Riff TraxBy Brian M. Sammons

This Halloween season would you like some funny to go along with your fright? Don’t have a lot of money to spend in these tight economic times? Do you think Freddy Krueger got worse, less frightening, and more ridiculous as the Nightmare on Elm Street movies went on? Well if you said yes to that then do I have something cool to tell you about.

Are you familiar with movie riffs? If not, let me give you the skinny on them. Some years back there was a wonderful TV show called Mystery Science Theater 3000 where a man and his puppet palls would watch bad B-movies and liven them up by making wisecracks and jokes at their expense while the movie ran. And. It. Was. Good! But sadly, nothing lasts forever and in time the show was cancelled. Thankfully the mad mirthful minds behind the show knew that they had a good thing, even if the ‘powers that be’ did not, and they broke up into two groups to continue the riffing goodness. One group became Cinematic Titanic and they still mostly focus on ripping apart old, public domain B-movies. The other group became Rifftrax and they specialize in making fun of modern movies. How can they do that without getting the pants sued off of them by Hollywood? By just recording audio tracks that you can buy for a few bucks and then listen to on your MP3 player while you watch the movie on DVD. They’re as simple as that to buy and use, and if you’re a fan of the old MST3K show then you know how good they can be.

However, because the Rifftrax model seemed so deceptively easy, lots of folks said “hey, I can do that” and so a bunch of people started making their own riff tracks for flicks and selling them for a few bucks. Sadly, most of these fan-made riffs actually proved that no, in fact most people really can’t “do that,” or at least not do it that well. Thankfully there are exceptions to this rule, and now that the backstory is out of the way, let me tell you of one little independent riffing group that really delivers the laughs on demand and for just one to two bucks per riff. And no, you can’t get a better deal than that these days.

Ronin Fox Trax laid claim to, and started off riffing on, the Nightmare on Elm Street flicks some time back. They have since covered the NoES movies from the original up through part five. Each of the Elm Street riffs I found funny as hell, and the overall quality in both sound and jokes increase with each subsequent installment. That’s not to say that the early tracks were bad, just that Ronin Fox Trax gets better and better with each release. If only the movies they were making fun of could say the same thing…

In addition to the funny flaying they give Freddy, they recently covered a favorite ’80s slasher classic of mine: 1981’s Happy Birthday to Me. I love that silly slasher and I loved the riff that Ronin and Co did for it. That brings up a good point, that these riffs aren’t really mean spirited. Well, they’re mostly not. They’re the same kind of jokes that horror fans have been saying to each other for years. So even if you’re the biggest Freddy fan ever, you will enjoy this good natured ribbing. If not, then dude, chill out, they’re only movies. Anyway, I loved the Happy Birthday to Me riff and I hope Ronin Fox Tracks cover more ’80s horror movies in the future other than the Nightmare movies. Not that they shouldn’t do all the NoES movies. After all, the longer the series ran, the worse the movies got, and therefore the better fodder for a good riffing.

And if you have a taste for more than just horror, the RFT team has also covered Dune, The Wizard of Oz, Masters of the Universe (yes, the He-Man movie), Tim Burton’s Batman, Star Trek the (slow) Motion Picture, and more.

I really dig listening to riff tracks of all sorts (hell, Rifftrax was the only way I could make it through Twilight without committing suicide) and Ronin Fox Trax is a great addition to this still growing field of entertainment. If you want to laugh along with them at Freddy or any of the other movies I mentioned here, you can get their riffs for dirt cheap here: Ronin Fox Trax. I’ve loved all that I’ve listened to and highly recommend them to any horrorhead looking for a giggle this Halloween.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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