all that with this brutal little flick I saw at Sundance called Revenge. Revenge works with its own spin on the “rape-revenge” sub-genre because of one huge reason — it was written and directed by a woman. Revenge begins the same way many of these types of movies do, with a woman, seemingly shallow and weak, being victimized by a sleaze ball. A girlfriend (or as you’ll find out, mistress) joins her rich gentleman lover on a hunting trip in the middle of nowhere. In fact it takes a helicopter to even get them there. Yep, isolation central. No help anywhere on the horizon. When a couple of his sleazy buddies join, well, shit goes horribly wrong. Things go from bad to worse when she topples off a cliff and left for dead. But here’s where Revenge goes off the rails amazing. Instead of the first impression of her, which was that of a shallow, weak mistress, she quickly reveals her hidden traits of being a survivor BADASS. I really don’t want to ruin any of the twists or surprises, but the trajectory she goes on and what transpires from here is nothing short of amazing. Revenge flips the script on the rape-revenge sub-genre and actually manages to make one hell of a crowd pleasing adventure with a true feminist spin. It’s visually intoxicating with a lot of flourish, but beware that there are a few scenes of wince-worthy gore, so be prepared. But man, if you can handle it, the insane bloody climax of this film will stick with you for a while. Even if you feel like I do and don’t usually like this kind of movie, trust me, Revenge is worth your time.

10/27/18 – OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE PICK #27 – Trilogy of Terror.

Let’s go back into those crazy 70’s again, when they were all about being creative and trying new things. How about this for creativity? Here’s an anthology film where the same actress plays a different role in each of the three separate stories (in one story she even plays two roles.) Each story is named after that character, so you’ve got “Julie“, “Millicent and Therese“, and “Amelia“. This is Karen Black’s 1975 acting opus, Trilogy of Terror. Trilogy of Terror is just plain fun, and such a highlight of the time period. It was originally a Made-for-TV movie, so don’t expect a high level of gore. Although saying that, there is some seriously disturbing stuff here that was pretty aggressive for TV. A few of the story beats may seem a little dated to today’s audiences, simply because you’ve probably seen them before (the 2nd story in particular), but it doesn’t matter. The fun really comes from watching Karen Black inhabit all these different roles. She runs the range from sheepish and meek to completely over the top. Her array of wigs really deserves a supporting actor credit. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, but here’s the deal. Let’s call a spade a spade. There is one key reason we all hold this movie in such a high regard. Damn right, I’m talking about the Zuni Fetish Doll. Holy dear lord, that Zuni Fetish Doll is one of the greatest horror creations ever. You want to talk about aggressive? This thing gives new meaning to word aggressive. It’s relentless. It’s brutal. It’s utterly fantastic. Its crazy hair, the small yet dangerous spear, and of course its trademark shark-like teeth is all downright amazing. The gurgling chanting sounds it makes while constantly trying to attack is a sound effect for the ages. I can’t stress this enough, the pure frenzy of that thing is just otherworldly. The entire movie is a lot of fun, but the third story has cemented its place in my brain forever. If you’ve never seen this film, or haven’t seen it in a while, its worth your time to recall just how fantastic that damn Zuni Fetish Doll really is.

10/26/18 – OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE PICK #26 – Torso.

Churchgoers may want to skip today’s post. We’re going to get grimy. We’re going to get down in the mud and delightfully wallow in its filth. Grab your mask, grab your strangulation scarf, and grab your hacksaw. It’s time… for Torso. The original title was Carnal Violence, but Torso just happens to be one of my favorite horror movie titles EVER. The basic plot revolves around solving the killings and dismemberment of numerous women around a college campus. Pretty simple on the surface, but there’s a lot more going on here. This 1974 Italian gem revels in its dirtiness like a pig in shit, and I love it for that reason. A must-watch for lovers of Grindhouse and Giallo films. In fact, Torso is one of the ultimate Giallo films. The reason I say its one of the ultimate is pretty easy. Go down the checklist of all the factors that make a Giallo, and you have them here in spades. Unseen killer, check. Killer wears black gloves, check. Mystery whodunnit of who the killer is until the end, check. Countless strangulations, check. Insane amounts of violence, check. Super bright red blood, check. Now… where most Giallo’s are content with some sex, in Torso everything in the entire film deals with sex. Everyone’s either having sex, just had sex, or about to have sex. There are threeways (in fact, the opening scene is a threeway), lesbian sex, group sex, you name it. Nudity is just as constant as the violence. Okay, I see I’ve lost some of you. It’s okay goodie-goodies, you can go pray. But for the rest of us sinners, here’s the deal about Torso. What could have been pure exploitation alone, is actually a fantastic film. There is a great twisty plot, some suspense that is out of this world, great 70’s music, a few scenes of such shock that I can only imagine what people thought back then, and a slam dunk of a third act. One thing I’ve heard people talk about (and rightly so) is that at the moments of extreme violence, you can tell that the violence has switched to a dummy and looks “fake”. But I’m here to give another explanation. They don’t look like dummies, they look like… dolls. Now with that knowledge in your head, talk to me after you watch the film when everything is explained. It makes you look at all the extreme violence in SUCH a different way, and personally I think it’s a stroke of genius. Definitely not for everyone, but for fans of Giallo’s like me, Torso is a MUST watch.

10/25/18 – OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE PICK #25 – The Gate.

The water’s too nice in here. I don’t want to leave the comfy confines of my 80’s hot tub of happiness just yet. Yesterday I waded into the water with Night of the Comet, today I’m relaxing against the powerful jets of 1987’s epic The Gate. This is a wicked little tale featuring a child actor by the name of Stephen Dorff in his first movie ever. There were a slew of movies during this time period featuring kids in the main roles, and marketed toward kids as well. You like Stranger Things? Why do you think that’s set in the 80’s? It was a damn good time when disturbing horror flicks could still be for kids too. The Gate is one of those movies that everyone sort of remembers, whether you’re aware of it or not. You may not recall every bit of plot and story, but I bet I know what you do remember – the miniature minion demons. Holy lord, the little minion demons are epic. Sometimes they’re stop motion animation; other times they’re little people in costume using forced perspective; but they’re always rad. The Gate is about a boy who discovers a hole in his backyard that just might be a gateway to Hell. Sure they try to cover it up, but after a crazy chain of events that include a dead dog, back masking metal music, and a teenage party that includes levitation, well, shit goes wrong. All those adorable and yet unnerving little minion demons escape the hole and start wreaking havoc. The two boys, and now the older sister, have to fix things, or else Hell will be unleashed on Earth. Bwahaha! Look, for 1987, this baby ruled the Earth. It had everything young Jeff loved: Hell, demons, Ray Harryhausen-esque stop motion effects, and metal music! Oh man, remember the ridiculous furor over metal music and back masking? They always said if you play a metal album backward you’ll summon demons. Well, in The Gate that’s true! And just wait until the 3rd act when the movie isn’t happy with little demons and goes full massive demon on us! Oh, and that eyeball in Dorff’s hand scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid. The Gate is an awesome 80’s throwback, and something kids, or the kid in all of us, can watch with nostalgic happiness.