Monday, August 28, 2006
The mansion gang also appears regularly in Cryptopedia Magazine and Blogcritics.
You've been warned!
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Matt Olmstead was kind enough to step into the closet to let Zombosoids everywhere know that the official fansite is up and running for Evil Dead The Musical. Buzz right over to MyDeadSpace to learn all about it.
Also keep-your-head over to the Evil Dead The Musical website for lots of information on theatre tickets, cast and creative folk, and a tour of THE CABIN! If you dare. And to join the mailing list to keep up to date on the most lively evil musical you will ever see filled with dead people and chainsaws.
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
At the time, I was not prepared for the sudden shift in cinematic horror from "rubber monsters, cardboard gravestones or hands groping in the shadows" as Alan Jones concisely describes it in his book, The Rough Guide to Horror Movies. Up until then, I had watched in cozy comfort as man-made monsters, vampires, and various aquatic wild-life tried to wreak havoc in an ordered universe; only to be stopped in the end by the triumph of scientific reason, religious belief, and when all else failed, a pointy piece of wood or the trusty military might of the army, navy or air force.But director George Romero changed all that. No longer could the monster be contained, controlled, or avoided by day. The ordered universe was no longer neat and tidy, and it was not subject to man's laws or scientific codexes or heroic deeds. And the monsters were us! We were mindlessly devouring each other and infecting each other in gruesome, bloody ways in a suddenly nihilistic universe governed by godless quantum change.
Did I mention I was only twelve when I first watched Night of the Living Dead? It was at the evening showing at the Benson Theatre in Brooklyn. Afterwards, the long walk home was fraught with shadows of zombies lurching from every doorway and side street. For the next two weeks I couldn't take a bath at night with the door unlocked. I had become one of those kids that Roger Ebert wrote about when he watched the film for the first time.
Real terror? Yes; I was terrified. Frankenstein was one of the undead, but at least he didn't go around eating people. Dracula just sucked the life blood out of you, but never ripped off and chewed on a body part while doing it. These next-door-neighbor ghouls were monsters beyond all reason or hope of redemption. These were creatures from some undreamt hell that would not be stopped as they mindlessly devoured everything still alive in their path. And religious icons, voodoo rituals, wolfbane, military might and scientific knowledge were powerless against them. You bet I was terrified.
I don't think the younger kids really knew what hit them. They were used to going to movies, sure, and they'd seen some horror movies before, sure, but this was something else. This was ghouls eating people up -- and you could actually see what they were eating. This was little girls killing their mothers. This was being set on fire. Worst of all, even the hero got killed...I felt real terror in that neighborhood theater last Saturday afternoon. I saw kids who had no resources they could draw upon to protect themselves from the dread and fear they felt.
Numerous scholarly tomes and papers have been written examining the racial and cultural overtones prevalent in the film, even though Romero may not have been fully cognizant of them at the time. In Pretend We're Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture, Annalee Newitz builds a solid case for drawing parallels between Night of the Living Dead and DW Griffith's 1915 film, Birth of a Nation.
Take away the racial overtones and capitalistic corporate undertones that permeate the film (how many cubical zombies do you work with?) and what you are left with is that terror I mentioned earlier. Terror of the unknown suddenly reaching out for you and surrounding you. Unreasoning terror that knows no surcease from sorrow, no pitying the fool, and no god to blaspheme against. Terror that takes your daily routine and utterly destroys it without remorse, leaving you with little hope, and no sun-will-come-out-tomorrow to look forward to; just more unrelenting terror.
Night is in many ways an updated version of Birth, except this time around the upwardly mobile black man is the film's hero, rather than its locus of evil and terror...Ben is a black man with power in a white-dominated society; he is also, like Silas, ultimately destroyed for it.
The film starts off in typical horror movie fashion, as Johnny and Barbra, brother and sister, drive to a bleak and deserted cemetery to lay a wreath on their father's grave. The eerie, cobbled together music--bits and pieces of existing music were used--warns you immediately that this is not a typical horror movie. When Johnny's "there coming to get you Barbra" joke backfires, the film quickly moves from the cemetery to the isolated house in the woods.
Barbra meets Ben at the house. Ben is the only African American in the film, and he has to contend with an all-white zombie jamboree outside, and more distraught white people hiding out in the basement of the house. He happens to be the only rational, cool under fire individual in the group, too. He forages around to find whatever he can to board up the place, all the while dealing with an increasingly catatonic Barbra, and a really annoying white guy named Harry, whose wife and daughter are holed up in the basement, along with a young couple. Harry's daughter was bitten by one of the undead, so you know where that is going to lead; but back in 1968, we didn't know.It is when Barbra climbs the stairs and discovers the home-owner, or what's left of her, that I and every other kid realized this was not going to be a fun ride. There would be no safe thrills and chills here. No Ed Wood undead Tor Johnson's or Vampiras' shambling about. The situation grew more and more grim by the minute and there was no Van Helsing in site.
Harry's one great idea is to stay locked in the basement. Ben wants to fortify the house, and have avenues of escape if necessary. Outside, the zombies gather in greater numbers, waiting, while the two men bicker and fight for control of an uncontrollable situation. Throughout this ordeal, key icons of control and salvation come into play: the radio, the television, and the gun. More than once "we'll be alright until someone comes to rescue us," is spoken. In today's post-Katrina world, we know differently; but back in 1968 we didn't know.Romero closes in on the Zenith radio as the news describes the growing civil disaster as a mass murder spree by persons unknown, and the bodies of victims are found to have been partially eaten. I really wanted to go for popcorn then, but I was too afraid to leave my seat. A television set is soon discovered, and everyone eagerly gathers round to listen and watch as newscasters discuss what the hell is happening with concerned scientists, the puzzled military, and local good-old boy militias. A humorous, and still timely scene has a news reporter hounding a scientist and military commander leaving a high-level Washington meeting, only to have the scientist warn about the seriousness of the situation, while the military person downplays it with a "we don't really know yet" attitude. The television provides an anchor of normalcy in a world gone mad, and they cling to it for succor; as the mother observes, as long as there's "some kind of communication, authorities will send help."
Pretty soon the situation escalates to the point where the newscaster reverses his first recommendation to stay put, and tells listeners to head to a safe location near them as soon as possible. The National Guard protected locations are flashed at the bottom of the television screen as Ben devises a plan to take the truck and gas up from a pump just a few feet away. There's just the problem with those two dozen or so zombies standing in the way to be taken care of. Tom and Judy, the young couple, argue over why Tom has to be the one to help Ben. Tom puts it rather well when he says "it's not like a wind passing through. We've got to do something and fast." He hops in the truck to drive it to the gas pump, while Ben wards off the undead with a flaming table leg used as a torch. Judy decides at the last minute to join them, but things go from bad to worse when the truck catches fire. Tom and Judy wind up barbecued in the ensuing fireball, as Ben hustles back to the house, only to be locked out by Harry. He breaks the door down to get back inside, and shoots Harry for almost getting him killed.
Now comes the Tom and Judy a la carte scene, and it is here that horror films were forever changed. In a graphically gory scene by 1968 standards, the zombies reach into the truck and grab a hand-full of roasted human remains, then chow down in stark, nauseating close-ups. I was glad I didn't go for that popcorn now.With the taste of human flesh in their mouths, the zombies head for the house and start breaking in. Mom retreats to the cellar, where she is promptly killed by her daughter with a trowel, in a brutal scene that was quite shocking for me and the other kids to witness. The fact that she was snacking on her dead dad before she kills her mom was also another taboo broken. Barbra, in yet another taboo-breaking scene, is pulled through the door to her doom by her now undead brother. The one person she apparently relied on for her protection and security.
And Ben, who did not want to retreat to the basement, now has no other option. He locks himself in, and has to shoot mom and dad as they become hungry undead themselves. Society and it's precepts fall apart as the zombies fill the house, looking for their next living victim.When morning comes, Ben is still alive, but in an ironic twist of faith, his rescuers, the all-white militia patrolling the woods to kill zombies, kills him with a bullet to the head in the mistaken belief that he is a zombie. So no one survives; not even the upwardly mobile and educated Ben. That was a real downer.
I left the theatre that evening shaken, and no longer secure in the commonplace. George Romero had brought ghastly horror home, both figuratively and literally, and the course of future horror films would follow the same path, to the dismay of parents and censors in the decades since then, and probably for the decades to come.Night of the Living Dead stands as a classic horror film because it deals with social and cultural themes as they existed in 1968, and more importantly, as they still exist today.
Quick, pretend we're undead. Perhaps the zombies and would-be rescuers will not notice us and go bother somebody else. One can only hope.
Friday, August 4, 2006
Editor's Note: Since Iloz Zoc is unable to attend the opening day, I asked One-Eyed Willy to see The Descent. Perhaps that was not such a good idea in hindsight, but here is his review.
"Dude," said Mr. Blackbird. His illuminated plumage blinded me. It pulsated in kaleidoscopic colors that shot out rays of reds, greens and blues.
"What," I said. My vision was hazy, and my voice sounded dull, like I was talking under water.
"Dude," he repeated, and said something else, but I couldn't make it out. It just sounded like tweeting. What a funny blackbird. With red human lips he kept repeating something, but it just sounded like tweet, tweet, tweet. His pinky finger--wow, crazy, the bird's got a little white hand at the tip of his wing--had a little gold ring. What was that he was repeating? Door of indigo and blues across the street, across my way. What was that? You want me to knock a rap in ones, threes and twos, with these knuckles of mine. On that door of indigo and blues?
"DUDE! Wake up!"
I shot awake. "What happened?" I looked up at PegLegPete. He was bending down looking at me. The last thing I remember was sitting in the theatre watching The Descent. I asked PegLeg to tag along because I hate cave films. I hate caves. I hate tight places that remotely look like caves, and the whole damn idea about squeezing your ass through narrow cracks in rock walls that I couldn't even fit my pecker through is stupid and insane.
"Man, what the hell happened to you?" he said. "You started screaming like a transvestite and jumped out of your seat. You ran to the concession stand screaming "don't eat the Milk Duds, it's people! Milk Duds is people!" You scared the shit out of me. Crazy bastard." PegLeg looked at his watch. "Great, man. Just 'effin great. Just when it was getting good, too. Look, the next show is in a half-hour. With you or without you, I'm seeing the 'effin movie."
With PegLeg's help, I managed to sit through the entire film this time. It wasn't easy. I kept closing my eyes, but what I did see was white knuckle-busting horror that took it's time to build, then whumps you over the head until you can't take it anymore. Sam McCurdy's cinematography is spot-on, and walks a fine line between darkness and light. Just like you were in a cave; pitch black mostly, with only your electric or flare light to feebly illuminate your way.
Neil Marshall's direction and writing tricks you at first. You don't think it's a horror film. Hell, the damn thing starts off like an Ingmar Bergman movie. I kept wondering when Max von Sydow would show up and play chess with dusty Death himself. It opens on a happy note, quickly takes that away from you, and never lets up until the end. The music is also more elaborate than your typical horror film, and it wisely stays out of the way in the most important parts.
And those parts are killer.
Six highly testosteroned women love to take chances. Their athletic leader by consensus, Juno, pushes the envelope for them, just so they never get bored. She's what you would call a bitch; but a hot one at that, and physically flexible to die for. So off they go on another adventure, only this time, she thinks they should really go on a dare. Only she doesn't bother to let the other five babes know about it. Bingo! The cardinal rule of a good horror film is potential victims always muck it up by doing downright dangerously stupid things. In this case, that includes exploring an unfamiliar cave, not telling anyone outside the cave about it, and not bringing Twinkies along. Downright shameful behavior it is. And lethal, too. Had they at least brought the Twinkies, those cannibalistic naked guys with the sharp teeth would have left them alone. Guaranteed.
But before we even get to the cave and the cannibals, there's relationships to consider, and secrets not to share. A violent accident brings those relationships and secrets to the forefront, and from there the terror begins. There's a J-Horror pacing to the film; Marshall takes his time, dwells on the six women, their camaraderie, their personalities, then shakes them all up once they hit the cave. Just how close are they really? And how much do they really know about each other?
That's what's tested in the cave. The cannibalistic sub-human troglodytes crawling around the cave's walls are only part of the horror. Okay, yes, a really big part of it. But the reality of being trapped in a cave, where it's pitch black, damn awfully stuffy, with no guide book--and you didn't pack any Twinkies--well my friend, that's horror done to a masterful level.
Don't let me spoil it for you, but the cave scenes are all smoke and mirrors. That's right; miniatures, model sets and blue screen are so skillfully used, you'll be huffing and puffing and gasping for breadth without realizing it. After you see the film--assuming you can sit through the whole thing--you'll be saying "hey, One-Eyed Willy, you're pulling my leg." But truth be told, I'm not.
You'll start to feel the theatre walls closing in on you when the girls start crawling through a narrow passageway on their elbows and shins. That's where I lost it the first time. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. And when they dangle over a chasm that drops down all the way to China, in the pitch blackness, by their fingertips, I'll bet even money you'll be kicking the back of someone's chair and squirming in your theatre seat.
The tension builds until they stumble into the cannibalistic crawlers equivalent of a McDonald's. That's when we find out if the girls really do know each other, or even know themselves for that matter.
The struggle for survival is fast and furious, and filled with shocks. In true horror movie fashion, panic sets in and the only well-knit social group turns out to be those disgusting--vegetables-what's-that?--cave crawlers. The makeup job is horrific, and the annoying habit they have of slobbering mucousy gobs out of their mouths will--well, you better hold the buttered popcorn for another movie, that's all I'm saying.
This is one intense horror movie you should see on an empty stomach. But keep a box of Twinkies handy for later. Trust me, you'll need them.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
He looked to where I was pointing to in the kaleidoscopic swirl of the 8th Dimension void. "Oh, him, that's Duke De Mondo. He spends allot of time here."
"I see. That explains much" I said, nodding my head."Yeah, I think that guy Olsen lives out this way, too. Well, we have some time to kill," said Steve Brown, jumping up from the driver's seat. "I've got the truck on auto-pilot. Anyone care for a Hot Toddy or Juniper Juice Surprise--my specialty you know."
He pressed a small blue button and a fully stocked bar suddenly appeared."I say," I said, "these UPS hybrid trucks are wonderfully appurtenanced. I'll take a Hot Toddy, if you don't mind."
"Juniper Juice for me, please," said Glenor, in that annoyingly coyish high-pitched voice of hers. "What's the surprise?" she giggled with goo-goo eyes beaming squarely on our burly UPS driver."That's a surprise," he winked. "I love that pink sweater you're wearing. Is that cotton?" he asked.
"Angora," she giggled again."It really fits you like a glove," he said.
I really needed that Hot Toddy now. "What else do you have aboard this UPS truck," I asked, hoping to change the current path of conversation."Press that green button," directed Steve Brown, while juggling the glasses for Glenor's amusement. She is so easily amused.
I pressed it. A large plasma TV appeared out of nowhere, and a shelf of DVDs popped open. I rubbed my hands together with glee, then ran them lovingly across the numerous movie titles. No wait...could it be? Yes! A copy of Killer Klowns From Outer Space!
Not quite sure what the Chiodo Brothers were thinking when they pitched this idea for a movie, but it does have its charm. How can you not like a story about aliens that happen to look like bizarro clowns, who decide to stop for a quick nosh while shooting around the galaxy. Of course, this being a horror kind of movie, that quick nosh involves turning just about everyone in the small town of Crescent Cove into a jumbo-sized cotton candy treat with a nice gooey center that can be sucked up through a crazy straw."Considering the low budget for the film, the art direction and production design is fairly imaginative," said Steve Brown.
"Yes," I agreed. "If only the acting were a bit more top-notch.""Well, with veteran character actors like Royal Dano and John Vernon, the so-so acting may have stood out more," he noted.
"I loved him in Animal House," giggled Glenor."Vernon does play a nasty role well, doesn't he," said Steve Brown. "His Dean Wormer is downright wicked. Speaking of wicked, more surprise Glenor?"
"More please, why yes," she said. "Oof, I meant to say please more, yes," she giggled. "Darn, I meant to say..."She actually hiccupped right on cue. I really needed that Hot Toddy now. I turned my attention once again to the DVD.
It opens with the town's younger set smooching along Lovers Lane. Quickly ruining the peace and quiet, the Stooge-like Terenzi Brothers (no relation to the Chiodo Brothers--I hope) show up in their rented Ice cream truck, with speaker blaring, to sell ice cream to the over-heated smoochers. The bumbling but industrious duo are soon driven off by the annoyed Lovers Lane hopefuls. But before Mike and Debbie can get back to their smooching, a bright object shoots across the sky and noisily lands not too far away. In true 50s horror film fashion, our lovers are off to investigate. Of course this only happens in horror films. Given a choice of heavy petting or chasing down mysterious glowing objects in the woods, I think most typical teenagers would go for the former.
While our atypical lovers head to the scene of impact, Farmer Green Gene (no, not Captain Kangaroo's buddy) and his dog Pooh, see the light and head out to investigate. He and his dog are the first ones to find the circus tent spaceship in the woods. There is a nice bit here with Royal Dano walking along the side of the tent and a killer Klown's shadow following him along. Circus fun and excitement soon turns to dread as he and his dog are captured and cotton-candyized.
Mike and Debbie discover the circus tent in the woods next, and decide to enter it. Again, your average person would probably think a circus tent plopped down in the middle of an isolated woodland setting would be rather odd; but then we wouldn't have much of a horror story, would we, if they just ran away? One interesting flub to watch for has Debbie's arm briefly disappearing behind the matte painting of the spaceship as they come upon it.Another imaginative matte shot used as an homage to Forbidden Planet, has Mike and Debbie enter a room reminiscent of the Krell's huge power cell chamber. As they explore the ship--and realize it is not part of Cirque du Soleil--the clever use of colorful, carnival and clown-like objects--such as red rubber balls used for door buttons-- makes good thematic use of the limited production budget. Soon they're running for their lives, with two Klowns, and a balloon dog hunting them. They escape, but the whole kit and kaboodle of killer Klowns, armed with wacky but lethal weapons, head to town in search of late night snacks.
As Mike and Debbie try to convince incredulous officers Hanson and Mooney that a bunch of clown-looking aliens recently arrived in a circus tent spaceship are snackerizing the townsfolk, the clown-looking aliens, are doing just that. In a series of bizarre, Looney Tunes-inspired scenes that include a lethal Punch and Judy, pizza delivery ala killer Klowns, clumsy Klowns knocking over shelves in pharmacy, and mini-Klown knocks block off of biker dude, three stand out for true creative creepiness, and move this film squarely into horror-head territory.
The first has a nasty looking Klown enticing a young girl away from her mom, while she sits in the local burger joint. Behind his back he holds a very large, brightly colored mallet. His intentions are clear to us, but not to the innocent, fun-seeking youngster. This well-paced scene plays on a very interesting side point of the film: how the appearance of a clown can automatically trigger expectations of enjoyment for most of us, especially children.The second involves a bus stop, a few tired adults waiting for the late-night bus, and a Klown that suddenly appears and does hand-shadows on the side of a building to their enjoyment. This stop-motion realized scene is humorous and surreal. The hand shadows are beyond fantastic, and border on the absurd, but still the enchanted audience lets their guard down and is soon captured in a delightfully horrific way.
The third has Officer Mooney playing ventriloquil dummy to one particularly tall and mischievous Klown. Even Officer Hanson, who is treated to this vent act after finding Klown footprints all over the jail, breaks a brief smile on seeing them, until he realizes the lethal gravity of the situation. The use of sound in this scene is also quite disgusting.
Now, "if you were a Klown, where would you hide? In the amusement park!" So off go our heroes to rescue Debbie, who winds up captured and trapped inside a really big beach ball. And if you have a bunch of killer Klowns with pies in their hands, who do you think should get hit with them? Why, Soupy Sales of course! Unfortunately, according to the audio commentary, the budget did not allow him to be flown in for the shoot. Too bad. That would have been a funny and apropos scene indeed.
The zany Terenzi Brothers arrive in their Ice cream truck and join Mike and Officer Hanson as they enter the funhouse spaceship. The brothers soon get separated from Mike and Hanson, and wind up with a pair of big-bazoomed female Klowns. Thankfully we cut to Mike and Hanson entering the cotton-candy room, where Debbie is imprisoned. Although they rescue her, they are soon discovered, and a chase ensues through the weird rooms of the spaceship. After finally making their way through a doorway with a seemingly limitless amount of doors to open, they are trapped and surrounded by the Klowns.The Terenzi Brothers burst in with their Ice cream truck--which happens to have a clown's head on top of it--and use the speaker to tell the Klowns to bug off. But as they retreat, another, bigger threat appears. A giant Klown descends from the ceiling and goes after the Ice cream truck. When told to get out of the truck, the brothers respond by saying "we can't, it's rented!" The Ice cream truck, with the dull-witted brothers inside, is picked up and tossed into a fiery explosion. The scene is shot using miniatures and forced perspective, and works very well.
Will our heroes escape? All I can say is that...the extras are pretty good. Aside from an informative and entertaining audio commentary by the Chiodo Brothers, there are commentaries on the music, deleted scenes, bloopers, special effects, a trailer, and storyboard gallery. Killer Klowns From Outer Space is an enjoyable film, and one that would do well with an effects-loaded remake or sequel."It's time for the descent," said Steve Brown, buckling himself back into the driver's seat. Glenor and I buckled ourselves in also, and prepared for The Descent.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
To find out, you will have to watch the short horror film, The Gibbering Horror of Howard Ghormley on Fangoria's Blood Drive II DVD. But be prepared for the unexpected in this creepy journey into the fantastic. To help with your preparation, upcoming horror director, and all-around bon vivant and Stoogologist, Steve Daniels, comes into Zombos' closet to chat about Ghormley.
ZC: The Gibbering Horror of Howard Ghormley is a very creepy 12 minutes shot on grainy, b&w 8mm. Your use of 8mm film, and diegetic and non-diegetic sound is very unnerving. Can you tell us more about your artistic decisions when choosing and composing these elements for your story?
SD: Thank you. I have been making Super 8mm films since 2000, and I really love the look and feel of the format. I am very thankful that Kodak continues to manufacture and support the film. Super 8, especially when shot at 18 frames per second as Ghormley was, tends to illicit a strong nostalgic vibe with viewers because of it's use in old home movies. I have always associated things, scary things, to be scarier if they occurred in the past. Although I did not specify a time frame in the film, I imagined Ghormley taking place in the 1930's or 40's, so shooting the film in the grainy black and white Super 8 heightened that aged effect.
Because Ghormley was based on a disturbing, recurring dream I had, I wanted the audio from the film to reflect that surreal, dream-limbo quality. The film is "heard" through Ghormley's head. It's meta-diegetic sound. Real world sounds are selectively heard, unnaturally amplified or distorted to a very unnatural effect. The music/sound design, masterfully done by Chris Bickel, is both non-diegetic and meta-diegetic, as one could argue, as it both comments and compliments the action on screen, and reflects poor Ghormley's agitated mental state as the story progresses.
ZC: What challenges as the director and writer did you face in transferring your dream to film? Were there any trade-offs between these roles?
At first, it was a challenge to transfer the images of the dream to film, because I had such strong images in my mind to begin with. I had distinct ideas of what everything should look like and how it should behave. Once I let that go, it was easy to use the dream as a foundation and build a more developed idea from that. There were no trade-offs in my two roles as director and writer because the story and the visuals were one in the same. It's a visually driven and nonverbal film, so the images had to tell the story.
Thanks Steve for sharing your thoughts! We look forward to your next horrorific production. To keep up to date with Steve Daniel's work, go to Blood Sugar Productions. And catch The Gibbering Horror of Howard Ghormley on Fangoria's Blood Drive II DVD, if you dare, along with other scary short films from upcoming directors of horror. Also check out Icons of Fright's informative interview with Steve Daniels.
ZC: In a previous interview, you mention the directors that influenced you. You also added The Three Stooges. I'm a big fan of the Stooges, and the directors. Can you elaborate further on how the zany trio and various directors formed your approach to filmmaking? And, most importantly, which stooge is your favorite?
SD: Man, I love The Three Stooges. My brother and I grew up watching them on account of our dad and I've remained a fan. I think it's a dude thing because no woman I know likes the Stooges. It's that primal intensity of slapstick violence. The kinetic energy of all the slapping and eye poking, and it's just funny dammit . I guess what I love about them is how the gags come off so smoothly at the same time realizing how much choreography went in to all the clever cause and effect action. You know, Larry lifts the ladder, Curly ducks, the ladder swings and hits Moe in the jaw, Moe drops the paint bucket on Curly's foot, and Larry get's his hair pulled out.
Speaking of Larry, I guess he's my favorite stooge. He's the glue that keeps the group together, and is like the quiet underdog of the bunch. As I've gotten older, I have experienced a type of Stooge-maturity, and I can now proudly say I love Shemp Howard. Like most people, as a kid I would boo the tv screen if a "Shemp" episode would come on instead of a Curly one. As I've matured, I've grown to appreciate Shemp's comic prowess. He was a funny dude, and rightfully deserves the respect of all us Stooge fans the world over. Heebeebeebeebee.
ZC: The house and surrounding woods used in the film are very effective. Can you tell us more about them?
SD: I grew up exploring old houses, the south is littered with them, so I am always on the look out for an old "house place" to check out. I first discovered the house just as the character Ghormley does in the film. I noticed the chimneys just barely peaking out of a dense outcropping of large trees in a large barren field. It was exhilarating to push through the underbrush to see this massive, abandoned, vine covered farm house looming above me. The film does not come close to doing justice to the size and creepiness of the place. It's just gigantic. I was lucky to locate the owner of the house and got permission to film there. I learned the house had been built sometime in the mid 1800's, and it still was structurally in great shape.
ZC: Are there any anecdotes you can share with us regarding your filming of Gibbering Horror?
SD: It took a very long time, almost a year in fact, of shooting on weekends and fighting a ton of production woes to finish the film. On top of having broken bicycle chains, a car stuck in the mud, a broken generator, at one point we discovered that almost 90 percent of the film had to be completely re-shot because of a camera malfunction. I soon realized our small crew were living out the plot of the film. Just like Ghormley, we were caught in this cyclic pattern of returning to the house and repeating the same things over and over. It's a wonder we ever finished it.
Soon after I completed editing the film, I was driving and suddenly my vision began to spin. It was terrifying. I had an infection in my inner ear which caused a vertigo attack, and had to go to the emergency room. The attack was almost identical to the spinning shot that appears near the end of the film. The cyclic theme of Ghormley had permeated my existence.
ZC: What other film formats do you work in, or would like to?
SD: I shoot most of my films in Super 8, but I also shoot on video. I'd like to move up to a 16mm or 35mm, or even High Def video at some point.
ZC: What's your next horror film about, and what format will it be shot in? Why use that format?
SD: My next horror film is called Dirt Dauber which is based on a original story of mine that gives a large nod to H.P. Lovecraft's mythos. It involves a man who discovers an abandoned train tunnel in a mountainous region that was started but never completed during the 1800's. Foreboding local legends surround the tunnel in the mountain that leads to nowhere. Local legend tells of a giant, unspeakable horror that dwells within. I plan to shoot this tale on both black and white, Super 8 and 24p color video.
ZC: You mention H.P. Lovecraft as a pivotal figure in your artistic development. What other writers influence you and why?
SD: Those early pulp writers who made up the "Lovecraft Circle": Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, Frank Belknap Long and others. My father, James Daniels, who follows in the southern tradition of great story telling recently wrote his first book called Hope. His richly detailed, character-driven story telling abilities have always inspired me. I also greatly admire the work of Richard Matheson and Ambrose Bierce.
ZC: As a director, much of what you do is visually composed. What artists (from any graphic genre) influence you and why?
SD: I recently discovered the art of David Hartman http://www.sideshowmonkey.com/ that really excites me. He does great stylized illustrations of "pulpy" monsters. His work is inspiring because it reminds me of pure, unfiltered childhood fears that are so easy lost because of adult rationality. It takes me back to when I was a kid and a Hartman-like toothy, white eyed, swamp ghoul holding a rusty butcher's cleaver could and DID in fact exist in my parents dark, musty basement. I miss those monsters and Hartman brings them back for me.
ZC: Old-time radio was your inspiration for the tone and structure of Gibbering Horror. I love old-time radio shows, too. Can you elaborate on which ones are your favorites, and how they helped you create Gibbering Horror?
SD: My aunt bought me a collection of OTR horror tapes on a road trip when I was young, and when it got dark I listened to the tapes, and they completely freaked me out. I don't think I knew what was going on story wise, but the rough quality of the sound and a woman screaming on the episode, coupled with my imagination traveling down a dark country Arkansas road, really got under my skin.
I really enjoy Arch Obler's Lights Out. Inner Sanctum, Quiet Please, Suspense, Escape, are also some of my favorites. I wanted Ghormely to look and feel like a old time radio horror show looked in my imagination when I listened to an episode. There is a musty pulpy-ness I wanted to convey. Like in OTR horror shows, the tone of Ghormley can come close to campy pulp but I wanted that impending dread, that dead-cold seriousness that suffocates everything in those stories.
ZC: If you were a monster, which one would you be, and why?
SD: When I was young I thought it would be cool to be a werewolf. In fact, when I hit puberty and I got all hairy, I convinced myself for a short time I was a werewolf. I guess now I'd have to be an amorphous, unspeakable Lovecraft horror....Yog Sothoth or a Shoggoth. That way I could morph and form my shape shifting mass to all types of indescribable abominations.
ZC: Finally, is there any question you've always been dying to answer but no one ever asked? Now's your chance.
Finally! Here goes: "Steve, have you ever sang and recorded with a well known punk band?" Why yes, indeed I have! The Queers, a pop punk band from New Hampshire came through town over 10 years ago to the local recording studio to do a "live studio" album. As a joke, I yelled out a song request from their earlier days, a song called "Love Me", and they called me up to sing lead vocals. I forgot some of the lyrics and sloppily made up the rest, but to my utter surprise they recorded the song and released it as a rare bonus 7inch single, (the flip side was a cover of Louie Louie). It was included with the equally ultra-rare Shout at the Queers vinyl only LP. It was limited to 666 pressed records. My punk rock claim to fame. Whooo mercy.
Monday, July 24, 2006
How Zimba ever got me into this situation I'll never know. If that fool Zombos were around, I'd not be stuck doing his duty as a father. And now that annoying editor wants a movie review from me because that other fool Iloz Zoc is missing. I am a groundskeeper, dammit, not a movie critic. The last movie I went to see was The Constant Gardener, and that had absolutely nothing to do with gardening; stupid title for a movie that has nothing to do with gardening, I mean really. If I am to now be required to write movie reviews, then I insist this blog be called Pretorious' Garden of Horror Blog. I mean really--what the hell does Zombos' Closet of Horror mean? Who has a closet of horror? At least Garden of Horror has a nice ring to it, and the implications are clear enough, even for a simpleton like Iloz Zoc. Lots of horrible gardens out there...
Editor's Note: Pretorious rambled on a bit here, so I edited his remaining diatribe on Zombos, Iloz Zoc, Zimba, Zombos Junior, life, the universe, and his station in life within it. The actual review now follows with another but more informative diatribe on the film itself. At least I hope it is....and how the hell is one supposed to remember a film if he can't take notes? I'm not Iloz Zoc; I don't carry assorted pen lights and pocket lights to blind the patrons around me, and I can't pretend to understand what the damn movie is about by scribbling incoherent notes in a notebook. And what's this 3-D tom foolery all about? Gimmicks, always gimmicks to bump up the price of a theatre ticket and cover for lackluster entertainment. How can I possibly take notes, even if I wanted to, when I have to wear glasses to see the bloody notebook and glasses to see the bloody movie at the same time? Damn children made fun of me and called me six-eyes, with their parents giggling them on. Idiots. It was too dark to take notes anyway, so the moron of an editor will just have to kiss my grassy green...
Editor's Note: Sorry, my mistake. The actual movie review for Monster House will start now. I also edited out many gardening references so as not to confuse our garden-less readers.I know if Iloz Zoc were here he would say the movie is a terrible disappointment. The trailer had him so worked up, too. It seemed like a wonderfully creepy idea: take the decrepit old spooky house that just about every small town neighborhood has, toss in a decrepit old man--quite frightful-looking old man at that--who usually lives in such a house, spin the tale around the atmospheric chilly trick or treat time of year, and play on all those childhood fears by making the house itself a monster that eats people. Gobbles them up when they step on the lawn, or get too close. Let me see now, how would he describe it? Hell, I don't know how he would describe it, so I'll just write out my observations on this misfire.
Perhaps the problem lies in that the movie has no whimsy, or charm, or grace in its characters as directed by Gil Kenan. From the too-realistic, nasty goth baby-sitter with the dull-witted, drugged-out boyfriend Bones, to the stereotypically named fat-kid sidekick, Chowder, the tone of the story is too serious, and the dialog pedestrian. Instead of pithy and carefree repartee between childhood friends, we have witless comments and banal jokes, the highlight of which is pee in soda pop bottles. The writers apparently forgot their own childhoods when bringing Chowder, DJ and Jenny to life (assuming, of course, they actually had normal ones).
The 3-D is the only interesting aspect of the whole movie, and is quite mature from when I first saw it in Creature From the Black Lagoon. Those nasty headaches are a thing of the past, along with the cyan and red glasses. So I suppose I should be thankful for that.The computerized art direction, while not as creepily life-less as the dead-eyed characters in Polar Express, is also not as lively as much 2-D animation. The characters appear too real in their motions. If you want reality, do a live-action film. Animation opens up possibilities that are not possible with live-action, so why strive for live-action type mannerisms? It puts the characters in real-time, not animation-time, and renders them less endearing because they lack creative style.
One pleasant surprise, and not from this movie, was the trailer for the 3-D re-release of Nightmare Before Christmas. Now that gave me goose-bumps. If one film deserves the 3-D treatment, that is it. Now where was I?From the opening scene I had high hopes. With Autumn leaves gamboling around a little girl as she peddles her bike along the sidewalk, and innocently up to the ominous titular--Iloz Zoc always chuckles when he hears that word, though I'm not sure why--house, the mood turns from bright to dark as old Mr. Nebbechanezzer, or whatever his damn fool name is, comes running out to yell at her and take away her bike. The bastard! If any character stands out in this film it would be him. Drawn with malice is the best way I can describe him. He is loud, shrill, mean, and frightening in a way not suited for an animated film aimed at children. Poor seven year old Zombos Junior took off his 3-D glasses he was so scared. From that point, the movie becomes a humorless and vacuous story that unfolds, but does not involve--as Iloz Zoc would often say.
As DJ's (another creative name here) parents leave him alone with the babysitter from hell, and her boyfriend who has way too much adult misbehavior on his mind, the house begins to claim non-believing victims after Mr NebeKanoodle, or whatever, is stricken down by a heated encounter with DJ. DJ and his Superman red-caped, blue-shirted, obnoxious friend Chowder (another creative spark there too), manage to save a hip, smart-talking girl scout cookie-selling girl from becoming an edible herself in a strong scene that again may be a bit too scary for most youngsters going to see this film. How many times have I seen HER character in animated films and live action movies? Let me count the ways. And they all seem to have names that start with J.
Amazingly, all this monster house people-gobbling takes place in a starkly quiet neighborhood. Even on Halloween night, in an over-the-top climax between the house and the kids, the roars, screams and explosions, do not seem to bother the neighbors much. Chowder suddenly develops heavy machinery skills that would normally take the rest of us a few months to get down pat, and fends off the now mobile monster home while his friends muck around with dynamite. I'd like to see the mail on that one:
In an emotionless flashback scene that carries like a punctured balloon, we learn the reason for why the house is so disagreeably hungry. No moral message here, no moment of poetic pathos that transcends the mundane storyline. Just a freaky reason. At this point I really wanted my time and money back, but Zombos Junior loved it, even though he was scared through most of it. But he's seven years old. What does he know?
Dear Director,I think you should delete the dynamite handling scene as it may give impressionable children the wrong idea. I am not sure what would be a suitable substitute, but must they blow up the house? That is a destructive solution, not a creative one. Children must learn to communicate without dynamite and other high explosives.
As Chowder yells to the house during the climactic ending, "You ain't nothing; not a shack, not an outhouse," I must agree with him.