Here is the list of my top ten favorite horror films I contributed to B-Sol at The Vault of Horror for his final tally in the Top 50:
What's yours?Frankenstein (1931)
"I must say, he's got balls," I told Zombos. We were discussing fellow LOTT D member Vault of Horror's The "Cyber-Horror Elite" Have Spoken: Presenting the Top 50 Horror Films of All Time!
"Apparently they are bigger than his head because that is where all the blood flow is going," he replied.
"Oh, come on, he's written up an excellent list based on the League of Tana Tea Drinkers members' highly recommended horror films. I'll admit it's a gutsy move to actually publish it, given all the narrow-thinking gorgons out there who will pounce on it, rip it to shreds because their movie isn't mentioned, and then go chopping his head off for the oversight."
"But that is my point; people forget that lists are meant to stimulate discussion, not blood-feuds. Instead of looking at the criteria, the reasoning behind the choices, and constructively countering with their reasoning and favorites, they rather bully-blather and castigate the list-maker," said Zombos.
"List-makers," I corrected him. "Your choices and mine are part of the list, too, you know."
"Oh, he forgot to include us in the list of contributors, so I think we are safe."
"Ummm...I let him know he forgot to include us, so he put us at the top of the list," I said.
"Oh my God!" Zombos whirled around, his eyes widened in fear. "Are you insane? The top of the list? Quick, bolt the front door and draw the shades!"
"Oh, stop. Don't be silly. You are over-reacting for noth--" Something hit the library window interrupting me. "What was that?"
The phone rang. I went to pick it up. "Hello? Hi, Brian." I turned to Zombos. "It's Brian over at The Vault of Horror." The phone went dead for a second. "Hello? Hello? Yes? What's that? Oh my, that's not good, is it. Okay, we'll be careful." I hung up. "He said he's received death threats because of the list. He says, somebody named Adrian Messenger said he's going to kill off everybody who contributed to "the crappy list of nonsense" as he called it."
"Which end is he starting with?" asked Zombos. Something heavy hit the library window again, startling us.
"Which end of the list of contributors, top or bottom, is he starting with? You said Brian put us at the top of the list. So if this lunatic is starting at the top and working his way down--"
A rock crashed through the window and rolled across the Ardabil carpet to rest at my feet. A sheet of yellow paper was wrapped around it. I picked it up and unfolded the paper. Written in a frenzied, but bold script were the words "Hammer or Die You Bastards, Sincerely, Adrian."
"I think he started at the top," I told Zombos.
ZC Rating 1 of 7: Poor (but oddly engrossing)
"Slow down a minute and let me get this straight," said Detective Web. He paged through his notebook. "You say this Paul Hasselhoff--"
"--Paul Holstenwall," I corrected him.
"You say this Paul Holstenwall is to blame for Zombos's death?"
"Yes. It's all his fault. He insisted we watch another one of his inane travesties of straight to video horror called The Video Dead. Zombos keeled over dead away toward the end. It was horrible."
I held back the tears. Glenor Glenda, our housekeeper, stood in shock over his body. Thank God Zimba and Zombos Junior were at the theater to see the livelier Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
"I told him, I did," said Glenor, between blowing her nose and dabbing her wet eyes. "I told him to go with his son and get away from all this nasty horror. Oh, how will we explain this to his son? The missus will be so upset!"
"Hey, has this been dusted for prints yet?" asked Detective Web as he reached for The Video Dead VHS tape.
"Yeah, done," said a voice from the other side of the room.
"Haven't seen one of these in a while," he said, picking it up. "So tell me about this movie. I find it hard to believe the guy croaked just from watching it."
"I...I don't know where to begin," I said.
"Start with the facts. Just the facts. That will do fine."
"Let me think," I said. "Okay. It's about a TV set that looks like it came from the house in Night of the Living Dead. The TV is delivered, by mistake, to a writer who is promptly killed by the zombies who enter our world through it."
"Flesh-eating zombies?" asked Detective Web.
"Well, not quite. They strangle people, mostly, then toss them into washing machines and start the spin cycle."
"I thought you said the television set came from the house in Night of the Living Dead. Didn't those zombies eat people?"
"Yes. I mean no. I mean I didn't say the set came from the house in Night of the Living Dead, it just looks like it did. Now, one neighbor does get eaten, sure, but that happens later in the movie, and we don't see it happen, just the messy aftermath. The rest of the time the zombies giggle a lot, oh, and want to go dancing, too. And there's this Garbage Man fellow that appears briefly in the TV, but we never find out why, or what he's actually doing in there, or even how he got there in the first place. Then again, I'm not sure how the zombies got into the television set, either."
"So...this is a Japanese horror movie?" asked Detective Web.
"No. Why do you ask?"
"Well, you said they come out of the TV. I remember seeing that ragu film--"
"Oh, you mean Ringu, or The Ring, as the Americanized version is called," I said.
"Yeah, right, that's the movie."
"No, this movie is from 1987. Ringu came later.
I looked up at Detective Web. He scratched behind his ear with the pencil in his hand, closed his notepad, and thought for a moment.
"Maybe we should view the evidence to get a better idea of what this is all about," he suggested.
I reluctantly took the tape from him and put it into our old VHS player. We pulled our chairs close to the screen as The Video Dead started playing; after I fast-forwarded through the trailers and such of course.
It is an odd thing, but in times of stress I dream about zombies. Not pleasant "hey, let's dress up like zombies and stagger around the mall" on Saturday dreams, but night-sweats, run like hell, sorts of dreams. Perhaps it is not so odd, being a horror fan and all that, but still disturbing all the same.
Usually, the zombies are lying in wait in some dark place I know I should not enter. Either a basement or hallway or a road I am driving lost on. The bad situation is like a movie cliche that repeats itself with a bit of new set dressing and characters each time, except for the zombies and the overwhelming fear that eventually forces me awake to avoid it. What causes this fear is still a mystery to me. While the zombies do make matters worse, they are not the real fear that travels through my night for as long as I can remember.
It all started in my teens, intermittently at first, occurring more often until a sort of closure dream ended it for a brief time. It was either a door to a weird-looking house, or the opening to a dark cave, or a door to a room down a long hall. There were no zombies then, only an omnipresent fear that where I found myself I should not be, and what lay behind the door or in the dark cave should not be seen.
This went on for a long time. I did not sleep then nearly as much as I do now, but still it made sleep an often nerve-tingling experience. Each time I seemed to be a little closer to reaching the doorknob or entering the cave, but each time the fear took control, forcing me awake to avoid it; unreasoning fear, visceral fear, a fear only the chaotic subconscious or dark Thanatos could wield so potently.
And then one night it stopped. The closed door, this time, led into a large, dark house with many windows. I stood outside, looking up at the windows, then looking down at the door. It opened! I froze. From one of the windows a man dressed all in black, and wearing a top-hat, suddenly leaned out and shouted to me "it's showtime!" He disappeared for a moment, then reappeared, holding a skinned torso in his arms. He threw it toward me. Instead of the fear that had so often forced me awake, this time it forced me to run to the open door. Now here is where it gets really weird.
Entering the house placed me on a sloping, mountainside path. It was dusk, and snow started to fall, dusting the path. I was alone at first, but a man, dressed in a gray robe and holding a staff, from which a yellow lantern glowed, started walking up the path toward me. I could hear bells as he came closer. When he passed me without a word, I felt the need to follow him. I did. We continued walking in silence. The snow grew heavier, and his lantern glowed more brightly with each step we took up the mountain path. Suddenly, his lantern glowed a very bright white light, filling my vision until there was this--the best way I can describe it--pop. It was a feeling more than a noise, and I woke up with a feeling of complete peace. The fear, fostered by whatever lay behind those doors for so long, was gone, and did not return for many years. Only now I have the added pleasure of dealing with zombies, too.
What nightmares do you dream and which dark landscapes do you trod during the late hours?
The Swamp is copyrighted by Nela Dunato. She has nightmares, too.
I am not quite sure what the Chiodo Brothers were thinking when they pitched this idea for a movie, but it does have its charm (for horror fans, anyway). How can you not like a story about aliens that look and dress like grotesque clowns and use Krazy Straws to sip the body liquors of hapless victims sucked up by a giant vacuum? Just about everyone in the small town of Crescent Cove is turned into a jumbo-sized cotton candy treat with a nice gooey center before you can say “popcorn.” And I mean the friendly type of popcorn, not the type that eats you in this movie.
“Considering the low budget for the film, the art direction and production design are fairly imaginative," said Steve Brown.
"Yes," I agreed. "If only the acting were a bit more top-notch. Hey, how’d you know what I was thinking?"
He held up his signing gadget. "It picks up thoughts and displays them as text onscreen. Helps when we deal with people who say their deliveries went missing or were damaged. Anyway, with veteran character actors like Royal Dano and John Vernon, the other so-so actors were buffered a little," he noted.
The movie starts with the town's younger set smooching on Lovers Lane. Ruining their idyllic moment, the Stooge-like Terenzi Brothers (no relation to the Chiodo Brothers — I hope) show up in their noisy and tacky ice cream truck (there’s a huge clown head on the roof) to sell popsicles. The bumbling but industrious duo is rebuffed by the annoyed teens who had different popsicles in mind. None of these purported teens look young enough to be teens, either, a characteristic horror movies have in common with porno movies (not that I’d know first hand).
Before Mike (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) can get back to their snuggling, a bright object shoots across the sky and crashes not too far away. In true '50s horror film fashion (like in the Blob), they are off to investigate. Given a choice between heavy petting or chasing down mysterious objects crashing in the deserted woods, horror movie ‘purported’ teens always go for the crashing object.
While they head to the scene of impact, Farmer Green Gene (not Captain Kangaroo's bud, but Royal Dano), and his dog Pooh (stop groaning), see the crash, too, and head out to investigate. Gene and his dog find a circus tent in the woods, only it’s really the alien spaceship. A funny gag has Royal Dano walking along the side of the tent/ship in tandem with a clown's shadow tagging along. The circus fun and excitement atmosphere turns to terror for Gene and his dog when they are captured and cotton-candyized.
Mike and Debbie are next to discover the circus tent looking spaceship and decide to enter it. You’d think your average person would probably find a circus tent plopped down in the middle of an isolated woodland setting crazily suspicious, but then we wouldn't have much of a horror movie would we if they just did the smart thing and ran away? Smart and horror movies don’t mix well. One interesting flub to watch for has Debbie's arm briefly disappearing behind the matte painting of the tent/spaceship as they get close to it.
Another imaginative matte shot, a nod to Forbidden Planet, is seen when Mike and Debbie enter a room reminiscent of the Krell's huge power cell chamber. As they explore the ship and realize it is not part of Cirque du Soleil, the clever use of colorful carnival and clown-like objects — such as red rubber balls used for door buttons — extends the limited production budget with style. Soon they're running for their lives with two clowns and one sniffing balloon dog hunting them. They escape, but the whole kit and caboodle of killer klowns, armed with a wacky assortment of lethal weapons, head to town in search of late night snacks.
Mike and Debbie try to convince incredulous police officers Hanson (John Allen Nelson) and Mooney (master of the stare down, John Vernon) a bunch of clownish aliens are wreaking havoc in town. A series of bizarre, Looney Tunes-inspired, scenes includes a lethal Punch and Judy, pizza delivery a la killer klowns, clumsy klowns knocking over shelves in a pharmacy, and an ugly mini-klown knocking the head off of a biker with gusto.
Three scenes stand out for true creative goofiness, pushing this movie into more absurdist horrorhead territory. The first has a nasty-looking killer klown enticing a young girl away from her mom as both sit in the local burger joint. Behind his back he holds a very large, brightly colored mallet. His intentions are clear to us, but not to the innocent, fun-seeking youngster. While this plays on how the appearance of a clown can automatically trigger expectations of enjoyment, especially for most children, the scene takes this expectation into darker directions, making it comical, ominous, and frightening at the same time.
The second scene involves a bus stop, a few tired adults waiting for the late-night bus, and another killer klown who shows up to entertain them with hand-shadows thrown on the side of a building. This stop-motion realized scene is humorous, surreal, and again plays off pleasant expectations subverted into unpleasant terror when the hand shadows capture everyone.
The third scene has one intestinally-gutted and dead-eyed Officer Mooney playing ventriloquist dummy to one particularly tall and mischievous killer klown. Officer Hanson, treated to this bizarre vent act after finding huge clown footprints all over his jail, breaks a brief smile--until he realizes the lethal intent of the big bozo. The squishy-suction sound in this scene is very disgusting. I’ll let you guess what the vent dummy’s strings were made of.
Now, if you were a killer klown, where would you hide? In the amusement park, of course! So off go our heroes to rescue Debbie, who was captured and trapped inside a really big beach ball. And if you have a bunch of killer klowns with pies in their hands, who do you think should get hit with them? Why, mouse-dancing Soupy Sales of course! Unfortunately, the small budget did not allow Soupy to be flown in for the shoot. Bummer.
The zany Terenzi Brothers show up in their ice cream truck and join Mike and Officer Hanson. The Terenzi’s get separated from the others and wind up with a pair of big-bazoomed female klowns. As the brothers clown-around with their new dates, Mike and Officer Hanson enter the cotton-candy room where Debbie is imprisoned. They rescue her, but are discovered and a chase ensues through the many weird compartments of the spaceship. After making their way through a doorway with a near limitless amount of doors to open they are trapped and surrounded by the killer klowns.
In the nick of time, the Terenzi Brothers burst in with their ice cream truck — did I mention it has a big clown's head on it’s roof? — and use the truck’s loudspeaker to tell the klowns to bug off. They do, but a giant klown descends from above and goes after the ice cream truck. The Terenzi’s refuse to get out of the truck because “its rented.” The giant klown picks them and the truck up and tosses both into a fiery explosion. The scene is shot using miniatures and forced perspective (a technique used extensively in Lord of the Rings).
Will the Terenzi’s and Mike and Debbie and Officer Hanson escape? All I can say is ... Killer Klowns From Outer Space is an enjoyably goofy movie, and one that would do well with an effects-loaded remake or sequel. Pop Quiz! How many paragraphs in this review start with “Mike and Debbie?”
Maybe it's me, but I actually like fruitcake. Perhaps that is because Chef Machiavelli bathes his festively spicy Panforte in more spirits than Charles Dickens conjured up in A Christmas Carol. However, for those of you not so blessed, there is a palatable alternative that will keep you from reluctantly chewing, and chewing, and chewing what would have been better suited for a doorstop, handy tire chock for your vehicle, or mallet for pounding stakes into vampire breasts, with gusto, during the holiday season. (I recall they cut a scene in Hostel 2 where victims were forced to eat fruitcake without anything to drink, but even torture porn has its limits.)
Now you can stop the fruitcake horror by giving an inflatable one!
What are your fruitcake horror stories? Remember, you are not alone!
I had been down in the post-Halloween dumps until I read this humorous top twenty list of horror movie clichés illustrated through stick figure drawings. While I agree we can do without their overuse, I will say they can still be exploited by talented directors to either mislead, satirize, or scare us. You be the judge.
The black guy -- or any minority -- dies: This has become a standard since the advent of the slasher in the late '70s and is epitomized by the Orlando Jones line in Evolution: "I've seen this movie. The black dude dies first."
"They're coming! Barricade the door!" I threw the hammer to Zombos and held a plank of wood in place across the doorframe. "The nails, the nails! Who has the nails?" screamed Zombos as the sound of pounding increased.
We turned to Chef Machiavelli. He stood like stone with his hands over his ears. His eyes stared into oblivion. His mind had retreated to a safer place where the Food Channel was running an all-day marathon only he could see.
"Here!" shouted Pretorius, our groundskeeper, over the ever increasing pounding on the front door. He tossed over the box of nails. Both Zombos and I reached for it too soon, jammed our fingers, and sent the box flipping end over end, spilling nails out of reach.
"Oh, Lord. We are toast," sobbed Zombos. But then the pounding stopped. We breathed deeply, waiting for something else to happen. I was shaking, and Zombos showed his age more than usual.
"Who's the damn fool who put those toothbrushes into our trick or treat bags anyway?" asked Pretorius.
Zombos and I looked at each other. At the same time we uttered the same name. "Zimba." Only Zimba, Zombos' wife, would dare to commit such a heinous act on the spookiest night of the year.
"Hell of a damn thing to do," said Pretorius. "You might as well go dancing over graves or give McDonald's McDollars if you want to rile up the little monsters and invite doom."
The Winners of the First Annual Zombos' Closet of Horror Halloween Contest are:
For FIRST PRIZE--CLASSIC FUN, the winner is ZC reader Carolina Abello in Scotland! Carolina will receive the following goodies:
For SECOND PRIZE--CONTEMPORARY FUN, the winner is ZC reader Mike Petrucelli in New Jersey! Mike will receive the following goodies:
Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse by William D. Carl (Permuted Press)
Midnight Syndicate's Gates of Delirium CD (Entity Productions)
Something to Scream About DVD (Tempe)
After Dark Festival: Dark Ride DVD (Lionsgate)
Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane DVD (Image), and comes with promotional squishy skull
Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior DVD (Universal)
For THIRD PRIZE--CONTEMPORARY FUN, the winner is ZC reader Jonathan Crimmins in Massachusetts! Mike will receive the following goodies:
Day by Day Armageddon by Bourne (Permuted Press)
Midnight Syndicate's The 13th Hour CD (Entity Productions)
Trailer Park of Terror DVD (Summit), includes R and Unrated Versions, and promotional beef jerky
Hostel DVD (Lionsgate) Unrated Widescreen version
I Spit on Your Grave Millenium Edition DVD (Elite)
Congratulations to our winners, and a big thank you to all the ZC readers who entered the contest!
Joshua Hoffine's new devilish photograph is hot. You can read how he created it on his blogsite.
This photograph was shot in my studio. I constructed a set with a floor that was raised three feet off of the ground. My good friend Jason Coale, who works as a professional scenic designer, acted as supervisor. My friends Damien Vela and Matt Tady helped with all of the carpentry...
View more of his horror portfolio.