RIP Lost Boys Actor, Brooke McCarter

Brooke McCarter may not be the most recognizable name in the horror genre, but fans of THE LOST BOYS know exactly who this actor is. McCarter played Paul, one of the vampires of that iconic 1987 film, alongside the fantastic cast including Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Dianne Wiest, Barnard Hughes, Edward Herrmann, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Alex Winter, and Corey Feldman. THE LOST BOYS was my generation’s TWILIGHT except… ya know, THE LOST BOYS was actually a great and watchable film. In it, a family moves to a new town where they discover that the entire area is a haven for vampires. The film touched on such themes as teen angst, feeling cast aside by society, and having strong family ties. But what made this film such a classic is that it was scary and had great actors and a fantastic script. One of the more memorable characters was Brooke McCarter’s Paul. He was as ferocious as he was a “heart throb,” and when he wanted to, he really put a chill up your spine.

McCarter died this past Tuesday at age 52 from a genetic liver condition.

Lost Boys3

McCarter didn’t have a long acting career. According to his website, he left Hollywood in 1998 to pursue a career in the telecommunications industry. Besides his hugely influential role in THE LOST BOYS, McCarter appeared in TV shows THE TWILIGHT ZONE and ROUTE 66, and prior to THE LOST BOYS appeared in the skateboarding film THRASHIN’, which also starred a teenage Tony Hawk, Josh Brolin and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But although he left Hollywood behind, he was dedicated to attending many horror conventions and signing autographs and taking pictures with his fans.

2015 claimed another big horror celebrity and the vampire sub-genre will never be the same.

Rest in peace, Brooke McCarter.

Stay Bloody!!!

Lost Boys1

Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

We lost a horror icon this week.

"Do you mind? I'm trying to have lunch..."
“Do you mind? I’m trying to have lunch…”

That term gets bandied about far too easily, with many actors, actresses and filmmakers obtaining that title from hyperbolic publicity agents and journalists. But no one could possibly say that Lee didn’t deserve his. For so many of us, he was Dracula, many times even more so than Lugosi (sorry, Bela), as well as the Frankenstein Monster, Rasputin, Sherlock Holmes, Saruman, Fu Manchu, Mephistopheles, Scaramanga, Death itself… He was one of the most prolific actors of all time, his movies grossing over five billion dollars, he was one of the tallest (at six foot five), having worked with so many actors over more than half a century that you can link to anyone more easily via Lee than Kevin Bacon.

He was a member of three stuntmen unions (the injuries he’s accumulated over the years by doing his own stunts have included busting his face smashing head-first through an actual plate glass window for a scene, falling into an open grave while portraying Dracula, and having his hand slashed open in a drunken sword fight with Errol Flynn). He performed more onscreen swordfights than any other actor in history, and spoke French, German, Italian and Spanish fluently (and could “get along” in Greek, Russian and Swedish).

Lee could wear anything and make it look good!
Lee could wear anything and make it look good!

It seems a little sad that I could only find two of his movies reviewed on Anythinghorror, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN and HORROR EXPRESS. It might seem sad, but you know, it’s par for the course. When your filmography varies from DRACULA to WICKER MAN to HOWLING 2: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF, you can expect a mixed bag (and such was his awesomeness that even his crappiest movies were more watchable than most of what passes for entertainment these days).

He was made a knight fairly late in life for services to motion pictures. That’s also par for the course for veteran actors, who often get these for simply living long enough. But if you know about Lee’s amazing – no, astounding – off-screen life, you’d be throwing titles and castles and dragons his way too.

Lee as RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK - and he met the real one's assassins!
Lee as RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK – and he met the real one’s assassins!

Christopher Lee was born in England in 1922. His father was a multi-decorated war hero who’d served as a Colonel in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps during the First World War (and was a distant relative of American Confederate general Robert E Lee). His mother was an Italian Countess of the Cardini family related through marriage to the Borgias, and when he was a boy his mother woke him up to introduce him to Prince Yusopov and Dmitri Pavlovich, the assassins of Rasputin. Can you imagine the excuse he gave to his teacher the next morning for falling asleep in class? “Sorry, Miss, I was up late eating Cheerios with the guys who killed The Mad Monk.”

After spending most of his school life being a champion at squash, fencing, hockey, rugby and probably Quidditch too, and a crappy office job, he left England in 1939 to join the Finnish Army when the Soviets invaded. But as that proved too boring for him, he returned to England in time to deal with the Nazis.

Why yes, he *could* kick your ass, thank you very much...
Why yes, he *could* kick your ass, thank you very much…

And I mean deal with them. No bullshit cushy job entertaining the troops for Lee. He cracked German cyphers. He was part of the Long Range Desert Patrol in the Sahara, which involved riding in from the desert on the back of a jeep emptying a .50 caliber machine gun into Luftwaffe airfields, and then heading back out into the desert to have some tea. After this, he was assigned to the Special Operations Executive, otherwise known as Winston Churchill’s Secret Army, the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, and probably to the Germans as Those Fucking British Lunatics.

Seriously, the work the executive did made the Inglourious Basterds look like the kids from GLEE. Most of their work was (and still is) classified, but included assisting Eastern European and North African partisans in sabotaging Nazi facilities, supply lines and probably Hitler’s secret porn stash.

"Gandalf? He's a pussy!"
“Gandalf? He’s a pussy!”

Lee never talked about his service with many specifics, but later in life, while Peter Jackson was working on a scene in LORD OF THE RINGS where a character was to be stabbed in the back, Lee described in detail how a man actually dies from a knife… “I’ve seen many men die right in front of me – so many in fact that I’ve become almost hardened to it. Having seen the worst that human beings can do to each other, the results of torture, mutilation and seeing someone blown to pieces by a bomb, you develop a kind of shell. But you had to. You had to. Otherwise we would never have won.”

Don't ask him to sing the MUNSTERS theme!
Don’t ask him to sing the MUNSTERS theme!

Lee went into acting in 1948, finally getting a break a decade later in 1957, when Hammer Films hired him to play the Frankenstein Monster. The following year, he became Dracula, and spent a long time hip deep in fake blood and heaving bosoms. Though his screen times for these two characters is relatively brief (the lion’s share of the screen time usually taken by his old friend Peter Cushing as either Victor Frankenstein or Van Helsing), such was his screen presence that he captured the attention, and the imagination.

Lee would appear with Cushing in twenty four movies over the succeeding decades, from THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1957 up to HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983). In his autobiography, he related on his first meeting with Peter Cushing during production of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, when Lee stormed into the dressing room where Cushing was sitting and angrily yelled “I haven’t got any lines!” to which Cushing replied, “You’re lucky; I’ve read the script.”

Get a haircut, hippie...
Get a haircut, hippie…

He’d grown tired of the Dracula role, but kept getting drawn back to it time and again by Hammer Films, who would employ emotional blackmail about how all the cast and crew would be put out of work if he dropped out. Not that he was bitter: “I’ve always acknowledged my debt to Hammer. I’ve always said I’m very grateful to them. They gave me this great opportunity, made me a well-known face all over the world for which I am profoundly grateful.”

“007? He’s a pussy!”

But he still took on many other iconic roles, most notably as Lord Summerisle in THE WICKER MAN (1973). He was one of the most memorable Bond villains in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (he served in WW2 in the Special Operations Executive with a certain Ian Fleming, whose experiences inspired him later on to create super-agent James Bond), and has made his mark in several franchises, including the aforementioned LORD OF THE RINGS (he was the only actor in those films to have personally met author JRR Tolkien) and STAR WARS (even if it was part of the shitty Prequel trilogy).

You wanna listen, admit it...
You wanna listen, admit it…

Lee once said, “One should try anything he can in his career, except folkdance and incest.” Well, I don’t know about incest, but Lee has also dabbled in music. Apart from being a classically-trained opera singer, he has released a heavy metal concept album about Charlemagne when he was 88 years old (working with Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner), as well as several other heavy metal albums. No “modern music is no good” bullshit from our Lee.

Anything else? He married a Danish supermodel and stayed faithful to her for over forty years.  He was a master golfer who played with Jack Nicklaus. He was a Commander of the Order of St. John’s of Jerusalem, a Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire, and once received a medal from Mikael Gorbachev. He’s hosted Saturday Night Live (with Meat Loaf as the music guest), was one of the judges for the 1995 Miss World beauty pageant. He knew the name of every official executioner England has employed since the Fifteenth Century, because it was a hobby of his…

CL0Actor, singer, secret agent, vampire, Sith Lord, Bond villain, wizard. he was all these things, and many more. Sir Christopher Lee, RIP.

Below is the climactic battle from DRACULA (1958) with Peter Cushing. Enjoy.

MOVIE REVIEW: CHUPACABRA VS THE ALAMO (2013)

3SyFy movies are their own art form. Think of them like Kabuki, but populated with fat has-beens, shitty CGI and loopy as fuck premises (Like the days of 50s Monster Movies that made the posters before the films, SyFy must certainly come up with the titles of their shitfests before hiring their apes to pen the story.

CHUPACABRA VS THE ALAMO is one such title, and though it doesn’t roll off the tongue like DINOCROC VS SUPERGATOR, it certainly does the job of catching your attention. Not that movies set in and around the Alamo have set the world on fire. The 1960 version, one of only two movies I can recall being directed as well as starring John Wayne, may have had enough clout to secure a Best Picture Oscar nomination (something PSYCHO failed to do), but it’s critically derided now. Ron Howard made a version in 2004, but fewer people saw it than actually were involved in the production. I guess when the filmmakers hear the legendary phrase “Remember the Alamo!” they miss the part that remembers that the 1836 siege was essentially an incident that Americans lost, and no one likes being reminded of defeats. Ever have your mother dig out the scrapbook of photos she took of you losing the Sixth Grade Spelling Bee? Still hurts, doesn’t it?

(By the way, Mrs Roberti, if you’re still alive and reading this: Renaissance. R-E-N-A-I-S-S-A-N-C-E. Renaissance. Happy? Now go kiss the fattest part of my ass.)

"Hi! Remember me, kids?"
“Hi! Remember me, kids?”

Anyway, CHUPACABRA VS THE ALAMO. This stars Erik Estrada, whom nerds and MILFS of my generation will remember as one half of the motorcycle cop dup from the hit TV show CHiPS, which I never watched because there were no robots or talking cars in it, so fuck that, but I do remember him from a minor role in the KOLCHAK series where he played a kid scheduled for human sacrifice to an Inca mummy. He’s in his sixties now, but has got that hunky Brian Dennehy thing going for him, and still wears the black leathers and rides his motorcycle around as he plays a DEA agent whose name is not important, because I’m gonna keep calling him Estrada.

The movie opens in a dark tunnel, presumably near the US/Mexico border, because we see some people smugglers confronting some dark, snarling shapes, shapes that seem impervious to their bullets and come after them. Credit where credit’s due, we don’t waste too much time before the first deaths, we don’t even get the opening titles first.

Then we cut to Estrada, whose got a sulky teenage daughter named Sienna (Nicole Munoz, THE LAST MIMSY), because every movie father’s teenage daughter is sulky. Not mine. Mine’s a darling, made from angels’ smiles and rainbows, so either I’ve lucked out or the movies are lying to me. Anyway, that morning is the anniversary of the death of Estrada’s wife, and he had been planning on taking Sienna to the grave, but not his son Tommy (Samuel Patrick Chu, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2), though before we learn the reasons for this, he is called to the crime scene in the aforementioned tunnel. He drives off, too cool for a helmet.

Aside: does Texas have a motorcycle helmet law? I think they do. So either Estrada is one of those cops who play by his own rules – something novel there – or this was filmed someplace where the helmet laws didn’t apply, and the production company was too inept to consider this minor detail. A quick check finds that there is a partial law in the state for younger people, though surely federal agencies would require their agents to take minimum safety precautions. I did find out that this movie was in fact filmed in British Columbia. In Canada. And that when we do get to see the outside of the Alamo, it will be courtesy of a photograph.

I FUCKING LOVE YOU, SYFY. I WANT TO HAVE YOUR BABIES.

Ahem.

Not the Terminator, but an amazingly crap simulation.
Not the Terminator, but an amazingly crap simulation.

Estrada shows up at the scene in time to meet his new partner, Agent Taylor (Julie Benson, SGU STARGATE UNIVERSE). She’s a by-the-book type, and is not impressed by Estrada’s dismissive, maverick attitude (holy fuck, I almost choked on the cliché I just got fed). A buddy of Estrada’s explains that, among other things, one of Estrada’s ancestors was at the Alamo, a bit of knowledge that’s about as useful as a pack of condoms to Jodie Foster. Estrada and Taylor venture further into the tunnels, finding a trafficker still alive, but looking like the Friday Night Special at Hannibal Lector’s Taco Stand. He manages one last word: “Diablo.”

“He said “Devil”, Estrada exposits helpfully, clearly having studied under Counselor Deanna Troi. The agents then encounter several somethings chewing on bodies, and Estrada blasts one. A coroner examining the body says it’s sort of canine, and sort of something else, and nobody wants to come out and say that it’s one of the legendary Chupacabras. But whatever it is, it’s rabid, and not alone.

Meanwhile, Estrada’s buddy is out in the wilderness with his dog, when his dog gets killed (offscreen of course). He finds a Chupacabra over the dog’s body, and rather than use the pistol that is in his hand and ready to fire, he sets it aside and tries to take a picture of the Chup. You deserve death, moron. Oh, and look, he gets what he deserves. Thanks, SyFy!

Having this in focus would not help one bit...
Having this in focus would not help one bit…

Estrada is then seen driving around on his motorcycle again. This time, however, he’s doing it in front of THE SHITTEST REAR SCREEN PROJECTION EVER. I swear to God, you’d think it was something from the Silent Age of Movies. I’ve seen better cinematography from Helen Keller. Anyway, disbelieving the Chupacabra angle despite the evidence, he goes off to find his son Tommy, and we learn that he’s been disowned because of the kid’s gangster ties, and so thinks his son’s friends might have had something to do with the tunnel deaths. We get more expositional dialogue; I’d swear this script was written by a guy who usually spends his time making descriptions for the visually impaired.

When a Chupacabra gets his jaws around a knob...
When a Chupacabra gets his jaws around a knob…

Meanwhile, people we hardly know are being savagely killed by things we hardly see – at least until we get to an outdoor teenage party (I believe the young people call a rave or a rove), a party attended by Sienna! One guy stops making out with his girl to take a piss, and gets his dick bitten off. There’s always one of those guys at parties I’m at; that, or they’re throwing up in the garden.

"Madre de Dios, and other cliché 'authentic' dialogue!"
“Madre de Dios, and other cliché ‘authentic’ dialogue!”

Sienna and her friend eventually escape after ripping off the Raptor Kitchen scene from JURASSIC PARK and manage to get home, but the Chup pack eventually tracks them down like the shark did in JAWS THE REVENGE.

They break in, and the girls have to use various kitchen implements until Estrada shows up. Okay, given that we don’t actually see the Chups interact with her, not even puppet style, we can only imagine that she’s using an electric knife and hot iron on something on them. But then she throws a Chup puppy in a microwave, which made me piss my pants with laughter as we hear it yelp and die. Not that I would want to see somethign like that in real life, but…

Okay, the deaths of dozens of people can’t be ignored, and the Governor calls out the National Guard, but they won’t show up for a few days (the writer seems to have forgotten that San Antonio is not one of those isolated monster movie towns up in the hills, but a sprawling metropolis). So Estrada decides to take matters into his own hands, and with Taylor and some other expendable agents, he teams up with his son’s gangster friends to deal with the Chups themselves. And guess where they all meet up? (By the way, how did the Chups make it the 150+miles from the border to San Antonio? I know: they took a Greyhound! Hah!)

CHUPACABRA VS THE ALAMO is a batshit crazy as it sounds. The Chups, when you see them, are shit beyond belief, and I’m not just talking about the craptitude of the CGI. They look so emaciated I’d swear they were Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton running around on all fours acting like they remember what it was like to eat solid food and not Hollywood producer wang. There’s talk of hundreds of people being killed in San Antonio, but of course we won’t see them, running around in British Columbia. There’s a laughable attempt to drop some Spanish words and phrases here and there to make it all sound ‘authentic’ (hint: saying, “You in the Hood now, jefe” doesn’t work). And as I mentioned before, the exterior of the Alamo is a photograph (and the interior is apparently manned by only two people, and the ancient muskets they keep there are fully loaded and can be immediately fired by any 21st Century doofus), and the acting is what you’d see on a laxative commercial, only with less conviction.

Awww...
Awww…

But you know, as much as I want to fault the movie, fuck it, I’m watching the film equivalent of a blind, three-legged dog trying to hump an angry tiger! I know it’s gonna end terribly, but I’m having way too much fun admiring the sheer audacious ineptitude at play here! Erik Estrada, you chubby walnut, I’ll have your babies if you ever make a sequel to this, and I can see you riding around America fighting other American cryptoids and making battlegrounds of other landmarks.

Next up: SKUNK APES VS MOUNT RUSHMORE!

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director:
Plot: 1 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. It had its tongue cut out for defying Ming.

In Memoriam: Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013)

Ray with the MedusaWow. Ray Harryhausen, you bloody amazing artist.

I was astounded by your body of work before. Looking back now on how much you’ve done over the decades, and my astonishment has grown.

Sometimes you can identify a movie based on the actors in it, or by the directors, or even by the studios who made it. Names become adjectives: Hitchcock, Spielberg, MGM, Schwarzenegger, Hanks, Corman. But identifying a movie based on the technical crew? You’d have to be seriously into the business to do something like that. Nobody gives a shit about the nerds behind the camera unless they’re some over the top director, right?

Except for Ray Harryhausen. He got the recognition outside his field, and with good reason. You admired his work. More, you loved his work.

Ray with Mr Joseph Young
Ray with Mr Joseph Young

And why not? It was magic, real movie magic. You want to double that magic? Remember it was all done, not by computers but by his own hands. You want to triple that magic? Remember that so much of it was done, not by a team, but by one man, sitting alone in a darkened room, maybe spending all day making only a few seconds worth of usable footage.

Still not enough for you? Consider his background: When Harryhausen was 13, he went to see the original KING KONG, and fell in love with the work that pioneer special effects artist Willis O’Brien did on it. As he was sixty-plus years before the Internet and before anyone gave a shit about special effects, Harryhausen did his own research on stop-motion photography and model work and such, eventually contacting O’Brien himself. Further encouraged by O’Brien’s positive response, Harryhausen made a demo reel that earned him his first film job with legendary director/producer George Pal.

It came from beneath the sea...and trashed the Golden Gate before Magneto ever did...
It came from beneath the sea…and trashed the Golden Gate before Magneto ever did…

After the War, Harryhausen eventually got to work with O’Brien on MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), though his real big break came with THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), and the low budget of that film meant he had to learn to develop new techniques. The result was one of the most influential movies of the decade.

From that point on, Harryhausen went from strength to strength, working on an amazing number of films in the fantasy, historical and science fiction genres: IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (which he regarded as his best film), ONE MILLION YEARS BC, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI… His work moved through the Sixties and Seventies and into the Eighties, culminating with the now-classic CLASH OF THE TITANS (1982), whose CGI-infested remake is but a piss-poor reflection.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is in town with a few days to kill...
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is in town with a few days to kill…

And in his time, he created a whole slew of memorable creatures: the giant bronze statue Talos and skeletal warriors in JASON, the giant Golden Gate-trashing octopus from IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, the blade-wielding Kali from THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, the Selenites from FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, the Baboon and the Cyclops from SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER. Harryhausen gave them character and individuality, subtle changes of facial expression and almost imperceptible ruffles in fur and feathers (often just to keep himself amused while spending hundreds of hours on these tiny figures!).

Talos the Giant Living Statue from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS!
Talos the Giant Living Statue from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS!

There are some people who have only known modern special effects, and look down their nose at Harryhausen’s work as unrealistic and inferior. Here’s the thing about those people: they’re wrong. Oh yeah, you might see more realistic-looking dinosaurs in a JURASSIC PARK movie, just like a photograph of a smiling woman will capture a lot more than a painting. But it won’t be the Mona Lisa. It won’t be the painstaking, meticulous efforts of a true artist. the man could work miracles with a shoestring budget, and could still teach filmmakers today a thing or two.

Next on Fox: When Size Zeroes Attack!
Next on Fox: When Supermodels Attack!

My other, better half is a primary school teacher who, when the subject matter turns to Myths and Legends, will play JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and CLASH OF THE TITANS for her kids. And they’re entranced, totally swept along by what they see: the skeletal warriors rising up to battle the Greeks, the menacing Medusa, the Harpies and the Hydra and the Kraken. Movies that are decades old still stand the test of time, when so much newer dreck ages quicker than cheese in the sun.

Harryhausen could have continued after CLASH, but retired due to the changing nature of the movies: “When I was growing up we had heroes such as Cary Grant, Ronald Colman and David Niven, real gentlemen on the screen. Now, all you have is Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and all those people who solve problems with their fists. It’s a different world and I sometimes feel I’m not part of it.”

SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977)
SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977)

It was not until 1992 that Harryhausen finally achieved film immortality with an honorary Oscar, a long-overdue tribute to the one name that personifies visual magic (Of his Oscar, he said, “I was delighted to be recognized, and pleased now that animation is recognized as a legitimate profession.”).

Thankfully, those in the business today recognise and honor the ground he has broken and the long hard work he put in – and that he had lived to accept it: “I’m very happy that so many young fans have told me that my films have changed their lives. That’s a great compliment. It means I did more than just make entertaining films. I actually touched people’s lives — and, I hope, changed them for the better.”

You did, Ray, you did. No one will ever match what you’ve done.

Rest in peace.

Star

Horror in a Casino: Leprechaun 3 (1995)

Leprechaun3 posterPerhaps LEPRECHAUN 3 is not the worst ever horror movie with a casino theme, but it must get close to it. The film received a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though extraordinarily it received a high rating on the Internet Movie Database.

The film, released in 1995, stars Warwick Davis who plays the Leprechaun. It is the third in a series of six Leprechaun films all of which center round a rather nasty killer leprechaun who refuses to be parted from his hoard of gold.

In Leprechaun 3 begins the Leprechaun has magically been changed into a statue and sold to a pawn shop in Las Vegas however, when the store keeper removes a medallion from him he reverts to being a Leprechaun and kills the store keeper.

Scott McCoy is a student recently arrived in Las Vegas. He helps out and subsequently falls for a girl named Tammy who is having problems with her car and gives her a lift to the Lucky Shamrock Casino, her place of work. However Scott hangs around and loses his cash at roulette. He visits the pawn shop, finds the dead body, notices the Leprechaun’s missing coin, gets granted a wish, and wishes for a winning streak.

Leprechaun3 2He returns to the casino where his wish comes off, but he is robbed and later attacked by the Leprechaun which bites him before he gets away. The bite causes him to slowly take on Leprechaun traits including an Irish accent. It could have been a better ending for Scott if he had wished for his streak in an online casino like “www.jackpotcity.co.uk/online-slots“- at least the leprechaun might have had a bit more trouble getting into his house!

Suddenly it seems that everyone can have a wish. We will not reveal any more of the plot, not so much to avoid a plot spoiler, but you are unlikely to believe it. But in the end, the Leprechaun is defeated and is incinerated along with his gold. Everyone lives happily ever after, that is until Leprechaun 4.

We go along with Rotten Tomatoes, zero stars.

TV Review: Hannibal (2013)

Hannibal PosterConfession time: I hate prequels. Really, as a rule they tend to be wastes of time for me. The STAR WARS prequels, BATMAN BEGINS, the SMALLVILLE TV series, DUMB AND DUMBERER… THE MUPPET BABIES… a few others I can’t be bothered naming. None of them really worked for me, mostly because the stories behind the characters and tales that inspired the prequels are rarely as interesting as the original stories, otherwise the storytellers would have started with the prequels. Would anyone really give a crap to read a whole novel about Dorothy before she got into the witch-killing business in Oz? Or see The Goonies when they were infant adventurers? Or a Young Indiana Jones- no wait…

Okay, I’m not saying this rule is consistent.

Anyway, prequels rarely work for me. So when I heard that Bryan Fuller (HEROES, PUSHING DAISIES) was frontrunning a TV series focusing on the notorious Dr Hannibal Lecter before the events of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, I was dubious. I had watched the movie HANNIBAL RISING, which purported to blame writer Thomas Harris’ cannibalistic psychiatrist’s lethal tastes on anguish involving his sister’s death at the hands of Nazi war criminals, and was less than impressed. It would surely be at best a failed effort on the part of Fuller (though I enjoyed what he did with the pilot for MOCKINGBIRD LANE, reviewed here), just cashing in on Hannibal’s public recognition factor.

Well, based on the two episodes I’ve watched so far, I was wrong, because this is really quite an impressive show!

There will be blood...Fuller gives us a contemporary take on Harris’ characters, both good and bad, but before the events in any of Harris’ books. Our hero is profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, KING ARTHUR), a man with emotional problems due to his remarkable empathy, that lets him identify with the killers he pursues – perhaps too much. Despite his desire to remain an instructor, he’s lured back by FBI special agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne, THE MATRIX) on a particularly difficult serial killer case. Crawford, however, not wanting Graham to implode (though more out of self-preservation for his career than concern for Graham), looks for a psychiatric evaluation. And there’s a certain, well-spoken psychiatrist named Hannibal Lecter (Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, CASINO ROYALE), who shows a keen interest in Graham.

One thing that struck me about watching HANNIBAL was that it didn’t feel like a standard network show. This might just be due to the director of the pilot, David Slade, who brought us the superlative 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. This could have just been a generic police procedural, and there are aspects of that in what I’ve seen. But there’s also that visual class that Jonathan Demme brought to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, offering gory, grisly images framed with elegance (and from the looks of things, it’s gonna get worse before it gets better – which is most appreciated LOL).

Hannibal CastHugh Dancy manages to make the role of Graham (portrayed in the movies by William Petersen and Edward Norton) his own, making his profiler at times abrasive and unpleasant because of the uncomfortable and vulnerable state his empathy often leaves him. There is a nice “windshield wiper” visual effect whenever he’s at a crime scene and imagines what had happened, further adding to the sense that Graham doesn’t think like other people. He’s ably supported by a professional cast from film, television and theatre, including Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas (DEVIL), Gina Torres (FIREFLY), comedian Scott Thompson, and X-FILES’ own Gillian Anderson.

movies_mads_mikkelsen_hannibal_1

But the real question is if Mads Mikkelsen can stand outside the shadow of Anthony Hopkins and make Lecter is. And, once you get past his Danish accent, and the fact that his true nature will not be revealed, at least not now (the scripts are written so if you didn’t know anything about the character, you probably wouldn’t suspect anything was wrong), you can forget about Hopkins and let the story unfold. He conveys an urbane intelligence, sophistication, and ferocity, without going overboard and telegraphing everything.

In interviews, Mikkelsen has stated: “The closest thing I could come to was the Fallen Angel… [who] believes in the beauty of the darkness. That’s so incomprehensible for us. We can’t understand it. So was not reading textbooks about mental diseases, I was imagining how it was to be Satan.” And it’s Lecter’s budding relationship with Graham (partly driven out of a sense of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer, but also partly out of a sense of connectivity) which will be the lynchpin for future storylines. Fuller’s not planning on letting this run for 10-12 seasons like CSI; at some stage, the friends will become enemies…

They didn't get those wings from drinking Red Bull...Though airing on NBC, Fuller is choosing to use the cable format favoured by series like BREAKING BAD and DEXTER, airing only 13 episodes for each season rather than the usually 22-24 (and each episode is named after some sort of French cuisine, a nice touch of black humour). And from what I’ve seen so far, rather than the Killer of the Week preferred by the CSI shows and CRIMINAL MINDs, there will be only a couple of ongoing storylines (even if the killer is caught, the effects of his or her presence are still felt in subsequent episodes). They are also determined to match if not exceed DEXTER’s own love for bloody, explicit violence (though expert direction and editing ensures you ended up imagining more than you might actually see – but then didn’t SILENCE OF THE LAMBS do the same thing?).

Other characters from Harris’ novels are expected to appear, as well as ideas that never made it out of the books and into the movies (and if they’re lucky, they might even blag an appearance by a certain Clarice Starling) Oh, and case you’re worried about accuracy, they hired Spanish chef José Andrés as a “culinary cannibal consultant”, to make sure Hannibal is eating properly!

The trailer is below if you haven’t seen it yet. I’m hoping that they can maintain the promise they’ve shown in the first two episodes.

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Various
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. And wearing women’s lingerie. It’s a dirty, dirty letter.

The Undead Teds

Some more of Phillip's remarkable work...Are you a horror fan (and if not, why are you here?) and you want that extra special gift for that extra special person, but you’re of the opinion that the Hallmark people can go kiss the fattest part of your ass before you dish out any money for a stupid card? Well then the Undead Teds might be just what you’re looking for!

The Undead Teds are the creation of artist Phillip Blackman. 45-year-old Phillip, from Suffolk, England, had long been a fan of film director George A Romero, creator of some zombie movies you might have heard about, and he combined this love with training in theatrical and special effects make-up, and a moment of inspiration, to make teddy bears – with a difference. When I first heard about them, I went to www.undeadteds.com and contacted Phillip for a quick interview.

Phillip with one of his cute creations. Aww...
Phillip with one of his cute creations. Aww…

“About three years ago, I hit on the idea of making zombie teddy-bears,” Phillip told me in an interview. “The inspiration came from a rather obscure in-joke between my partner and I. She had a terrible cold at the time and we’d been talking about a gift for a friend’s baby. With a very stuffy nose “teddy-bear” kept coming out as “deady-bear” and we joked about zombie teddies that creep from under your bed at night to feast on your brains while you sleep. Being an artist and illustrator (See www.biro-art.com) I couldn’t just leave it at that so after a few false starts and I produced my first Undead Ted.”

Awww, he got a boo boo...
Awww, he got a boo boo…

Phillip initially tried sewing bones and organs out of felt, but felt his sewing skills weren’t up to it. So to properly transform the kids’ toys into Undead Teds, Phillip sculpts the bones, teeth and other organs by hand, from polymer clay or latex, then opens the bear’s carcass, takes out some of the stuffing and fixes the gory details in place with glue. Finally, he paints on the blood and adds a layer of varnish for a wet effect. Some designs, including the Valentine Undead Ted, have a strong wire frame retrofitted to ensure they keep their pose and don’t fall over.

“I’m getting faster now,” Phillip assured me, “But each Undead Ted still represents something upwards of six hour’s work. They used to take me days to make!” He prices them individually depending on size, complexity, materials used and time taken.

A Don't Care Anymore Bear
A Don’t Care Anymore Bear

And the Undead Teds, with their mix of the cute and cuddly and the gory and gruesome, were an immediate hit. “People’s reaction from the start has been variations along the lines of ‘That’s Horrible! I want one!’ The demand has been phenomenal and took me entirely by surprise. I simply cannot make them fast enough. As soon as I list a batch of six to eight in my store they sell out in under a minute. People set alarm clocks and take time off work so they can get online at the right time to try and snag one. I’m humbled by people’s enthusiasm for my work and hugely thankful to them.”

Phillip’s typical customer is in the late twenties the early thirties range, according to his Facebook stats. “People don’t buy them for their kids of course, they’re not toys after all, but they do buy them for their partners and significant others. The majority are either bought by women or bought by men as gifts for women, a fact I was quite surprised to discover!”

Don't worry, he's 'armless enough...
Don’t worry, he’s ‘armless enough…

And they definitely aren’t for little children, though not so much because of how they look as because they contain small toxic parts and aren’t suitable for rough handling (if they get a little dirty, a gentle pat with a wet cloth will suffice rather than a trip in the washing machine).

“I can and do ship to pretty much anywhere,” Philip assured me. “A large percentage of Undead Teds have gone to the States and Canada and a few as far afield as Australia.” He has also had customers send him teddy bears to be customised, though this arrangement isn’t viable for overseas jobs in case the Customs people have some unreasonable

Though he’d love to set up his own shop it’s not possible with him doing the work himself. Until then Undead Teds are available through his Etsy store (http://www.etsy.com/shop/undeadteds) and occasionally through Ebay, and though demand remains high people who follow him in various Social Media platforms are alerted when new Undead Teds are available.

My amazement for the level of detail and craftsmanship Phillip puts into his work remains high, and I wish him continued success in the work! I’d get one myself now, but I’m afraid my cat might get jealous… or eaten…

MISSING: One bear. And the child who owned it.
MISSING: One bear. And the child who owned it. And some campers nearby.

Written by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien

HORROR SPOTLIGHT: SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS

I love my Shock Rock. I secretly listened to Alice Cooper when my father wouldn’t allow anything more rock and roll in the house than the Everly Brothers. Later I hooked up with Kiss (not literally, of course, though that Gene Simmons could make me reconsider my leanings…) and subsequently I dallied with the likes of Black Sabbath, GWAR, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Slipknot, Pat Boone… and there are others.

But it was only recently that I learned of the man who had started them all off on that long, dark and scary road: Jalacy Hawkins, better known as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Born in 1929 in Cleveland, Ohio, Hawkins had a life worthy of the movies: placed in an orphanage by his mother, who’d reportedly given him up because she already had too many children to care for. From there he was taken and subsequently raised by a tribe of Blackfoot Indians(!).

Screamin Jay and Henry

Hawkins enlisted in the US Army in 1944 at the age of 15, before entering the Army Air Corps. It was here that his career as an entertainer began, playing tenor sax to the GIs (he’d taught himself to play piano and could read music by the age of six), as well as becoming a Golden Gloves boxing champion and Middleweight Championship of Alaska in 1949. But he decided that boxing wasn’t for him, and left the military to focus on his music full time. Initially inspired by Paul Robeson and Enrico Caruso to study opera, he eventually turned to jazz and blues.

His most successful recording, “I Put a Spell on You”, was originally envisioned as a refined ballad. But Hawkins and his band was completely hammered during the studio recording session, and Hawkins screamed, grunted, and gurgled his way through the tune with what one witnessed described as “utter drunken abandon”.The resulting performance was no ballad but instead a “raw, guttural track” that became his greatest commercial success and reportedly surpassed a million copies in sales, though Hawkins himself blacked out and was unable to remember the session (afterwards he had to relearn the song from the recorded version). But the record label released a second version of the single, removing most of the grunts that had embellished the original performance; this was in response to complaints about the recording’s overt sexuality in the grunts and growls. Nonetheless it was still banned from radio in some areas, though over the decades it has been covered many times by a wide variety of artists, from Marilyn Manson to Nina Simone.

Still Screamin’ After All These Years!!

Hawkins had always been larger than life. But it was the emergence of his ghoulish side which should be of interest. Soon after the release of “I Put a Spell on You”, radio disc jockey Alan Freed offered Hawkins $300 to emerge from a coffin onstage. He did, and such was the reaction from the audience that Hawkins’ flamboyant, eccentric persona blossomed. At various times he would dress up as a vampire, an African chieftain, in pink tuxedos, zebra capes and green turbans, and emerge from coffins to the accompaniment of fireworks and flash bombs. He used snakes, severed hand props, tarantulas, shrunken heads, and a cigarette-smoking skull on a stick that he called Henry – all items which would later be attributed to the likes of Alice Cooper and Screaming Lord Sutch. The audiences lapped up his antics, though of course, he had his critics, from the usual Moral Majority types, to the NAACP, who were concerned that his actions reflected badly on the entire African American community.

Screamin’ Jay on FIRE!!

Though none of his subsequent releases could match the success of “I Put a Spell On You”, Hawkins continued to tour and record throughout the following decades, appearing in movies like STRANGER THAN PARADISE, A RAGE IN HARLEM and MYSTERY TRAIN, as well as collaborating with the likes of The Clash, Nick Cave and Dread Zeppelin.

And the man was, to put it mildly, a horndog: two years before his death in 2000 at the age of 70, he had married his ninth wife, a 29-year-old woman from Cameroon, and left nearly sixty children among his other wives, girlfriends and groupies (Hawkins must have had bionic sperm, or perhaps an inability to get the condom out of the wrapper).

Hawkins left an impressive discography, but sadly very few video performances showcasing him in his prime. Here’s one you can check out below; it’s an antiquated recording from a sixties British music programme, but there are others available, some from his later years. So when you plan your Halloween play list, spare some space for the man who started it all…

Stay Bloody!!!

written by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien

HORROR RETROSPECTIVE: KOLCHAK – THE NIGHT STALKER (1974-5)

I need to personally thank our very own Deggsy for putting together this retrospective on KOLCHAK – THE NIGHT STALKER. There were two horror-themed shows I watched as a very young kid (because my parents loved them too) and KOLCHAK was one of them (the other was the original DARK SHADOWS TV show … thanks for ruining that one, Burton!!). KOLCHAK, simply put, was a fantastic show and no one could’ve played the lead other than Darren McGavin. McGavin was absolutely brilliant in the lead and no matter what happens in the future with a remake, we’ll also have the originals!!

Thanks again for writing this one up, Deggsy!!

—–

That TV shows are being remade into big-budget movies is a long-established fact in Hollywood, a condition as chronic and intractable as herpes. And while sometimes you get an outbreak that isn’t so bad, for the most part it can be annoying as hell. The last one I saw, Tim Burton’s execrable DARK SHADOWS (see my review here if you dare), made my rectum prolapse and I couldn’t hold down solid food for three days.

It came down to the recurring problem nearly all bad TV adaptations face: not grasping what made the original show successful and memorable. The DARK SHADOWS TV show was a supernatural soap opera with elements of Gothic tragedy. Burton made the DARK SHADOWS movie a light-hearted saucy romp with a 70s disco track, a decision as likely to succeed as Mitt Romney going to Spike Lee for a reacharound. The movie is now shown in retirement homes in order to clear bed space.

Johnny Depp is currently preparing another nail in his career coffin, playing the American Indian Tonto in the movie adaptation of the TV show THE LONE RANGER (I await his turn in blackface for AMOS AND ANDY). And after that? Nothing less than another remake, of MY show, with MY hero: KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER.

Kolchak – Don’t Cross Him!!

And I recognise that my choice of hero is not the typical. He was no superhero, he was no genius, he was no fearless warrior. Karl Kolchak was a crumpled, middle-aged, sardonic, irreverent but committed and tenacious reporter, with zero fashion sense but a cool car, a beat-up typewriter and a penchant for stumbling onto the supernatural.

The character first appeared in an unpublished novel called The Kolchak Papers, by writer Jeff Rice, who had always wanted to write a vampire story, as well as a story set in Las Vegas. And it seems strange today, with the glut of vampire stories in the last 30+ years, but Rice’s take, when adapted for television by veteran author Richard Matheson and played by veteran character actor Darren McGavin, was fresh: a vampire in a modern day city, being treated as a serial killer by the police, and at least at first, by an investigative reporter named Kolchak, who gradually comes to the conclusion that the killer, Janos Skorzeny, was an immortal, superstrong vampire, and only Kolchak would believe, and therefore be able to defeat him.

A Haitian Zombie Vs the Mob!!

Nothing like it had been seen on TV before. Treated completely straight, where the police and local government prove to be almost as ruthless towards Kolchak as the vampire, THE NIGHT STALKER gained an incredible 54 share, an unheard-of figure for an original TV movie, and one that would never be matched in today’s multichannel digital age. Matheson had also received a 1973 Edgar Award from the Mystery writers of America for Best TV Feature/Miniseries Teleplay. The success led to a sequel, THE NIGHT STRANGLER, where Kolchak, now in Seattle, reported on a string of murders committed by what appeared to be a 100 year old man stealing vital fluids to maintain immortality. The sequel, which benefited from decent support from veteran actors like John Carradine and Wally Cox and Richard Anderson (later Oscar Goldman in THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN), as well as location footage in Seattle’s Underground City, an actual section of the city that was sealed off in Victorian times as the city literally grew around it, and could still be visited in tours today.

“Chopper,” written by Robert Zemeckis!!

Both TV movies were successful enough, and Kolchak such an interesting and memorable character, that ABC decided to forgo a third movie (Matheson had been in the middle of penning it, THE NIGHT KILLERS, which would feature aliens and androids replacing humans in authority) and go for a weekly series instead. After some negotiation, McGavin agreed to return as Kolchak and also served as the series’ executive producer. However, ABC did not obtain Jeff Rice’s permission to use the character (oops!), and he sued the studio. The suit was resolved shortly before the series aired in the fall 1974 season; Rice received an on-screen credit as series creator. The first four episodes aired under the title of THE NIGHT STALKER. After a month-long hiatus, the series was renamed and returned as KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER.

Fuck You, TWILIGHT. Fuck You to Hell!!!

Based in Chicago with the fictional Independent News Service, cantankerous Carl Kolchak spent his days driving around in his Mustang convertible, avoiding a verbal bollocking from his ulcer-ridden editor Tony Vincenzo (played by Simon Oakland, best known as the expositional psychiatrist at the end of PSYCHO), listening to the police scanner and making a general nuisance of himself with various police and other local authorities, especially when his revelations that a particular killing or set of killings might have supernatural or fantastic origins.

It is McGavin’s portrayal of Kolchak which makes him so memorable. It seems almost inconceivable now to have a fantasy/sci-fi TV series whose leading man isn’t young, good-looking and well-dressed, and at the centre of an ensemble of young, good-looking and well-dressed people (with maybe a nerd to do the IT work). But McGavin and Kolchak had a style all his own. And again, it seems almost inconceivable now to have a journalist as a hero, but this was the era of Watergate, and reporters could still be trusted to reveal the truth.

Kolchak vs the Medicine Man

And the truth is what drives Kolchak. Through the course of the series, he’s threatened and bribed by the police, government agencies and even the forces of darkness, if only he would just shut up and look the other way – but he doesn’t. Even when he knows that Tony Vincenzo will crumple up the story and throw it in the garbage, he still finishes it. The truth must be told. Not that he’s fearless; once he got his story, he usually ended up scrambling away from the monster faster than Shaggy. But his all-too-human frailties are what make him all the memorable.

There were only twenty episodes made of the series, and the threats Kolchak faced ranged from traditional zombies, vampires, werewolves and aliens, to the truly bizarre. In “Chopper” (one of the first writing credits of a young Robert Zemeckis!), for instance, a beheaded motorcyclist returns from the dead to decapitate his former fellow gang members. In “The Spanish Moss Murders”, a narcoleptic Cajun conjures a swamp monster from his childhood nightmares to slaughter his enemies. And in “The Horror in the Heights” (written by veteran Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster), the elderly members of a Jewish neighbourhood are menaced by a flesh-eating Hindu rakshasa demon. My own personal favourite remains “The Zombie”, where a Haitian voodoo priestess reanimates her HUGE son to exact revenge on the Italian Mob for murdering him; the climax, where Kolchak has to crawl into a hearse to sew shut the lips of the corpse before it reanimates again, had me crapping myself back in the day.

By today’s standards, it’s blood and gore-free (and produced some laughably bad clunkers). But you don’t watch it for blood or gore (or even for decent effects). You watch it for the atmosphere, for the crisp writing (with some wicked gallows humour at times), for the by-play between Kolchak, Vincenzo and the other people he consorts with. You watch it for the slew of guest stars, all familiar faces in movies and TV: Richard Kiel (playing more than one monster on the show), Jim Backus, Jamie Farr, Antonio Fargas, Dick Van Patten, Larry Linville, Erik Estrada, Phil Silvers, Tom Skerritt, Scatman Crothers, Cathy Lee Crosby…

But the show, stuck in the graveyard shift (no pun intended) of Friday night at 10pm, and with McGavin dissatisfied with the ‘monster of the week’ formula it had fallen into (he had hoped to do stories with more conventional conspiracies) and having to do much of the work of an executive producer without the studio giving him the credit (something which is routine these days with the stars of a show). He asked to be released from his contract with two episodes remaining to be filmed, which the network granted in light of the show’s dwindling ratings.

But though KOLCHAK was short-lived as a series, its impact on popular culture continues to this day, beyond the subsequent book and comic book adaptations. In particular the series has been described as a predecessor to THE X-FILES, and creator Chris Carter showed his appreciation by casting McGavin in several episodes as a retired FBI agent described as the “father of the X-Files”.

Though Rice retains the rights to written Kolchak works, and Universal Studios owns the rights to the TV series, ABC maintained ownership of the two TV movies and began airing a new Night Stalker series in 2005, with Kolchak played by Stuart Townsend (LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN). It tanked like a lead balloon, partly because Townsend is no McGavin, and partly because, in this day and age, the remake ended up looking like just another generic paranormal show.

What have you gotten yourself into now, Kolchak??

And now we have a new NIGHT STALKER movie coming, starring Depp. And as it’s a Disney property now, I fear that, despite allegedly being directed by SHAUN OF THE DEAD’s Edgar Wright, it will end up some HAUNTED MANSION-style PG-rated atrocity for the fuzz-pubed brigade. And when that happens, I will turn back to my DVDs of a cynical, badly-dressed man in an ugly suit and straw hat fighting alone against the forces of evil. And I will be happy.

Deggsy’s Summary:

Director: Various

Plot: (Various) 3 out of 5 stars

Gore: (Various) 1 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: (Various) 2 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien

Trailer for TerrorScribe Mafia Pictures Newest, Survivor Girl, Drops

Behind the scenes with the killer in SURVIVOR GIRL

Indie horror filmmaker Joe Lopez recently contacted me about the trailer for his second short film being released.  The short is SURVIVOR GIRL and it’s written and directed by Lopez and stars fetish model Courtney Crave.  Here’s the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TERRORSCRIBE MAFIA FILMS RELEASE THE FIRST TRAILER FOR THEIR SECOND SHORT, SURVIVOR GIRL

SYNOPSIS
A party in an isolated rural location turns deadly as a group of friends are hunted by a masked killer. 

Babes. 
Blood. 
All the things you’d expect from a slasher film – and maybe some things you aren’t.

“Survivor Girl” is the second short film from the TerrorScribe Mafia and this time, they’ve turned their eyes toward old school slasher films. Two prequel teasers – this being the first – are being released that show what happens to two girls who don’t survive.

Fetish model Courtney Crave stars as the titular heroine. The cast also includes Taylor Brandt (“The Code”) and Mark Walters as the Killer. World-renowned Texas hellbilly band Ghoultown provides music for the soundtrack. The prequel teasers were shot on the sets of The Fatal End in the West End haunted attraction in downtown Dallas.

Dallas-area filmmakers the TerrorScribe Mafia consists of writer/director Joe Lopez, cinematographer Keith Bates, makeup effects artist Tammy Dupal and co-director/EvilWickedOverlordGirl Stacia Langenheder.

Now check out the trailer (although it looks more like a clip):

Stay Bloody!!!