Retro Flashback Presents: Phantasm

Welcome to Retro Flashback. This is where we dissect a horror film to see if it is an essential part of horror geekdom or mere copycat trash. We rate these films on their landmark status. Psycho, Halloween, Scream, and The Blair Witch Project are unquestionable landmarks. These film are a part of horror's lexicon and each began a separate movement in cinema. So where do movies like Re-Animator, Dead-Alive, or Street Trash end up on this scale? You'll have to come back to find out.

In light of Don Coscarelli's return to the Phantasm series, lets look back to the 1979 classic that started it all. I apologize to the true geeks out there, we'll get to Redneck Zombies or Night School a bit later.

Retro Flashback Presents:
"You think you go to heaven... You come to us!"
Phan-tasm n. - Something that exists only in a person's mind. 1. a product of fantasy 2. a mental representation of a real object.
A tall old guy, killer silver balls, monstrous midgets, a finger creature, a mutant fly, a badass musician/ice cream man, a guitar-playing duty shirking brother, a blind fortune teller with a buzzing box, and a deadly tuning fork all culminate to wreck the life of a meddling teenager.

In the beginning...
The world of Don Coscarelli's Phantasm is indeed a fantastic one. Its bizarre nature keeps building followers as the years pass, and the mythology of the tall man continues to unfold. In 1979, we witnessed the beginning of the apocalypse. It was not a bomb, a disease, or a war. The end began with a necromantical tall alien in the guise of a funeral director. His ritualistic modus operandi includes bringing the dead back to life as ghoulish dwarf zombies to do his bidding, and enslaving the world seems to be his goal. The cult status of Coscarelli's film is firmly cemented in the annuls of horror cinema. He has achieved cult fandom with nearly every film in his oeuvre. The Beastmaster, Bubba Ho-Tep, and most recently his adaptation of David Wong's John Dies At The End have all found their underground success. With Phantasm, Coscarelli set out to create a surreal and absurd nightmare. He used Dario Argento's Suspiria as a blueprint for dreamlike imagery and non-linear narrative structure. He also implemented elements of Alexandro Jodorowsky and Luis Bunuell's surrealist works. With these influences Coscarelli created a nightmare fueled by Jungian archetypal images.

When Don Coscarelli was younger, he had a dream in which he was running for his life through a labyrinthine corridor while a flying steel ball chased him. Since Phantasm is all about dreams, it is only fitting that Coscarelli's own nightmare inspired the film. At the age of 19, he became the youngest filmmaker to create a feature that was distributed by a studio. Jim The World's Greatest was sold to Universal Pictures. His first and second films did not fare too well, but he did get the opportunity to work with A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, and Lawrence Rory Guy (A.K.A. Angus Scrimm). After the letdown of his second film, Coscarelli decided to shift his focus toward horror. The acting troupe followed him down the rabbit hole, and what emerged was a film that seemed to understand the profound effect of a night terror. Coscarelli not only wrote and directed Phantasm, he also took charge of cinematography and editing. During a test screening, the film's length became its most detrimental element. Coscarelli went back into the editing room and made the conscious decision to trim the film of some of its character development in lieu of obtaining a dreamlike atmosphere. By taking lessons from Giallo films he established a method of absurdist plotting that would emphasize effect and mood rather than logic.

What makes it so special?
Phantasm is told from the point of view of the thirteen year old Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), whose parents have recently died. Mike's only caregiver is his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury). Mike's fear of abandonment runs deep; this is shown by him obsessively following his brother around. He believes it is only a matter of time before he is completely alone. He continuously whines about it, so we get the point. Abandonment and death replace the normal angst of a teen. He keeps a close eye on the cemetery, because why not? When he sees the tall man pervert the rituals of death, he dives head first into the mystery at Morningside Mortuary. Only by uncovering the tall man's intent will Mike's heroic dream fantasy allow him to overcome his real-life fears. Lets break this down in true spoiler fashion: Jody's already dead at the beginning of the film. Yeah, he's dead. The movie all takes place inside Mike's unconscious. The tall man, the silver balls, the killer dwarfs, the tuning fork... all of it is the delusion of a really messed up kid. His subconscious develops this story as a way of playing out his real grief over the loss of his entire family.

The theme of overcoming fear comes up again and again through Phantasm's narrative. Like any tale of a hero against the world, he must overcome himself before he can triumph over the beast. The epitome of this theme comes in the form of a blind fortune teller. She tells Mike to place his hand in a black box, and only when his fear subsides will he be able to retrieve his hand. If it sounds familiar, that's because it is. The influence for this sequence comes from Frank Herbert's 1965 epic Dune. A similar scene can also be found in Flash Gordon or the caves of Dagobah, where the hero has to undergo a similar test.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." - The Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear - Dune (1965)

The tall man is the embodiment of death. In other words, Angus Scrimm is scary-looking. He's a tall alien with a funny walk and a guttural voice. Hey, it's Mike's dream, death can take whatever form it wants. Since the whole plot of Phantasm is merely Mike's psyche working through the grief of Jody's passing, then defeating the tall man is Mike's unconscious dealing with death. Mike's dream has created this heroic journey. By slaying the monster he may return to his sad reality more courageous – though still an orphan.

Let's look at how the dream sequence is normally handled in horror films. First, we are shown the character falling asleep, though this rule can be broken if the filmmaker wishes to slowly abandon reality. Second, the dream is placed within the narrative to provide for a new scare for the audience, but it can also provide a cryptic prophecy. Third, once the dream is over, the filmmaker re-establishes reality (usually through a series of false awakenings). Since the whole film is a dream, Coscarelli has no qualms about destroying our preconceived notions of the horror dream. He provides an almost inverted moment when Mike wakes up inside a dream. The tall man stands over his bed, and then with a jump-scare the zombie dwarfs are attacking him. Coscarelli doesn't show Mike waking up in a cold sweat. Instead he cuts to a sunny afternoon. The tall man passes Reggie's ice cream van, and we're left wondering if the dream is over, or really, just in general, what the hell is going on? Now, since the film is the dream, did Mike wake up into an Inception-like next level? This is all a part of the Coscarelli editing lesson: cut for dreamy atmosphere not logic.

The hero archetype is one we've seen throughout history. Luke Skywalker is a perfect embodiment of the hero type, and since Lucas modeled Star Wars after Greek mythology it is only fitting. The hero is born into an unusual circumstance, is constantly in danger, his fear tested, has spiritual guidance, issues with his patriarch, and a special weapon. Mike may not have all of those elements, but who's counting? He does, however, make a weapon out of a shotgun shell and a hammer. The hero normally undergoes a traumatic experience that leads him to his quest. I'd say that the death of his parents warrants the category of trauma. This leads to another characteristic of a hero – he is removed from his family. Same thing – dead parents. Even though he must defeat death, Mike has some good times too. He gets to drive an awesome Plymouth Barracuda, hang out and drink with musicians, and shoot plenty of guns. As far as nightmares go, it could be worse – oh wait, he's an orphan. When viewed as a psychological fantasy, the bizarre and incoherent narrative begins to work.

How does it rate?
There are a few factors at work with Phantasm. While it did not spark an entire movement in horror cinema, it found it's cult audience rather quickly. There are four sequels, which does make a case for its true landmark status. All of the films were independently produced by the same writer and director which also give it a higher ranking. In the end Phantasm is no Halloween, yet cannot be written off as merely a film to be seen when there's nothing else available. So where exactly does it fall in horror education? Within the landmark categories, Phantasm will earn you a PHD. It stands for something very special within the horror community. The idea of independence from a studio in all of your film making decisions over the course of five films, while creating lasting images on a minuscule budget make Phantasm a true horror maverick.


Benson and Moorehead: Springing Forward

 "I just saw a zombie shooting heroin."

Two years ago Aaron Benson and Justin Moorehead made the highly ambiguous and ambitious low budget film RESOLUTION. At, I championed the film with a glowing review and it also made its way into the 13 MIND BLOWING HORROR MOVIES OF 2013 as an honorable mention. For their first film, they tackled themes of friendship, drug abuse, the haunting re-occurrence of history, and indecipherable endings. Resolution, at its heart is a drama about two childhood friends. Without the horror, Benson and Moorehead would have created a great indie buddy film. With their second feature, they continue this concept. The horror of SPRING is secondary to the budding relationship of the story.

I was provided the opportunity to see SPRING at the Telluride Horror Show last October. In all of my research leading up to the festival, I overlooked the fact that it was the same directors behind RESOLUTION. It was a rookie mistake, but when I saw their names pop up in the credits I was even more excited than before. Prior to that screening there wasn't much in the way of reviews, criticisms, or word-of-mouth. I had no expectations going into the film. It was the last screening after a twelve hour day of horror and it still held a captive audience.
From its premiere at TIFF until now, Benson and Moorehead have had a very successful six months. The title of their film is not only ridden with metaphors throughout the story, but is also reflected in the lives of its creators. In the film, the death of Evan's (Lou Taylor Pucci) mother and a bar brawl become the impetus to a trip to Italy. The slow death of both his parents has left him stuck within his own purgatory. By fleeing to Europe, he seeks change and a new beginning. Evan is a flower crippled by the many winters of his life. His journey of self-discovery begins his new season. Benson and Moorehead have also found a restorative metamorphosis through the distribution juggernaut that is Alamo Drafthouse. I collect every title Drafthouse releases, they are quickly becoming the Criterion of independent cinema. By finding distribution through Drafthouse, the creators of SPRING have blossomed.

Lou Taylor Pucci, who proved himself as a young actor in the indie scene back in 2005 with the back-to-back release of Thumbsucker and The Chumscrubber, is no stranger to horror films. Though I'm not too keen on the remake craze, he was great in Evil Dead (2013). In Spring, Pucci handles himself with a soaring grace. Pucci's Evan is a character in conflict. Though the grief of being without a family hits him hard, there is also a guilt-stricken freedom he's never been afforded before. He starts a new chapter of his life by travelling. What begins as a debaucherous adventure to soak his mourning in alcohol, eventually becomes a longing for companionship. This is when Louise (Nadia Hilker) enters his life. Louise is a beautiful and brilliant scientist who has traveled the world, knows countless languages, and somehow is seduced by the broken Evan. At this point we begin to ask ourselves about the horror. Louise has a mystery to her that feels ominous as does the atmosphere of the film. While the cinematography utilizes every aspect of this picture-esque fishing village, it also infuses extreme close-ups of battling insects and decaying animal carcasses. The score emphasizes a foreboding by amplifying sounds of the insect kingdom to a point of distortion. We truly feel the horror way before any is shown to us.

SPRING moves from being an homage to Richard Linklater's Before trilogy into the realm of H.P. Lovecraft during its final act. Some will disagree with any mention of 'the ancient ones' in regards to this film, but who else are we to credit with transformative creatures that defy category? The love story that blooms in Spring is not normal by rom-com or rom-dram standards, there is an obvious reason for this and one more subtle. Evan and Louise are not lovers like Noah and Alice or even Romeo and Juliet, they form a bond out of necessity. Evan has been caring for others most of his adult life, while Louise has been running away from others. When Evan's life becomes a meaningless void he seeks to fill it with someone to care for. Louise has never known full acceptance until meeting Evan. He becomes the first person she can disclose anything to without judgement or fear. This is not a love often seen on celluloid. Moments after the film's conclusion we wonder what will become of their relationship. It provides us a similar feeling as The Graduate did in 1967.

The creature effects fit perfectly within the story. Though the monstrous images stand out, they do not detract from the love story being told. Benson and Moorehead have struck gold again. By not falling victim to the repetitive nature of horror tropes they have solidified themselves as new and innovative voices in genre-bending cinema. If they continue this course of treating the horror in their material as secondary to the story, I see a long career of thought provoking indie films in their future.


Cloyne and the Persistence of Persona

CLOWN (2014)

Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Jon Watts, Christopher D. Ford
Produced by: Eli Roth
Rated R
100 min

Digging Up The Marrow and finding Adam Green

Adam Green's latest film is mostly a tribute to Adam Green. He wrote, directed, produced, edited, and starred in a film about monsters... and himself. If your a random horror fan, who for some reason doesn't know who Adam Green is, don't worry. DIGGING UP THE MARROW gives you a full recap of his career. It may come across as narcissistic at first, but Adam is so lovable that you watch in hopes that he will actually find monsters.

The plot is simple: while Adam is gearing up for a new season of HOLLISTON he receives a piece of fan mail that sends him down the rabbit hole. The journals of William Dekker outline a new approach to what creates something monstrous. Armed with a camera and a never doubting belief in creatures, Adam and his long time friend/cinematographer Will Barratt set off to the Marrow (an entrance into the catacombs of freak city).

Adam is willing to put his show and his life in jeopardy just for a tiny glimpse of otherworldly beings. By starring in the film as himself and featuring members of the horror community, Green creates a very post-modern monster film. You will see a fantastic list of cameos in the film: Tony Todd, Joe Lynch, Lloyd Kaufman, Don Coscarelli, Mick Garris, Tom Holland, and Kane Hodder. It becomes a game of who's who in "Horror Hollywood." These directors all coming together to be featured in Adam's film, creates a reality to all of the subsequent events. Which is the main goal of any found footage film. The only problem within DIGGING UP THE MARROW is who plays William Dekker. While everyone else is themselves, the role of Dekker went to the brilliant Ray Wise. Normally, there would be no issue with casting Wise. Since we all know who he is, this fact actually steals away from what Green is trying to accomplish. It would have been an excellent choice to have used Alex Pardee for the part (his artistry is featured throughout the film).

This is no gripe against Ray Wise, who cemented himself in the nerd community by giving us one of the best television performances ever captured. His Leland Palmer is etched into our memory. Leland's daughter has been murdered, his hair has turned white, and he cries while dancing - no character has ever shown the absurd reality that grief can be. Wise began his horror career as Dr. Holland in SWAMP THING and throughout the years has held our attention with an onslaught of small roles. He's worked with Paul Verhoeven in ROBOCOP, Victor Salva - the sex offender - in JEEPERS CREEPERS II, Mike Mendez in BIG ASS SPIDER!, and had the stand-out performance in Richard Bates Jr's SUBURBAN GOTHIC. Ray Wise has been everywhere and while he's never been Hollywood's leading man, he holds a special place in our hearts. He worked with Green in CHILLERAMA and as a landlord in HOLLISTON's first episode. It would seem only right to provide him a leading role in DIGGING UP THE MARROW, but it deters you from the cool reality that Green sets up. Wise's conspiracy theorist/monster hunter character is believable and delivered with such ease that you almost forget that it's Ray Wise - but in the end, you just can't forget that it is RAY WISE!

Everything else about Adam's film is a work of love. The monsters look beautiful and the world-hidden-from-ours concept is intriguing. While watching, you will want to believe in this realm Adam's found. I appreciate that besides Ray Wise, the reality of the film is kept intact. This means that the real people, who play themselves, do not die. This may seem like a spoiler but it's not. Anything can happen to William Dekker since he is a fictitious character, but everyone else in the film is alive and well today. To have any 'real' person die within the story would have been a huge letdown and ruined the film. So, I'm just saying, you do not have to worry about this letdown. It's an all-around fun experience and you get to see fellow horror nerds talking about monsters. I would highly recommend it! You know, if your into Adam Green, Ray Wise, and monsters.


The Great Western Adventure Part 2: Horror Show

We checked in with the festival and received our passes. Once we were official, we stood in line for the kickoff meal. The sacrificial pig was delicious. His meat coursed through our veins as we talked about our weekend to be. Some people were just winging their decisions on what films to see, but my days were carefully planned out. After two weeks of researching the films, I felt my choices were pretty solid. 

Once the pig was devoured and greetings were made, the walk to The Nugget theater began. We made our way in droves to the first event. Our first outing was "Squirm," a short film showcase filled with extreme horror. No one in that audience was disappointed. I've never seen so much genital mutilation in such a short amount of time. The highlight had to be when a teenage girl and her parents walked out of K.W. Roach's stark and beautiful Dead Fuck. I guess the naked girl having sex with a decomposed corpse was a bit too much for the family. What I didn't understand was that the family had already sat through a giant kidney-stone-monster eating its way back inside its father and a teenager having sex with a vagina alien that was stuck in his bedroom wall. Lesson learned: ripping open a penis and killing an alien-human infant are okay taboos to break, just don't include any necrophilia - that's going too far. With the family gone, I felt bad that they missed out on a woman giving birth to millions of tiny spiders in full detail, forced cannibalism with a seamen syrup, and amateur sex reassignment surgery. All in all this was a perfectly curated shorts block. We laughed and cringed when appropriate. It was a great beginning to the weekend.

The Mirror or Suburban Gothic

While I was interested in a film dealing with the James Randi Foundation and the search for true paranormal occurrences, the horror-comedy won. Suburban Gothic featured the greatest Ray Wise performance to date. His racist father character is so extreme and ignorant that just seeing him on screen makes you laugh. He's a high school football coach and when he invites players from the team home for a celebration, he apologizes to the black players because he forgot the grape pop. Looking past Ray Wise, we have a great comedy but not so much a great horror film. Richard Bates Jr. has shown us with his debut film Excision that he has an impressive working knowledge of what thrills an audience, but with Suburban Gothic the tacky special effects deter from the great comedic elements of the story. Even though Kat Dennings is her normal disenfranchised self, she at least channels her inner Marla Singer. The star of the film is Matthew Gray Gubler who puts most hipsters to shame with his emotionally stunted stoicism in the face of horror and crazy "city" outfits. Suburban Gothic is worth it just for the comedy.

Creep or ABCs Of Death 2

This was an easy decision since ABCs was on demand. It would have been great to see it with an audience, but in the end after seeing both films, Creep is in many ways superior. I have a full review over at that you can check out here. Creep is just pure brilliance in so many ways. Patrick Brice has truly outdone himself with his debut film. From the opening twenty minutes you can tell that it was a labor of love. In interviews with Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice they have stated that the characters came out of a constant filming during the pre-production phase. Not until later in the process did it become clear that the story was going in a dark direction. Creep is absolutely a contender for the Top 14 Horror Movies of 2014.

Friday night ended with a drink at The Sheridan and a nice walk through the darkened streets of Telluride. I was told to watch out for bears! Saturday began with food and coffee from The Steaming Bean - both very lovely. The films began at 10:30AM and would continue till 12:30AM. I knew I would be chugging caffeine just to keep going, but that's the way it is supposed to be at a film fest.

"Horror, Ha Ha!" Shorts or Bag Boy Lover Boy

When given the choice between shorts and a feature, I'll tend to choose the feature film. As a writer, it provides you the opportunity to write for a wider audience. So for completely selfish reasons I chose the full length films. I did hear that the horror comedy shorts were really good and judging by the low attendance in Bag Boy Lover Boy, most people wanted to start their day off with a laugh. We went the opposite direction with Bag Boy. In Andres Torres' first film, he displays a New York very different from how recent films portray the city. He goes back to the seventies grittiness of the streets, not the well lit shopping mecca that Times Square has become. This reflects in his main protagonist Albert (Jon Wachter), a hot dog vendor, who is a strange mix of lovable and disgusting at the same time. His diabolical nature rests beneath a rather child-like mind. It is only when he is dragged into the deplorable world created by photographer Ivan Worthington (Theodore Boubukos) that Albert's carnal side comes to the surface. Ivan creates misogynistic and masochistic art for the highest bidder and he uses Albert as a model. Albert dreams of becoming a great photographer, so he emulates Ivan with terrifying results. It reminds me of some weird mash-up of Martin Scorcesse and Hershall Gordon Lewis - which is a good thing.

Ejecta or Backwater

Dialogue based horror about a man recounting his close encounter or a couple camping in the woods and terrible things happen? I may have chose the wrong film. We went to Backwater thinking it would be a fun, people-in-peril, scary shit happening in the woods kind of film but we were wrong. I'll always be a supporter of indie filmmaking and Christopher Schrack does a lot with the $40K budget, but his story is filled with plot holes and inconsistencies. I am happy that he was able to secure distribution through, but I felt as though he had too many ideas that he wanted to compress into his short run time. The end of Backwater, which I will not totally give away, had a total of five endings and each one fell short - including one that incorporated a found footage aesthetic which was not previously mentioned. The sound design for the film, which I hope will be corrected when the film is released, consisted of ear shattering bass that was recorded within a car interior while driving. This did not provide for suspense, but it did give everyone a headache.

Closer To God or Gravy

The festival programmer, Ted Wilson, championed Billy Senese's Closer To God. So, even though Gravy looked like a fun cannibal variation of Funny Games, we were more inclined to see Senese's film. I'm glad I saw Closer To God and had the privilege of a Q&A with Senese and the star Jeremy Childs. Closer is a pressure cooker, you feel it slowly building all the various layers of plot until it reaches its apex and releases the steam with an explosion. The story is a modern day retelling of Frankenstein, but instead of stitching a corpse together and using lightning to bring it to life, they just use cloning. Jeremy Childs plays Victor - like Victor Frankenstein - but that's an obvious one. Less obvious homages to the classic tale include enraged sign carrying protesters against cloning, as the angry villagers. Also, Victor's first clone was a throw away that seeks to destroy him, this is another intentional nod to the Mary Shelley classic. Closer To God is disturbing and taboo breaking for the modern world, like Frankenstein was when it was originally released.

Among The Living or The Houses October Built

This was the toughest decision of the entire weekend. In other words, what an incredible time you must be having when your biggest problem in life is choosing between two potentially great horror films. There were a few hours before either film started and we all spent time researching each one. The French extremism of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury - the minds behind Inside (2007), Livid (2011), and next year's Leatherface (fingers crossed) - or an unknown found footage film about haunted houses. My first instinct while composing my list two weeks prior to the show was Among The Living, then it changed to Houses. I kept feeling as though I had seen Bobby Roe's documentary of the same name (alas, I have not), so I imagined Houses would be a great experience in the theater. We finally all chose The Houses October Built and it was a sold out show. The group that we had amassed during the weekend, took up nearly two rows of seats. Before we entered the theater, they were handing out promotional masks for the film - which were awesome. I love promo items and these masks were perfect for a photo shoot - and that is what they did. Once we were all seated they took pictures of the theater and all of us had our masks on. It was a fun experience and the film was really good. I was genuinely scared for a lot of the scenes, but the film was released on demand after the festival whereas Among The Living is still nowhere to be found. 

"Fear Itself" Shorts or Spring

I didn't know much about Spring going in. It was a last minute addition to the fest and I didn't have time to research it. I had seen the trailer and that was it. Now, had I looked the film up I would have been even more excited. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead created the wildly interesting and ambiguous Resolution (2012), which I've seen multiple times. Each time I see that film it becomes more bizarre than the last, which I never thought was possible of any film (except maybe Terry Gilliam's Brazil). Spring is a different beast for these directors. The story is a slow moving love story with a monstrous secret. It instantly reminded me of Only Lovers Left Alive in its tone - not much else. Lou Taylor Pucci is great as the American whose life falls apart and he moves to Europe to mess up his life even more. Nadia Hilker is the love interest and she's fantastic to watch. The film is Stuart Gordon body horror mixed with the film Love Story.

Our night was over, and after 14 hrs of horror movies, what do you do? Go home and watch more. Those are signs of a true horror addict. 

The Editor or The Boxtrolls

Another simple choice. The Boxtrolls was playing at any theater. I was really excited for The Editor and not a single frame let me down. I've seen Father's Day, but not Manborg. Still, I roughly knew what was in store. Mike Snoonian from introduced The Editor and made sure to let us know that the dialogue was out of sync as a stylistic choice not an issue with the screening. It provided for another element of humor while spoofing the Giallo genre. Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy do for the Giallo film what Scary Movie did for the post-modern slasher film. Though, in the case of Brooks and Kennedy, many are not familiar with the tropes present in trashy Italian thrillers. There are homages to The Beyond, Suspiria, Videodrome, Black Belly Of The Tarantula, Zombi, and When A Stranger Calls Back to name a few. There's also an 80's synth score that sounds like Claudio Simotti, blue and green gels over lighting, and many other references to Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. The Editor was made by fans for fans and every scene is perfect.

Wolfcop or Backcountry

Backcountry was another last minute add, but even if it wasn't, my heart was set on Wolfcop. It is exactly what you think it is, a movie about a cop who turns into a werewolf. It is also Canadian, which makes the spoken dialogue even better. Lou Garou (Leo Fafard) is an alcoholic cop - but not even a functioning alcoholic cop - until he is transformed into a wolf. Between the drinking and the wolf sex he learns how to actually stop crime.

After Wolfcop I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Strauss of Weng's Chop a quarterly publication dedicated to cult and horror cinema. He actually gave me a copy of their last issue and it has been incredible reading material. I think Weng's Chop is high on my contributing material wish list.

The Babadook 

The last film of the fest and one of the scariest. Jennifer Kent's debut film is stunning, dark, and disturbing. She has created a modern myth and within the current remake craze, this is a feat all of its own. The Babadook itself is a terrifying faceless entity that possesses an already troubled host. He is first seen in a disturbing children's book - which should be released, I'd love to own this book - and through the fear of a mother and child is brought to life. The Babadook is not a Freddy Krueger or Michael Meyers, he is the actual boogeyman. This was another audience favorite of the weekend. I still find myself saying, "Baba dook dook dook!"

Once we came out of the theater, a sadness overwhelmed us as we realized the fun was over. We would all have to return to our lives and only memories of the horror marathon would last. Over the course of twenty-six hours we were given werewolves, boogeymen, Frankensteins, mutilations, scare actors, homages, giallos, creeps, laughs, and romance. All of it was made possible by Ted and Lynn Wilson, the festival directors. Brad McHargue of Dread Central and Mike Snoonian from AllThingsHorror made each introduction exciting and psyched up the crowd. Even after all the films were over there was a closing party at the Last Dollar Saloon that was organized by Colin Sullivan. Everyone wore werewolf masks and got drunk. I would say it was a once in a lifetime weekend, but I know I'll be back next year. 

A special thank you to Telluride Horror Show's publicist Travis Volz, who did an amazing job circulating my festival preview, I'm always glad to help.

The Great Western Adventure: Part 1

My journey began in New Orleans and took me to the secluded mountain town of Telluride, CO. The show kicked off at 5PM on Friday, but my adventure started on Wednesday. It would become my most beloved memory.

My flight from New Orleans to Denver was at 6PM, but I was dropped off at the airport at 1PM. It gave me a few hours to kill. I was still compiling notes for The Horror Show, so the extra time was needed. The flight went first to Atlanta, GA then to Denver. I got in at 10:30PM and needed to juice my phone, so I sat in the airport for a while then made my way to the bus. There's a regional bus that takes you from the airport directly to Union Station - it takes 45min. When I got to downtown Denver, I had a custom google map to let me know where to go, but of course I got lost. What is there to do in Denver at midnight on a weekday? Not much. My first stop that seemed close on the map was a bar/arcade. 

It took me twenty-five minutes to walk there with a 20 lb. pack on my back and a 10 lb. messenger bag across my shoulder. The Jameson and Ginger Ale drinks I had at the bar were a bad idea since I hadn't had any food in ten hours, but the time playing Tron, Frogger, and a Tales From The Crypt pinball machine (which I was really good at for some reason) were great. I left the hipster haven with a buzz and deep hunger. I knew that Tom's Diner was a 24hr hangout, but I didn't know it was nearly an hour walk. My stomach was eating itself. I made it to the diner at 2AM and ate a feast that couldn't be beat. A huge thank you to my server, it was her first night and the place was strangely packed. She was awesome. I told her to take care of the rude customers first, I had all the time in the world. The food came out and it was an okay breakfast, but when you're starving everything tastes like Thanksgiving. I took an Adderall that kicked in after my fourth cup of coffee. 

The pack was lighter and everything I saw began to render itself into a deep focus. My phone died when I was trying to find the next spot of my all-nighter. It's not like you can ask anyone for directions at 3 in the morning. I was asked if I had any bubbles, which I later found out translates into: you got any pot? Finally, I made my way into Leela's European Cafe. With the drugs taking effect, I wrote nearly twenty pages of my ongoing novel - and when I look back at those pages, they actually work.

The next step in my trip was supposed to be a train ride through the Rocky Mountains that left at 8AM, but I received a notification that the train would be delayed till noon. So I sat in the cafe and watched as the sun rose through the city streets. The barista put Maury Povich on and the stragglers at the bar laughed at the various paternity tests. I left Leela's at about 8AM and walked to the train. They let me leave my luggage. When I took that pack off I finally felt free. I then watched as the 16th Street Mall filled with people. It is a mile stretch of stores complete with its own free bus. I grabbed a french toast cinnamon roll from Duffey Rolls and waited for a certain store to open.

By 10AM I just wanted to lay down, so I hopped on the train - though it would not leave the station till noon. I figured I could get a few hours of sleep, but that was simply not the case. Every sound was amplified and there was no such thing as comfort. Normally, a nice train ride is accompanied by short bouts of napping, but after 25hrs of being awake all I could do is close my eyes and imagine what sleep would feel like. 
The train left the station at 12:15 and for 8hrs I stared out the window as we climbed further up the mountains. We passed through a handful of tunnels along the way, but there was one in particular that lasted for ten minutes. We were told that there was 3,000 feet of rock above us and not to travel between cars due to the gasses that build up in the tunnel. Not even in total darkness could I find the sleep I needed. The train ended up in Grand Junction. I had a reserved motel room that was nearly a two hour walk away. I decided to call a cab. The room was CHEAP, but it had a surface level clean. You know the type, everything was dated but there wasn't any visible dirt, but when you stare at any one spot for too long you begin to notice a possible blood stain or two. Nothing else mattered. I had a shower, bed, and a tube TV with 12 channels. I fell asleep at 11:30PM. For those of you that have been keeping track, you're right, I was awake for a little over 38hrs. The dead don't sleep as well as I did that night.

The next morning, I decided that my choice in carrying a back pack for this journey was a stupid one. I figured there was a few hours to kill before I had a friend picking me up, so I'd go to Target. The map said it was only two miles away, but because it was off a main highway it suggested a route through neighborhoods that would take me an hour and a half. I decided to check for any buses in the area and one was scheduled to arrive a few minutes from when I looked it up. I quickly grabbed my things and made the bus. The downside of the bus was that it traveled into two other towns before circling back to Target. A five minute car ride took an hour, but it was shorter than walking. I walked around Target for a few hours, got some terrible Starbucks, a rolling suitcase, and waited for my ride. Once she arrived it was smooth sailing. We arrived in Telluride with a few minutes to spare before the roasted pig kickoff party.

Stay tuned for Part 2, The Telluride Horror Show

A New Procrastination

So you've spent 20 minutes on Facebook, a half an hour going through your news feeds, and you are waiting another 20 minutes for a life in Candy Crush (insert any fad game here: Angry Birds, Clay Jam, Temple Run, Song Pop, Words With Friends, Flow Free ect.), and you still don't feel like doing anything useful with your life.  Well here's a new way to waste time: The IMDB Game.

At first glance The IMDB Game may seem like its only for cinephiles, but that is not the case.  Sure film geeks may do a bit better, but anyone can play.

The Rules:

Pick a random number 1-100, or two random numbers 1-100.  Now go to the IMDB Top 250 and see the corresponding film, then go to the Bottom 100 and see what terrible movie you chose.  With the two movie titles link them any way you can.  You can use actors, directors, screenwriters, and crew members.

Here's an example: 
If you choose 46 you will get Citizen Kane from the top 250 and The Blade Master from the bottom 100.  Let the game begin.  Joe D'Amato directed The Blade Master and Emmanuelle In America which starred Laura Gemser.  She had a role in Voyage Of The Damned with Orson Wells who created Citizen Kane.

*46.) The Blade Master -> Joe D'Amato -> Emmanuelle In America -> Laura Gemser -> Voyage Of The Damned -> Orson Wells -> Citizen Kane

Now you try.  Comment below on the ties you've made.  And remember you can do that important life stuff later.

*The lists change frequently.  Upon writing this The Blade Master has been moved to 45, while Citizen Kane still sat at 46.