slaughterhouseSlaughterhouse (1987)
Director: Rick Roessler
Cast: Joe B. Barton, Don Barrett, Sherry Leigh
Reviewed by James B. Carter

Location! Location! Location! In this spirited and sometimes unintentionally hilarious 1987 horror flick, a group of thirty-something high school students are scoping out the perfect place to film a purposeless VHS video shoot. It doesn’t take long for aging teenager, Liz Borden (played by future television stunt double Sherry Leigh) to settle on a recently condemned slaughterhouse whose owner, Lester Bacon has been persistently pressured into selling by the local sheriff, city officials and townsfolk.

Lester doesn’t want to close down or sale his dilapidated, farm fueled animal house. He and his family had painstakingly built it from the ground up, putting their hearts and souls into every dysfunctional square inch of the rustic tin roofed menace. When he feels his hunched back is unfairly being pushed against the wall, he fights back. That’s when the killing begins.

Lester and his mentally handicapped son, Buddy Bacon (played by Blood Diner‘s Joe B. Barton) go on a chop and schlock fest. What this film lacks in gore, it more than makes up for in ridiculously delivered, and painfully un-poignant dialogue that has withstood the test of time, along with a poorly preserved digital transfer.

The town doesn’t make much of a fuss when a couple of teenage kids go missing, meeting their tormented demise by Buddy Bacon’s bloody blade, but when the deputy goes M.I.A., a shit storm ensues, kicking off the easily predictable, but strangely entertaining climax.

This movie is a riot, and it has a lot of things going for it. The music is surprisingly good. All of the songs were written and performed by a band called Vantage Point, for whatever the hell that’s worth.

With two parts (body parts) Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a pinch of Motel Hell, Slaughterhouse has all the right ingredients, and everything you might expect from a late 1980’s direct-to-video horror genre cash in.

This mostly forgotten gem shines its brightest when Don Barrett graces the screen as Lester Bacon. He mumbles gut tickling insincerities as would the late, great and incomprehensible Drayton Sawyer, spouting off at the mouth when it came to his chili.

Slaughterhouse never won any awards, nor should it had, but I truly believe accolades are in order. I mean for starters it was in color, a talkie, and it doesn’t have an irrational running time. Don’t even get me gushing over the ending credits.

The biggest tribute you can pay this film is to give it a second look. After all of these years it’s still streaming and screaming. When ya watch it, please don’t be afraid to turn the lights off, or your television for that matter.

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BlaculaBlacula
Director: William Crain
Cast: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas

Scream Blacula Scream
Director: Bob Kelljan
Cast: William Marshall, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier

Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

I love Scream Factory’s Blu-ray two-packs. They take two flicks that might not be economically sensible to upgrade, update, produce special features for, and release on their own because of their largely cult appeal, and put out a beautiful product. Not only are such Blu-rays a must have for fans of said cult films, but for fright flick collectors of all sorts. Their latest one-two punch of awesome is the 1970s Blaxploitation horror classics Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream. So grab some garlic, a good, sharp stake, and let’s hunt down one of the grooviest bloodsuckers ever, Blacula.

Now despite my groovy crack, this isn’t your typical Blaxploitation flick as you might think of them. It isn’t inherently cheesy in that wonderfully 70s way, nor is about a black hero going against the white man for a laundry list of criminal and raciest reasons. Both the hero and villain here are black, and the white people in this movie are largely okay people. Blacula is basically a retelling if the Dracula story, with the principle cast being played by African American actors. As such, it is far more serious than a film called Blacula had any right to be. It is also has real moments of fright in them, the highlight being a dead lady vamp coming back to life in a morgue, a scene that was shot  yeas before something similar was written in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, or film in the Tobe Hooper adaption of that novel. So point goes to Blacula on that one.

As for a general overview of the story, it begins in 1780 when an African prince named Mamuwald goes on a trip to Europe to protest the slave trade. He and his wife make the bad decision of visiting castle Dracula where the famous vampire insults the prince and his bride. A fight breaks out, naturally Dracula wins, but he’s mad, so he curses the prince to become a vampire like him, even rechristens him Blacula, and then seals him up in a coffin inside a locked room. Nearly two hundred years later, a pair of flamboyant antique collectors goes to Transylvania buys the lot, and brings is all back to Los Angeles. The Blac Drac wakes up, noms on some people, and then finds a pretty lady and looks exactly like the wife he lost so many years ago. Hmm, that was done long before Francis Ford Coppola made his Dracula flick. Who knew Blacula was so influential?

What follows is a pretty decent vampire movie that is a wonderful time capsule of the 1970s. Not only in terms of awful fashion and groovy music, but of rather shocking homophobia, where everyone gay is referred to as f*****s. And how sad is it that 43 years later things haven’t changed all that much. Well, you would think that if you caught any of the Twitter twits complaining about the last The Walking Dead episode where two men dared to kiss, but that’s a sad argument for another day.

Scream Blacula Scream is the sequel that followed a year later, and it’s pretty much more of the same. More surprisingly serious vampire action. More bad fashions. More questionable dialog that would not fly today. There is the addition of a new element, African Voodoo, but that’s about it for new. Both are good movies and worth your time to give them a watch.

In addition to the two for one deal this new Blu-ray offers, there are a number of special features on here to help seal the deal. For the original Blacula there is an audio commentary with author, filmmaker, and exploitation expert David F. Walker. A photo gallery and trailer can also be found here. The sequel has no commentary but does have a 13 minute interview with actor Richard Lawson, photo gallery, and yes, a trailer.

So if you are expecting something goofy or silly in these two movies, you will be surprised. Hopefully presently so. Both Blacula movies are more than decent vampire films, wrapped up in a glorious, butterfly-collared, suit of all things 1970s. I enjoyed the hell out of these movies, and I think you will too. Two get both in one good looking package, be sure to pick up this new Blu-ray from Scream Factory. Consider it recommended.

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aaaaaaNew Year’s Evil
Director: Emmett Alston

Cast: Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Chris Wallace
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

This is why I love Scream Factory so much. Who else would bring this forgotten 1980 slasher to Blu-ray, take the time, money, and effort to make it look so good, and even do some special features for the release? Okay, there are a few other companies that would do that, but that does nothing to diminish the fact that Scream Factory is awesome, and I am so happy this fright flick is back in print and better than ever. But should you be happy about it? Well grab your paper party hat, always remember to drink responsibly, try to avoid anyone that seems eeevil, and let’s crash this party to find out.

This flick starts with a woman getting Psycho-ed in the shower by a switchblade-wielding killer. Things then jump to a punk rock club in LA on the eve of the New Year. And man, there is nothing like 80s punks, I love them. Visually, they’re the most punkish punks ever, but I digress. The woman that hosts the club and the live New Year’s Eve telecast, in addition to dealing with a mopy grown son who still has daddy issues, has to deal with a wacko that calls up, says his name is Eeevil, and threatens to kill someone at midnight. Lo and behold, the caller isn’t just the usual crank, and at midnight someone does fall under the killer’s blade. Then the psycho calls back and says he will do it again when it’s midnight in the next time zone, and then again, and then, well you get it.

New Year’s Evil isn’t your typical slasher, but then it was made in 1980 before the blueprint that most of the other murderous maniac movies that came later would follow. It’s almost like a mystery or police procedural, only with slightly bloodier kills. I said slightly because it’s never all that gory, and isn’t a body count flick, either, as the number of people who get sliced and diced are relatively small. The usual slasher feel is further watered down by way too many scenes of punk rockers dancing, making out, and just rocking out in the LA club. Also odd bits, like our killer being chased by a gang of bikers and having to hide, further make this movie stand out from the rest. I mean, I’d like to see bikers try to scare off Jason or Freddy. But before all you horror fans out there write this one off completely, there is still enough of the slasher trappings to make fans of that subgenre happy, including some good old gratuitous nudity. Yay.

Something else that always makes me go yay are special features, and thankfully Scream Factory have a few good ones on this new Blu-ray. There is a commentary track with writer/director Emmett Alston, a making of/retrospective on the film that runs 37 minutes, and the compulsory trailer. So there’s not a ton of special features, but more than what you might expect for a mostly forgotten slasher flick.

Now lest you think I don’t like this movie, that’s not the case. I actually like it a lot, but I want to make sure horror fans know what to expect when going into this for the first time. If you want a bloody splatter flick, this might disappoint you. If you want an effective thriller with some effective fright scenes, set in a time capsule of pure 1980s nostalgia, this will do that for you. New Year’s Evil doesn’t drop the ball (ha) and gets a recommendation from me.

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Mar
02

The Damned – Book Review

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the-damnedThe Damned
Andrew Pyper
Gallery Books
February, 2015
Reviewed by Josh Black

Hot off the heels of his bestselling 2013 novel The Demonologist, Andrew Pyper returns with a novel about death, life, and the ways we’re haunted in each of them. Building on some of the themes that characterize Pyper’s recent output, The Damned is another rock-solid entry into an already impressive oeuvre.

At sixteen, Danny Orchard and his sociopathic twin sister Ashleigh died in a fire. For whatever reason Danny came back, and Ashleigh isn’t happy about it. Two decades after the fire, Danny is the author of a best-selling memoir describing his experience on the other side, and the unwitting progenitor of a nationwide “support group” for people who have had near-death experiences.

Having lived most of his life alone thanks to the interference of Ashleigh’s highly possessive spirit, he manages to meet someone, fall in love and get married. His wife and stepson are the world to him, and his sister intends on destroying that world. Ashleigh soon becomes able to affect things in a very physical way. From this point on the tension ramps up and the story moves at a brisk clip. Things escalate so quickly that, midway through, readers may find themselves wondering how half a book remains to be read.

Structurally it’s an interesting book. It’s divided into three parts, with a brief epilogue to wrap things up. The first part deals with Danny’s past, the second with his current predicament. Hints of the film Insidious run throughout the novel, and the final act goes into territory that typically isn’t traversed in horror fiction with as much detail as it is here. The ghostly surreality of the whole thing bears echoes of T.M. Wright’s writing. Even considering these similarities, Pyper’s novel is very much his own, and fans of those types of stories will have that much more incentive to read it.

The Damned is a thrill ride to be sure, but it’s one that’s not afraid to explore some big issues. It explores the biggest ones, really – life and death, with Danny and Ashleigh respectively symbolizing each one. They’re no mere caricatures, though. They’re complex characters (even Ashleigh is disarmingly sympathetic at times), moving through a plot-focused narrative. There’s a vivid, cinematic quality to the writing, particularly in some of the more nightmarish settings, and the story shifts seamlessly from dark family drama to detective fiction to horror, all with tightly written and nuanced prose.

This is the kind of book that can unsettle, anger, and bring you to tears, sometimes all at once. It’s a cerebral read that still delves into our universal, primal fears and concerns. Simply put, The Damned is a consistently engaging thriller that readers of dark fiction shouldn’t pass up.

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Marvel_Zombies_1_Cover This June, a lone soldier ventures deep into unknown territory on a mission of personal discovery – and of blood-soaked survival! Today, Marvel is pleased to announce MARVEL ZOMBIES #1 – a brand-new Secret Wars series from writer Simon Spurrier (X-Force, X-Men: Legacy) and artist Kev Walker (New Avengers, Avengers Arena)!

She is Elsa Bloodstone, one of the fiercest monster-hunters Battleworld has ever seen. Burdened with the task of keeping the zombie hordes to the south from rampaging through Battleworld, she patrols the borders from high atop the Shield. Day in and day out she fights and claws to keep the world safe, knowing that setting one foot into that hellish landscape means certain death. That is, until she spots a human girl among the corpses.

Knowing what untold horrors await her on the other side, she flings herself into the shambling hordes. But once she’s in, she’ll have to fight her way out…

“If you want an awesome book about an incredible woman digging deep into her own crumbling reserves to smash, blast and sneak her way through legions of your favorite Marvel personalities, corrupted into gurgling cackling brain-hungry insaniacs – then this is the book for you,” says writer Simon Spurrier in an upcoming interview with Marvel.com.

Can one woman stand against an endless army of the living dead? Clearly, you’ve never met Elsa Bloodstone. Be there when zombie-blasting, high-octane action kicks off this June in MARVEL ZOMBIES #1!

For more information on Marvel Zombies, visit Marvel.com and be sure to check back tomorrow for a full interview with Simon Spurrier!

MARVEL ZOMBIES #1

Written by SIMON SPURRIER
Art by KEV WALKER
Cover by KEN LASHLEY
On Sale in JUNE!

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Age_of_Ultron_vs_Marvel_Zombies_1_CoverMarvel Zombies Invade BATTLEWORLD in AGE OF ULTRON VS. MARVEL ZOMBIES #1!

In the southern wastes of Battleworld, two unholy factions wage neverending war. This June, that war reaches a new level of horror in AGE OF ULTRON VS. MARVEL ZOMBIES #1 – a new Secret Wars series! From Eisner-award winning writer James Robinson and critically-acclaimed artist Steve Pugh comes two new reasons to fear!

There are regions of Battleworld so dangerous, they are walled off from the remainder of this patchwork planet. Here, on the far side of the impenetrable barrier known as the Shield, hope is gone. In these unholy wastes, on the border between two domains, the genocidal robotic armies of Ultron wage unending war upon the domain of rotting, flesh-eating corpses that lies just to the East.

“I had the idea of an area on the border between the domains of Ultron and Zombies,” says writer James Robinson in an interview with Marvel.com. “…where humanity was holding out withstanding these two opposing types of inhumanity.”

Pity those poor souls trapped between these two unstoppable forces, for their end is most definitely assured! Will you choose death by flesh-eating, super-powered living dead? Or by an unending army of indestructible, undefeatable robots? One thing is for certain, neither demise will be quick or painless!

The Vision, Wonder Man, Jim Hammond, and more brave these apocalyptic hellscapes in search of sanctuary, and for survival. This June, two unearthly factions will clash. Anything can happen, but one thing is assured – whoever wins, we lose. You don’t want to miss AGE OF ULTRON VS. MARVEL ZOMBIES #1!

AGE OF ULTRON VS. MARVEL ZOMBIES #1
Written by JAMES ROBINSON
Art by STEVE PUGH
Cover by CARLOS PACHECO
On Sale in June!

Age_of_Ultron_vs_Marvel_Zombies_1_Preview_2 Age_of_Ultron_vs_Marvel_Zombies_1_Preview_1

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Curse-MummyThe Curse of the Mummy
Maynard Sims
Hersham Horror Books
January, 2015
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Len Maynard and Mick Sims (now simply Maynard Sims) are a widely known, well respected British duo, authors of countless short stories, novellas and novels in the dark fiction area. Their work ranges from horror to crime, from thrillers to supernatural stories. In addition, they have been successful editors and publishers in the above genres.

It’s no secret that they have constantly been included in my personal list of favorite writers for a long time (although, admittedly, not the whole body of their work has met my approval), so any new product of their fertile creative minds triggers my unconditioned interest.

The Curse of the Mummy, the first in a series of six novelettes devoted to the revival of classical monsters to be published by Hersham Horror Books, is penned by Maynard Sims, whose task is to put new life (pun intended) into the time honored theme of Egyptian mummies.

In just fifty-one pages, the authors offer a very original take of the subject by recreating the atmosphere of post-war London and portraying a young actress, now sadly unemployed, desperately trying to find work who ends up grudgingly accepting a job on stage as a simple tableau vivant. Unexpectedly, the job includes, as an extra bonus, not only a true friendship with a fellow “actress,” but also the romantic interest of a young male singer who starts to court her.

For those of you who wonder what on earth all this has to do with mummies, I strongly advise to buy and read the book. Never fear, you’ll meet the Mummy all right, but I don’t want to spoil the pleasure of discovering how and why.

Needless to say the story is beautifully written, the narrative style is engrossing, the characters nicely drawn and the dialogues effectively shaped. Everything is delightful and up to the expectations of the most demanding readers (including myself).

 

 

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