October 31, 2014

Do You Wanna See Something Really Scary? I Used To Be A Cute Little Kid Who Wore Halloween Costumes!

     As much as I love Halloween, I don't really like dressing up for it anymore.  I'm now far more interested in my own personal comfort - the ability to eat, drink, and be merry without spending Halloween night uncomfortable due to a restricting costume.  I liked it when I was a kid, though!

Me as Casper in 1975 (left), as a generic kitty in 1972 (right), and as the Mummy in 1977 (center)

     I promised on The Info Zombie Podcast to share a few pics of myself as a cute young trick-or-treater, so here they are!  Just for shits and giggles, I'd like to invite everyone to share their own childhood photos on the Movies At Dog Farm Group Page on Facebook.  That should be easier than trying to attach pics here.  Also, please share your text based memories of dressing up for Halloween in the Comments section below.

     Finally, thanks to all the fine sites that helped the Dog Farm celebrate Pre'Ween this year.  You've each helped me along in my goal to make Pre'Ween a "thing".  Ten different sites produced nearly seventy-five posts this October, all of which can be accessed by clicking the Pre'Ween badge below.

    Have A Safe And Happy Halloween!


October 29, 2014

Diary Of A Movie Watchin' Madman - Pre'Ween Horror Under The Stars

        Despite having waxed nostalgic about the drive-ins of my youth here before, I hadn't actually been to a drive-in in over twenty-five years.  The handful still open in Virginia are obliged to predominately show family oriented fare to keep the box office open, and I just can't see a Pixar movie as proper drive-in fodder.  Finally, though, the drive-in gods smiled upon me.  The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, Virginia offered up Halloween themed triple features on both their screens last weekend, and Adrienne and I made the hour long drive Saturday night to take in the show.  It was Adrienne's first drive-in experience ever!

View throught the windshield at The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, VA
The view through the Buick's windshield at The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, Virginia

     We had to haul ass after work to make the 9:00 o'clock feature, but we made it with enough time to spare that we had an opportunity to poke around the grounds before the show.  I'd never seen a drive-in with two screens before, and I was expecting two separate lots.  It turns out that the screens were placed one on either end of the lot.  The concession stand/projection booth stood midway between the two screens with a projector firing in each direction.  Consequently, vehicles in any given row were facing both directions depending upon which show you were attending.  Since both shows had already commenced before we got there, the lot's layout was dark and disorienting at first.  We used our little tour of the grounds to get the lay of the land, and we ultimately found a slightly off-center spot about three or four rows back that was just a short walk from the concession stand.

     Our triple feature had led off with Dracula Untold (2014), which was finishing up when we arrived.  Fortunately, neither Adrienne nor I cared much about seeing that one anyway.  We actually made the trip to see the other two features, Halloween (1978) and Night Of The Living Dead (1968).  While we were waiting for the first feature to finish up we poked around the concession stand.

Concession stand at The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, VA
The Family Drive-In's bustling concession stand

      The concession stand had a great menu, but they were pretty clearly overwhelmed by the crowd for this event.  Adrienne ordered nachos that were cold and icky, and I ordered an Angus cheeseburger that wasn't ready until about fifteen minutes into Halloween.  Luckily for us, the disappointing concessions were saved by the fact that there was a small building adjacent to the main concession stand that was making fresh funnel cakes.  The funnel cakes ruled!

     The drive-in was using digital projectors, but the ground level front of the concession stand had a separate glass fronted room - sadly, not really open to the public - that displayed the old behemoth projectors the drive-in had used previously.  Unfortunately, the area was too dark to get a decent picture.  The Family Drive-In also gave a nod to its past by still having window hanging speakers at each parking space in addition to broadcasting the movies' audio on FM.  We briefly used one of the old drive-in speakers before opting to roll up the windows and use the radio.

     It turns out using the radio was probably a bad call.  Once Halloween was over I tried to start the car during intermission, and I discovered I had a dead battery.  I walked to the concession stand to ask the proprietors if someone could give me a jump, and the request was barely out of my mouth before a young man with jumper cables was sent out to my car with me.  I'm guessing dead car batteries must still be a pretty common occurrence at the drive-in.

Marquee at The Family Drive-In in Stephens City VA
The Family Drive-In's roadside marquee

      Of course the main event was the movies themselves, and it was really a treat to see both Halloween and Night Of The Living Dead at a drive-in for the first time.  Being digital, both movies looked great.  Halloween was particularly strong.  Unfortunately, though, Night Of The Living Dead was screened in the wrong aspect ratio.  The 1.37:1 ratio had obviously been stretched to fill the screen, rendering everyone short and fat.  Oh well.  I'm pretty sure I was probably one of the only people in attendance who noticed or cared, and it really didn't detract from the overall experience much.  I was still seeing the quintessential zombie movie projected onto a massive screen under the stars for the first time, which was easily the highlight of the Pre'Ween season for me.

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October 23, 2014

Diary Of A Movie Watchin' Madman, Vol.II, Part 2 - Revenge Of The Madman

     It turns out I was probably being a little overly optimistic in thinking that only two parts of this year's Diary Of A Movie Watchin' Madman would get the job done.  I'm watching too many movies and writing too much about them to cover everything in just two parts.  This just turned into a trilogy, folks.  Vol. II, Part 3 is forthcoming...

Katherine Isabelle in See No Evil 2 (2014)

(10/14) See No Evil 2 (2014)  Watching See No Evil 2 was an odd experience.  I suspect I'm not alone when I say that my interest in this flick stemmed almost entirely from the fact that it was the Soska Sisters' first directorial effort since the stellar American Mary (2012).  Then the news came that the cast of See No Evil 2 would include Katherine Isabelle and Danielle Harris, two talented veteran sweethearts of genre fans everywhere.  Now I was really jonesin' to see this.  Rarely, if ever, had I found myself so excited about a sequel when I cared so little about the original.

     I suppose that's both the movie's blessing and its curse.  No one is going to be watching See No Evil 2 because they liked the first one so much, but it will find its way in front of a lot of eyes because everyone wants to see if the Soska Sisters are the real deal.  If they can work enough cinematic magic to make this belated sequel to a franchise non-starter worth seeing, then they're definitely filmmakers to watch.  Poor Kane.  See No Evil 2 isn't a Jacob Goodnight movie, it's a Soska Sisters movie.  Even if it's good, he'll get no credit.

     But is it good?  Well, yeah, it's pretty good.  It's not good enough that I'd want to see another if the Soska Sisters aren't involved, but it is good enough that I was impressed by what the sisters accomplished when playing in someone else's sandbox.  The characters display some personality, the performances are better than average, Kane makes an imposing bad guy, his character's mythology is deepened, and the whole movie is obviously more carefully constructed and artful than fans have come to expect from movies of this type.  The Soska Sisters have acquitted themselves nicely, and I'm sure a reinvigorated Jacob Goodnight will return to kill again thanks to their efforts.  Everybody wins.  (First Watch)

American Horror Story: Freak Show
(10/16) American Horror Story: Freak Show (2014) Yeah, I'm counting this again this year.  I'll spend at least the length of a movie watching American Horror Story during Pre'Ween, so why not?  After growing irritated with the fact that no action seemed to have any lasting consequence in last year's Coven, I was looking forward to the fresh start.  Seriously, what kind of dramatic stakes could Coven possibly have had when almost no primary character that died ever stayed dead?  Witches just kept conjuring everyone back to life... 

     Freak Show sounds like horror story gold though, right?  It pretty much was save for one heinously anachronistic misstep that totally pulled me out of the moment.  Jessica Lange's character performs the David Bowie song "Life On Mars" - a song dating back to only 1971 - in a scene that ostensibly takes place in 1958.  It appears from the previews that the show's producers will repeat the miscalculation in the second episode with a performance of Fiona Apple's "Criminal".  Why would a show that otherwise lavishes so much attention on period detail choose - repeatedly - to break the spell with anachronisms?  I'll keep watching, though, to see if there's a method to the music madness.  (First Watch)

Twinkie(10/17) Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers, Producer's Cut (1995)  After hearing for years about the mythical Producer's Cut of this movie, I was tickled to death to finally see it.  Does it redeem the movie at all?  Does it make it anything more than the worst Halloween sequel after Halloween: Resurrection (2002)?  No.  No it does not.  

     I hadn't watched any version of Halloween 6 for well over a decade.  It makes me sad to see an old, frail Donald Pleasance trying as hard as he can to make something worthwhile out of this turd.  Also, even though I've come to enjoy Paul Rudd over the years, I seriously don't know how he ever booked another acting gig with this terrible performance being the first on his resume.  And why the hell would you make a movie that hinges upon the appearance of Jamie Lloyd, a character we've been following now for three movies, and recast the role?  I'm sure there's a reason for that one, but I don't even care.  Danielle Harris dodged a bullet.

     All things considered, I still feel the same way about Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers as I feel about Twinkies.  You think, "Hey, I haven't had a Twinkie in a long time."  Then you have a Twinkie.  Then you remember why you haven't had a Twinkie in a long time.  The Producer's Cut is still a stunningly bad Twinkie.  (First Watch)

Curtains (1983)
(10/18) Curtains (1983)  After suffering through Halloween: The Steaming Pile just a couple of days ago, it was encouraging that the very next horror flick I watched exceeded my expectations.  I didn't even realize I possessed a void in my life where a Canadian giallo was supposed to be.  I'd never really watched Curtains before because all the bits I'd seen led me to believe it was stylish enough to warrant a better presentation than a crap public domain copy.  I'm glad I waited.  

     If you're wondering, the new Blu-ray release of Curtains from Synapse looks fantastic.  The movie itself is pretty damn entertaining too, as long as you realize from the outset that it actually has loftier ambitions than most of the early eighties slasher movies with which it's usually associated.  I was surprised several times by how stylishly composed much of it is.  I mentioned to Adrienne - who also enjoyed it - how much the shot compositions and color palate frequently put me in mind of Suspiria (1977).  Of course, Curtains as a whole isn't as good as Suspiria, but it was a lot better than it really needed to be to ride the slasher wave.  A pleasant surprise.  (First Watch)

Witching & Bitching (2013)

(10/20) Witching & Bitching (2013)  I've somehow managed to live to a ripe old age without seeing a single movie by Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia even though I've been hearing about his critically lauded film Day Of The Beast since it was released in 1995.  His recent feature The Last Circus (2010) has been sitting in my Netflix queue unwatched for months.  Subtitles, you know.  Don't get me wrong - nothing ruins a foreign flick faster than a bad dub (Blood Glacier, anyone?), but I still have to be in just the right mood to want to read a movie.  I'm so happy I found myself in the right mood when Witching & Bitching turned up on Netflix this week, and I'll probably end up finally watching The Last Circus before the week is out.  Added incentive: the lovely lady with the broomstick in the pic above, Carolina Bang, stars in The Last Circus as well.  I had so much fun with this one that I'm hungry for more from director Alex de la Iglesia.  Also, I've got a pretty big crush on Ms. Bang now, too.

     The tough part here is trying to explain to others exactly why Witching & Bitching was such an exhilarating watch for me.  The Netflix synopsis describes the movie as follows:  In this heist film turned horror fest, a gang of thieves lands in a coven of witches who are preparing for an ancient ritual -- and need a sacrifice. That synopsis is accurate insofar as it goes, but it does the movie a disservice by failing to even hint at the sense of pure anarchy that permeates the film.  It's a crime caper, a comedy, and a horror film all at once, and each of those components is carried to absurd and exuberant extremes.  I realized what an almost unclassifiable delight Witching & Bitching was when I tried to describe to a friend why she should watch it and words failed me.  They still do.  Believe the hype this time, folks.  Witching & Bitching may not the scariest movie you'll watch this Pre'Ween, but there's no doubt in my mind that it will be one of the most entertaining.  Recommended.  (First Watch)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)(10/22) The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)  Who'da thunk it?  The Town That Dreaded Sundown crept up on me like The Phantom Killer of Texarkana, and it turned out to be a fairly decent potboiler.  Don't be fooled by the title, though.  It isn't so much a remake as a kind of meta sequel to the 1976 Charles B. Pierce movie of the same name.  

     This follow up exists in a world where the citizens of Texarkana are still haunted by the real life unsolved mystery of the Moonlight Murders, a series of brutal killings perpetrated over the course of three months in 1946 by a hooded assailant who came to be know as The Phantom Killer.  The Phantom was never captured, the mystery never solved.  Each Halloween the locals gather to watch Pierce's 1976 movie about the murders at a local drive-in - pretty tacky, huh? - and last Halloween the murders resumed (fiction, not fact).  Since it couldn't possibly be the same killer some sixty-five years later, who's responsible for the new rash of murders that rock the community and eerily mimic the particulars of the old Moonlight Murders? 

     The Town That Dreaded Sundown chugs along pretty effectively for most of its run time, and it doesn't play it's self-referential scenario for laughs.  It "remakes" many of the murders as depicted in the 1976 movie, but it's very much its own beast.  It boasts beautiful cinematography, solid performances, and an intriguing premise.  Sadly, its one big misstep is a resolution that fails to satisfy and seems as though it was airlifted in from a different movie.  That's not enough to completely derail an otherwise effective thriller, but it unfortunately compromises the good work that precedes it to some degree.  The story might have been better served by a more ambiguous ending.  Still, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is better than one would expect from a quasi-remake/sequel to an obscure low budget horror movie now nearly forty years old.  I look forward to the next installment some time around 2054.  (First Watch)

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October 19, 2014

Play That Freaky Music - Popular Songs Linked Forever To The Horror Movies That Appropriated Them

      Sometimes a filmmaker does such a fine job selecting just the right song to accompany his images that it becomes almost impossible to separate a song from the association.  Here are nineteen songs I'll now forever associate with the horror movies that used them.  I'm sure I've missed a few, so please feel free to add your own favorites in the Comments section below.

An American Werewold In London"Bad Moon Rising" and/or "Blue Moon
Creedence Clearwater Revival and Sam Cooke, respectively 
Used in An American Werewolf In London (1981) 

     Director John Landis has always displayed a gift for selecting the right songs for his movies, as well as for juxtaposing said songs with visuals that seem incongruous.  Sam Cooke's soulful version of "Blue Moon" will forever be joined in my mind with the spectacle of David Kessler screaming in agony as he transforms into the titular werewolf for the first time.  Even so, for some reason it's the use of the Creedence track "Bad Moon Rising" just before that scene that always pops into my head first when I think of the flick.  Bonus points for the  doo-wop version of "Blue Moon" by the Marcels that plays over the end credits.

Halloween II
"Mr. Sandman"   
The Chordettes
Used in Halloween 2 (1981)

     Why does this one stick in my head?  Well, I was only eleven when I saw Halloween 2, and the movie's finale was nerve-wracking to me.  This bouncy version of Mr. Sandman was my signal that the tension would finally subside.  Then that deep male voice - Mr. Sandman - says "Yes?" in response to the girls' addressing him in the song, and I peed a little.  To this day I cling stubbornly to the belief that the voice of the Sandman is disproportionately loud in the mix, and intentionally so.  In my mind, Michael Myers would sound exactly like the Sandman if he spoke. 
Donnie Darko
"Head Over Heels"
Tears For Fears 
Used in Donnie Darko (2001)

     Okay, I know Donnie Darko isn't really a horror movie, but it's damn sure creepy.  I suppose the Gary Jules version of "Mad World" is the haunting song placement here, but it's the brilliant and surprising marriage of the less dour sounding "Head Over Heels" with the montage earlier in the movie that made an impression on me.

The Convent
"You Don't Own Me" and/or "Dream Weaver"
Leslie Gore and Gary Wright, respectively
Used in The Convent (2000)

     I've written before about what a nifty little flick The Convent is, and one of the things it has going for it is not one but two fantastic utilizations of pre-exisiting pop songs.  A Catholic schoolgirl in sunglasses and leather mows down a gaggle of nuns (it is gaggle, right?) to the tune of Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own Me" in the movie's opening momentsPerfect and unforgettable.  We get "Dream Weaver" as part of Frijole's shroom trip later in the movie.

Dawn Of The Dead
"The Man Comes Around" and/or "Down With The Sickness"
Johnny Cash and Richard Cheese & Lounge Against The Machine, respectively
Used in Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

     I genuinely believe that "Down With The Sickness" playing over the getting-used-to-our-post-apocalyptic-mall-life montage is one of the most inspired cinematic appropriations of preexisting music ever.  It's rare that I find myself scanning the end credits looking for song info, so it obviously worked for me.  Even more inspired, though, was using the Johnny Cash song "The Man Comes Around" to accompany clips of the world going to hell in a handbasket during the opening credits.  With its biblical references about the end times intoned as only the inimitable Cash could have, it quickly and effectively lets us know that the shit just got real.

Return Of The Living Dead
"Surfin' Dead" and/or "Burn The Flames"
The Cramps and Roky Erickson, respectively 
Used in Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

     There really aren't any bad song choices in Return Of The Living Dead.  One could just as easily have pointed to "Tonight (We'll Make Love Until We Die)" by SSQ that accompanies Trash's strip tease, or even "Partytime (Zombie Version)" by Grave 45 that accompanies the resurrection of a graveyard full of zombies.  Obviously, "Surfin' Dead" gets the nod because it's The Cramps.  Who can argue with The Cramps?

     It's "Burn The Flames" by Roky Erickson that's really used to fantastic dramatic effect, though.  It accompanies the scene in which Frank removes his wedding ring and then feeds himself to the crematory fires rather than face his inevitable gruesome end.  For anyone reading who's never seen the movie in any form other than the U.S. disc releases, do  yourself a favor and track down a foreign disc on which the soundtrack hasn't been bastardized.  There are a lot of things that are just flat wrong about the soundtrack on those U.S. discs, not the least of which is that the effectiveness of Frank's scene is ruined by the choice to alter the timing of "Burn The Flames" and then fade it out too early.

I Know What You Did Last Summer
Kula Shaker
Used in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

     "Hush" gets a mention more for its effective use in the advertising campaign for I Know What You Did Last Summer than for any use in the movie.  The somewhat inexplicable choice to use a cover of an old Deep Purple song in the ads just feels right.

Tales From The Crypt Demon Night
"Hey Man Nice Shot"
Used in Tales From The Crypt: Demon Night (1995)

     Good use of a good song in a good movie.  I'd never heard of Filter before this, so "Hey Man Nice Shot" is linked to its use here during the opening segment of the story proper for me.

House On Haunted Hill"Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)"
Marilyn Manson
Used in House On Haunted Hill (1999)

     Marilyn Manson's very Mansonesque cover of this cold and clinical sounding old Eurythmics song "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)"  works perfectly wed to footage of everyone making their approach to the titular haunted house.  Manson's tortured and melodramatic delivery just seems to match the mood of this segment.  Each troubled soul making his or her way to the house is doing so in the hopes of securing a million dollar prize for staying overnight in the spooky mansion.  Manson couldn't make that sweet dream of a life altering financial windfall sound any less appealing if he tried.

"Dueling Banjos" (aka "Feudin' Banjos")
Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell Arthur
Used in Deliverance (1972) 

     "Dueling Banjos" is an almost perfect example of sound wed to cinematic vision.  Originally composed and recorded by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith as "Feudin' Banjos" in 1955, the use of the Weissberg/Arthur version in Deliverance sans proper attribution ultimately led to a lawsuit.  It had to be, though, because the disconnect between the viewer's expectations based upon the obviously in-bred appearance of the backwoods banjo player and his virtuosity with the instrument sets the stage for all the ugliness that follows.  It's just not wise to encroach upon another's domain and presume superiority, and the "civilized" weekenders from the city pay dearly for their hubris.

From Dusk Till Dawn
"Dark Night"
The Blasters
Used in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

    As is typical of  the track selection for most any movie soundtrack involving Quentin Tarantino, the choice of the decidedly creepy tune "Dark Night" to play over the stylized opening credits of From Dusk Till Dawn is spot on perfect.  The guitar driven aggression of the track following the tense and violent pre-credits sequence just works.

Shaun Of The Dead
"Don't Stop Me Now"
Used in Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

     Fan fave Shaun Of The Dead is another movie that seems to make all the right musical choices.  Who can forget Shaun and Ed's drunken rendition of "White Lines" outside the Winchester pub?  It's the choice of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" that's integral to the success of the scene in which it's used though.  Watching the movie's principals enthusiastically beat the zombified pub owner with pool cues while the track plays loudly in the background is both incongruous and comical.

The Devil's Rejects
"Free Bird"
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Used in The Devil's Rejects (2005)

      I know I'm firmly in the minority in preferring Rob Zombie's House Of 1000 Corpses to its follow-up.  Still, there's no denying that The Devil's Rejects has its share of powerful moments, not the least of which is Otis, Baby, and Spaulding - down but not quite out - barreling toward the police barricade destined to finally end their murderous crime spree as Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" blares in the background.  I've never cared much for Zombie's choice to so blatantly try to mythologize three such irredeemable characters, but Skynyrd's classic rock mainstay was the right song to accompany the sequence.

The Silence Of The Lambs
"American Girl" 
Tom Petty
Used in The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

     Everyone remembers Buffalo Bill doing the tuck-and-dance to the Q Lazzarus song "Goodbye Horses", but how often do you ever hear the song "Goodbye Horses" in any other context?  On the other hand, Tom Petty's "American Girl" - which plays as Bill abducts a senator's daughter - is still on the radio constantly.  And what do I think of every time I hear it?  Yes, "American Girl" is now forever tainted by the dark and ominous association.

The Exorcist
"Tubular Bells" 
Mike Oldfield
Used in The Exorcist (1974)

    The minor key piano motif we now all immediately associate with The Exorcist was not expressly written for the movie, and it's actually only a small portion of a much longer recording.  It wasn't conceived as a spooky piece of music, but "Tubular Bells" has now been damned by association such that most folks only think of it as "The Theme From The Exorcist".

"Bad To The Bone" 
George Thorogood and The Destroyers
Used in Christine (1983)

     I can't stand the recordings of George Thorogood, but that's mostly because my mother always thought it was funny to wake me from a hangover by playing Thorogood's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" at deafening volume.  Still, there couldn't be a more perfect song than "Bad To The Bone" to accompany the evil 1958 Plymouth Fury's introduction as she draws first blood before she's even done rolling off the assembly line.  Before some car aficionado calls me on it, both the Plymouth Belvedere and the Plymouth Savoy were also used to portray Christine in the movie.  Apparently the Plymouth Fury didn't actually possess all of the features described in Stephen King's novel.  We all know the "real" Christine is a Plymouth Fury though, right?

American Psycho
"Hip To Be Square" 
Huey Lewis and The News
Used in American Psycho (2000)

     I'd have absolutely no use for Huey Lewis and The News had the uber-psychotic Patrick Bateman not paused to school me before offing Paul Allen for having too nice a business card.  The only thing scary about the annoyingly poppy "Hip To Be Square" is that Bateman obviously holds the song in such high esteem.  If only I knew how to create a GIF, because the odd little shimmy the raincoat wearing Bateman performs while waxing philosophical about the brilliance of the song is priceless.

"Red Right Hand"
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Used in Scream (1996)

     Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" is a creepy song in its own right that references a line in John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost about the vengeful hand of God.  It's really not surprising that it turns up in a number of genre movies and television shows.  I first came across the song on an X-Files compilation.  Despite all of its other genre associations, though, it's the brief use of the song backing footage of a deceptively tranquil looking Woodsboro near the beginning of Scream that most resonates.

The House Of The Devil
"One Thing Leads To Another"
The Fixx
Used in The House Of The Devil (2009)

     What can I say?  I just like watching a pretty young girl from the Awesome 80s bop around a spooky old house listening to  The Fixx on her Sony Walkman.  Who doesn't?

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October 12, 2014

Diary Of A Movie Watchin' Madman, Vol. II, Part 1 - Bride Of The Madman

     Like almost everyone, I make a special effort to watch even more genre movies than usual during the month of October.  Last year, this post chronicling my Pre'Ween viewing schedule was a standalone at the end of the month.  This year, however, my notes on all the movies I was watching started to get out of hand.  Here, then, is the first part of the Pre'Ween 2014 Diary Of A Movie Watchin' Madman.  The second part drops at the end of the month.  Speak up in the Comments below.  Since most of these are newer movies, I'm anxious to compare notes.

a messy toilet bowl from Septic Man (2013)
(10/1) Septic Man (2013)  - Tony Burgess wrote Pontypool (2008), one of the best genre movies of the last decade.  He also wrote the recently released Septic Man, the tale of a sewage worker transformed into something hideous by toxic sewage.  You can imagine how excited I was to find it streaming on Vudu for only ninety-nine cents on the very first day of Pre'Ween.  After watching, I think I know why it was on sale.

     Although it held my attention throughout, Septic Man is a hard movie to watch.  Viewers are treated to the graphic rendering of a projectile vomit/projectile diarrhea twofer in the movie's first few minutes, and then it never really gets any less gross after that.  I know.  What did I expect?  It's all right there in the title.  I could have been okay with the crudity, though, if only there had been anything going on beneath the shitty surface.

     Though ponderous and oozing with portent, the shit in Septic Man is never really as deep as director Jesse Thomas Cook obviously wants us to believe it is. To be fair, he does make solid use of Nate Kreiswirth's pulsing, synthesized score to convince the viewer something is happening even when it's not.  Still, the vague narrative and willfully obtuse storytelling of Septic Man ultimately sinks it even if you can stomach the nastiness. This was a less than auspicious start to my Pre'Ween viewing.  (First Watch)

Invasion Of The Bee Girls (1973)
(10/4) Invasion Of The Bee Girls (1973) - I have no recollection of watching this.  I did, but my attention wandered almost immediately.  A movie about women killing men by fucking them to death should've been more compelling.  Invasion Of The Bee Girls was chock full of naked women, bizarre dialog, and bad acting, but those elements just didn't jell into the silly soft-core camp fest I was anticipating.  (First Watch)

Michael Gough in Horror Hospital (1973)(10/6) Horror Hospital (1973) - Michael Gough owns it as the evil Dr. Storm, a wheelchair bound nut job who uses his "Hairy Holidays" health farm to lure wayward hippies to the country to be lobotomized.  The mad doctor has also made a pretty nifty modification to his Rolls Royce.  Did I mention his dwarf manservant Frederick?  It's all here, folks, and it's all just as loopy as it sounds.

     Though I'll cop to being a tiny bit disappointed by Horror Hospital (its reputation led me to believe it would be a little more over the top than it actually was) I can't say I didn't enjoy it.  How could I not be tickled by Frederick the dwarf methodically stacking unconscious bodies on top of one another to reach a lock at the top of a door?   (First Watch)

Killer Adam Lynch in Sledge (2014)(10/8) Sledge (2014) - Unfortunately, this low budget slasher from writer/director/star Kristian Hansen pushed my Pre'Ween movie binge back a few steps.  Hansen attempts to be meta by having us watching someone else watch the movie Sledge on a television program called Assly's True American Horror, but the conceit leads to little more than an obvious final scare.

     You see, the movie-within-a-television-show-within-a-movie entitled Sledge stars a killer named Adam Lynch, who believes himself to be the star of a movie/video game.  His victims are just ducks in a shooting gallery as far as he's concerned.  Of course, his victims in the movie feel differently.  There's potential here, but the tone swings wildly from the humorous (Lynch's stream of consciousness patter as he takes out his victims) to the oddly sober (a laboriously structured love triangle that strains to build viewer empathy for Lynch's victims, though it seems clear from the tone elsewhere that Sledge is only spoofing the sub-genre it emulates).

     In fairness to the filmmakers, I feel obliged to note that reviews of Sledge from around the internet are mostly positive.  I wasn't wowed by Sledge, but a lot of other horror fans were.  Since the production was obviously crafted from limited resources - and makes decent use of said resources - I don't want to be less than charitable in my own assessment.  I can at least acknowledge that I saw potential here, and there are worse ways to blow a few bucks of your streaming budget than supporting an earnest attempt by fledgling filmmakers to do something a little different with a limited budget.  Sledge didn't do much for me, but you may love it.  (First Watch)       

Ted Levine in Banshee Chapter (2013)
(10/10) Banshee Chapter (2013) - Here at last is my first pleasant surprise this Pre'WeenBanshee Chapter had been lurking in my Netflix queue for a long while, but I kept jumping over it because I assumed a narrative revolving around the CIA's nightmarish Project MKUltra would be overwhelmingly depressing and bleak.  It turns out Banshee Chapter plays more like a previously un-produced episode of The X-Files, with plots and conspiracies woven together to create a more traditionally creepy horror flick than I expected.

    Even better, the always amazing Ted "Buffalo Bill" Levine steals the show as writer Thomas Blackburn, a thinly veiled riff on gonzo counter cultural icon Hunter S. Thompson.  Levine seems to be channeling the late Thompson, and his performance elevates Banshee Chapter from decent to noteworthy.  This was the most fun I've had with a horror flick in a long while.  First time director Blair Erickson mines the dark corners of the frame for all the spooky atmosphere possible, and he wields those vast expanses of inky blackness throughout the movie like a weapon.  There are plenty of well-earned jump scares to keep the viewer on edge, and Erickson scares more by virtue of what he doesn't show than what he does.

     It's worth noting, too, that Banshee Chapter borrows many of its creepy narrative conceits from H.P. Lovecraft's "From Beyond", a connection I wasn't aware of prior to viewing.  That being the case, Banshee Chapter stands as one of the better adaptations of Lovecraft that I've seen, as well.  Recommended.  (First Watch)

Horns (2013) poster
(10/11) Horns (2013) - Last but not least in my first wave of Pre'Ween viewing is director Alexandre Aja's pleasingly odd horror fantasy Horns, an adaptation of Joe Hill's novel of the same name.  Star Daniel Radcliffe works hard to put a little distance between himself and Harry Potter, and he largely succeeds.  Aja evolves a bit, too, tackling a story dependent upon both tragedy and humor to maintain its unique tone.  It's a tough balancing act, and Aja pulls it off admirably.

     Since this is a new release, I'm going to refrain from delving too deeply into the details and say only that I had high expectations, being both a fan of the source novel and of director Alexandre Aja's previous work.  I was not disappointed.  Horns is funny, dark, touching, and wholly unique.  While it probably should not be your first choice if you're looking for a traditionally scary horror movie this season, I'm certain most genre fans will find a lot to like about it when in a more reflective frame of mind.  Fittingly, Horns is a movie to curl up with just as you would a good book on a chilly autumn afternoon.  Recommended.  (First Watch)                  


October 9, 2014

Dog Farm Takeover - The Info Zombie Celebrates Jeffrey Combs

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      Greetings to all the fine pooches of Movies at Dog Farm.  This is your temporary (g)host, the Info Zombie.  There is nothing wrong with your web browser. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. I am controlling transmission. If I wish to make it louder, I will bring up the volume. If I wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. I will control the horizontal. I will control the vertical. I can roll the image, make it flutter. I can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the text below, sit quietly and I will control all that you see and hear. I repeat: there is nothing wrong with your Dog Farm. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery that reaches from the inner mind of The Info Zombie to — The Outer Limits
     Or at least the Dog Farm, anyway.

Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West, Re-Animator
Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West, Re-Animator
     In true Halloween fashion, Brandon and I are switching bodies.  Bodies of text, that is.  I am submitting this to the Dog Farm readers, and Brandon will cook up something good for those hungering for brainy stuff at The Info Zombie.  Since Brandon does such an admirable job examining horror movies, I will not try to emulate the outstanding work he produces.  Instead, I will celebrate a horror movie icon.

     Let’s give a strong, Dog Farm bark to Jeffrey Combs.

     Trained on the West Coast, Combs graduated University of Washington’s performing arts program and transitioned to the stage.  In 1981 he appeared in his first film role as the drive-in teller in Honky Tonk Freeway.  From that nominal role grew a career of being the most recognizable face in horror films.

     Combs, best known for the Re-Animator series, has appeared in five adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft works.  Splitting time between stage, television, and film, the actor has portrayed some of the great authors including Edgar Allan Poe, Lovecraft, and even L. Frank Baum.  He’s been in space on Star Trek and even animated in several forms including The Question of The Justice League, and the Autobot Ratchet.

Jeffrey Combs as Poe, Shran, and The Question
Jeffrey Combs has portrayed (from left to right) author Edgar Allan Poe, the alien Shran on Star Trek: Enterprise, and the voice of The Question on The Justice League

     A go-to actor for Stuart Gordon, others including Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson tapped the actor for some small roles made big courtesy of Combs.  He often plays the determined, quiet type with a severe intensity.  Combs’ portrayal of Herbert West crafted the archetypal performance of the eccentric genius.  Even his delivery in the forgettable Would You Rather (2013) comes off with an undercurrent of odd that causes hairs to stand erect.  Watch House on Haunted Hill (1999) to get Combs delivering a nightmare generating performance sans dialogue.  His stare from behind Dr. Vannacutt’s surgical mask holds the intensity of a bullet in the chamber on a one-way ride.

Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Vannacutt in House On Haunted Hill (1999)
As Dr. Vannacutt in House On Haunted Hill (1999)
     Although his career has since shifted to voice overs for cartoons, the star has performed in short films, video games, and theme park rides.  As of this article’s production, Combs will be appearing in films like Art School of Horrors (2015).  This year will mark the thirty-third of film work for this actor celebrating six decades of quality living.

     We can’t get Jeffery Combs an Academy Award©, but we can do the man a solid by visiting his website, renting his movies, and giving the man some notice on social media.  Don’t let someone who has entertained us so well go on without some slight recognition.  If you catch him at a Horror Con, let him know how you appreciate his work.  Best of all, a spike in his movie sales and rentals will show the industry that we know how to treat our valued actors.

     We now return you to your regularly scheduled Dog Farm.  As we say over in the scholar’s cemetery, Keep rising from the graves of ignorance, my Zombies!


     Thanks for sharing with the Dog Farm, Carl!  My post for The Info Zombie is forthcoming...

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October 1, 2014

Lost In The Forest, All Alone - Fear Forest In Harrisonburg, VA Haunts Pre'Ween Again Throughout October

The entrance to Fear Forest in Harrisonburg, Virginia
The entrance to Fear Forest in Harrisonburg, Virginia

     It may seem surprising, but I don't care much for haunted attractions.  They're great in theory, but I'm a big ol' wuss when it comes to actually visiting one.  It's incongruous, I know, but there's just something too tangible about the scares in a haunted attraction.  I need my scares once removed by way of a video presentation so I can deal with the horror intellectually.  I once literally ran screaming from a haunted attraction in Virginia Beach and then out into the traffic in the street beyond.

A disorienting tunnel of terror at Fear Forest in Harrisonburg, VA
This thing spins in person, folks...
     Even so, every Pre'Ween celebration demands at least one trip to a live haunt.  When the day grows short and the air grows chilly, my inner child - wuss though he may be - craves it.  Fortunately, I have Harrisonburg's Fear Forest just a few miles away each and every October.

     Fear Forest - where they say only the trees can hear you scream - is a spooky trek nearly half a mile long through haunted woodland dotted with thrills, chills, live performers, and ghoulish attractions every step of the way.  There's just something irresistible about walking a dark woodland path by moonlight as the screams of others echo through the trees.  Plenty of other haunted attractions operate nearby here in Virginia, but Fear Forest has earned my allegiance.  I'm sure it helps that it's outdoors, and I can always run screaming without the need to dodge oncoming traffic.

     I'll also be taking my first trip through Fear Forest's second attraction this year, an interactive zombie laser showdown called the Fear Crops Zombie Harvest.  It's an interactive haunted hay wagon ride through a cornfield crawling with the undead.  This isn't just target practice, tough.  These zombie gunslingers are shooting back!

Fear Forest hours of operation for October 2014
Fear Forest hours of operation for October 2014
     Fear Forest is open to the public beginning Friday, October 3rd.  You can check the Fear Forest website for complete details.

     Admission is $12.00 per person per attraction, or $17.00 per person for admission to both attractions.  If you can't stand spending too much time dreading the horrors that await, you can opt for a Fast Pass Admission to both attractions for only $27.00.

Brandy Nesselrodt in costume for Fear Forest     Fear Forest co-creator Brandy Nesselrodt generously made time in her busy Pre'Ween schedule recently to answer a few questions for Movies At Dog Farm.  She tells us a bit about the history of her haunted attraction, and she also hints as to what might be lurking in those haunted woods this October...

How did Fear Forest come into being, and was its creation initially your brainchild?

     Fear Forest actually started as an ATV trail.  My husband Chad Nesselrodt, a few friends, and myself sometimes would ride the trail at night followed by a campfire in the field.  One night Chad and I were talking about how spooky it was in the dark...and that's where Fear Forest was first imagined.  We were actors in a haunted cornfield attraction when we were younger, so we thought it would be a fun idea we could do together.  We never imagined that we would still be going bigger and better nine years later.

How many volunteers do you typically get for the Fright Crew?

     We have two attractions at Fear Forest - the haunted woods trail and Fear Crops Zombie Harvest.  The haunted woods trail usually is occupied by forty-five to fifty "monsters" a night.  Fear Crops is a laser tag attraction where the attendees get to shoot twenty or more of our walking dead.  Then there is ticket staff, tractor drivers, tech support members, and security.  That adds up to a full staff list of about eighty people a night to make our show operate.  Our volunteers do receive a cash bonus for participation at the end of the season.

Fear Forest pic number oneHave any of your volunteers every been a little too into it?  

     We've been very fortunate that most of our Fright Crew love to scare, and have what it takes.  I would say more volunteers join thinking it is going to be easy and a lot of fun.  The exact opposite is true!  Haunting is hard work, and it takes a special person to do it.  They have to be level-headed, willing to try different techniques, and not afraid to put themselves out there. 

Have you ever had an idea for the event that you ultimately decided was too intense or inappropriate for the general public? 

     My mom actually monitors some of my ideas!  "Nothing to do with babies, religion, or devil worshipping!"  We do have church and youth group organizations that attend.  We want to keep our show on the verge of extreme, but refrain from being offensive.  I think that is why it is so well-perceived.  It's like the good old scary movies I grew up on, intense startles without having to be graphic or...(laughs) I don't even know what to call some scary movies these days!

How many visitors did Fear Forest host last year? 

     Weather is a big factor in our attendance.  Weekend nights we could have between eight hundred to a thousand attendees, while weeknights average four hundred to seven hundred attendees. 

Fear Forest pic number two
What was the origin of your second attraction, Fear Crops?

     Zombies are a big thing right now.  We attend a trade show for haunted attractions every year.  Zombie paintball was a new thing that some vendors were promoting.  But considering how cold it gets here in Virginia in October, we felt none of our zombies were going to want to get pelted by over a thousand frozen paint balls a night.  So we took what we saw and altered the idea to suit what we wanted to offer our customers.  

     We switched it up to laser guns, and we thought it would be cool if our zombies got to shoot back!  Also, we made it a ride on old transformed ensilage wagons.  It's sort of like a safari, but the wagons suit our theme much better.

What new and exciting additions can visitors expect to see this year at Fear Forest/Fear Crops? 

     This year we've added several new scenes to Fear Forest, and we've switched some of our more popular scenes.  We have added some pneumatic props this year and some awesome visual effects our attendees have never seen at Fear Forest.  There's more detail and a lot of hard effort.  I think after nine years our guests will be pleasantly surprised by what is waiting for them.  We've also made the trail a little more tolerable for those who had a phobia of exercise.  At four-tenths of a mile, a steep climb in the middle wasn't the brightest decision in our initial trail plan.  Now the path gently follows a less strenuous curve. 

Fear Forest pic number three
     We are hoping to continue to build an audience for Fear Crops this year.  The western theme continues there this year.  But what's more fun than an old country shoot out? 

I have to assume you probably like scary movies.  What are a few of your favorites, and why? 

     I'm really into the horror I grew up on!  Carrie, Friday The 13th, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Fright Night - the ORIGINALS, of course!  There was something about those horror movies I loved when I was a kid that makes them my favorites still today. 


     Thanks again to Brandy Nesselrodt for taking the time to give us a peek behind the curtain!  Be sure to visit www.fearforest.net for more infoNOW KEEP SCROLLING...

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Welcome, Pre'Weeners, To The Heart Of Darkness - The Return Of The Dog Farm To The Info Zombie Podcast #84

      In what is an almost unheard of circumstance, I find myself posting twice in the same day.  Pre'Ween just makes everything craaazy!  Carl at The Info Zombie was kind enough to invite me back for my second guest shot on The Info Zombie Podcast for episode #84.  Check it out, because he may not make the same error in judgement a third time.  You can listen to the episode below or by downloading The Info Zombie Podcast #84 on iTunes.  Be sure to subscribe to Carl's podcast while you're visiting iTunes, and check out The Info Zombie website, as well.

     I also wanted to take a moment to welcome Carl and all the other bloggers helping the Dog Farm celebrate Pre'Ween this year.  Following is a list of participants already on the roster, with hopefully even more to be added later.

Giovanni Susina at At The Mansion Of Madness
Jonny Dead at Bloodsucking Geek
Bob Smash at Candy-Coated Razor Blades
Barry Cinematic at Cinematic Catharsis
Matt St. Cyr at Midnight Cinephile
Carl Boehm at The Info Zombie
The Vern at The Vern's Video Vortex
Steven Shaw at Watching The Dead
Kev D. at Zombie Hall 

     I encourage everyone to visit each of these fine websites, and you can stop by here at the Dog Farm for updates on all of the most recent posts, as well.  Just click any of the Pre'Ween 2014 graphics that currently litter the site for all of the latest!

     "Just one more thing..."

     This month's Movies At Dog Farm Virtual Drive-In is scheduled for Saturday, October 4th at 9:30 pm Eastern Standard.  We'll be watching Invasion Of The Bee Girls (1973).  Yeah, that's right... Invasion Of The Bee Girls.  If you're interested in joining us - and I know you are - click here for details.

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