Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Horror Business Archive

I know it's been a while since the blog has been active, Cellmates, but I assure you that I am still alive and well.  Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.  I've just been insanely busy with a multitude of other projects.  One of those projects has been my new podcast, Horror Business.
Horror business is a show all about the untold stories of the unsung heroes of the horror community.  The folks that may not get all of the press, but deserve a turn in the spotlight.  The ones who exhibit the kind of passion that makes me proud to call them my horror brethren.  It airs live every other Monday at 10pm on the FDTC Network.  There will be a link at the bottom of this article.  Horror Business alternates weeks with my other show, Missing Link Mixtape.  On MLMT I play two hours of killer tunes from all genres.  They all have a theme that ties them together, and if you guess that link, you could win fabulous prizes.
Until now, if you didn't catch the shows live, you were screwed.  Fortunately, that is no longer the case.  I can;t archive Missing Link Mixtape for legal reasons, but Horror Business is now available to stream or download whenever you want.  Listen to them at work.  Listen to them in your car.  Listen to them while you mow the lawn.  Get some sneaky earbuds and listen to them when you're pretending that you're paying attention to your girlfriend.  Whenever you need a horror fix, enjoy the dulcet tones of the Son of Celluloid and his various guests.  I'll be posting the links to future episodes as they happen, but here are the ones that are currently available...

Episodes 1 and 2 - Brad Slaton of the Picking Brains Podcast

Brad is a podcaster and interviewer extraordinaire, one twisted bastard, and the guy responsible for getting me into podcasting.  We discuss our show, interviewing everyone from Penn Jillette to Glen Danzig, controversy, and the podcasting game in general.  Play the Horror Business drinking game and attempt to do a shot every time Brad says "fuck."  Spoiler: You would die within the first 15 minutes.  As an added bonus, episode 2 contains my epic "torture porn" rant. 

Episode 3 - Ryan Cadaver of The Casket Creatures
Ryan is the front-beast of Atlanta's ghoulrock juggernauts The Casket Creatures.  We discuss running a haunted house, the state of horror punk today, the writing process, crazy shows, and the Count Chocula/Chuck E Cheese conspiracy.

Episode 4 - Stephen Biro of Unearthed Films
Stephen Biro is an author, filmmaker, and owner of Unearthed Films.  Join us as we chat extreme horror, the Yakuza, God and Satan, and the American Guinea Pig Series as well as some EXCLUSIVE announcements regarding upcoming Unearthed releases. 

Episode 5 - James Balsamo of Acid Bath Productions
Filmmaker James Balsamo is no stranger to long time Cellmates.  In this interview we talk 
boobs, blood, slashers, science, boobs, horror legends, physical media, 23 hour shoots, Dave Brockie stories, and boobs.

Every Monday Night at 10 you can...
TUNE IN ON THE WEB AT: http://fromdusktillcon.com/radio
LISTEN ON YOUR PHONE AT: http://mixlr.com/fdtc-radio

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: Godzilla

Unless you’ve been living somewhere very, very deep in the ocean, you know that Godzilla has stomped his way into theaters.  Actually, if you do live there, you probably swam for your life when he awakened.  Anyway, the flick is proving to be quite divisive among fans of the longest running franchise in film history.  Some are hailing the first American made Godzilla flick as the best kaiju movie in decades.  That’s right, I said the FIRST American Godzilla.  I don’t know what you were thinking about, but it wasn’t a Godzilla flick.  It just wasn’t.  Arguments will not be tolerated.  Others are saying that the summer tentpole action flick is not a vehicle befitting of the King of the Monsters.  Either way, the time has come once again for nature to point out the folly of men. 

Synopsis:  Two giant monsters (dubbed MUTOs) rise up to destroy stuff.  This awakens Godzilla, and he’s pissed.  Monster mayhem eventually ensues.  ‘Nuff said.  Does anything else really matter?

My biggest fear about an American Godzilla flick was that it would take after Pacific Rim and look like a cartoon.  My hatred for CGI is well documented, and I went into this movie fully expecting a CGI Godzilla to drive me into a frenzy of righteous indignation.    Well, I’m about to say something I have only said in one other review over the last three and a half years… the CGI in this flick looks fantastic.  I would go so far as to say that this is the best computer generated monster that cinema has ever produced.  I will always be a rubber suit kinda guy, but visually this movie absolutely does our favorite gorilla-whale justice; maintaining that classic purposeful grimace and terrible sound.  While I didn’t dig the rather generic design of the MUTOs so much (pretty much just like the Cloverfield monster), they look great as well.  Even the digitally created environments impressed.  Not once while watching it did I cringe at the visual effects, and I can’t remember the last time I could say that about a modern fantasy “blockbuster.”  I also love that Gareth Edwards took a more old-school approach to the action sequences.  Whereas almost all action flicks these days follow that “shake the camera and edit it as quickly as possible” style that makes the Transformers flicks so unwatchable, this flick lets the shots linger, allowing the audience to revel in the sheer majesty of Godzilla’s presence.

Most of the vitriol being thrown at the movie by critics and fans centers around two things, the weakness of the overall story and Godzilla’s lack of screen time.  Those who decry the lameness of the romantic subplot and the uninteresting human element are actually one hundred percent right.  The love story is contrived and eye-rollingly sappy.  With the exception of Bryan Cranston as the kooky scientist with all of the answers who no one will listen to and Ken Watanabe as the scientist there to look distraught, no one is particularly likable.  Ford Brody (really?) is your generic good guy with a tragic past, and Kick-Ass plays him like he’s trying to emote while heavily sedated.  Elizabeth Olsen’s acting is laughably bad as the wife he may or may not make it back to.  Everyone else is just plain unmemorable. 

I ask you, however, is this either surprising or a big problem?  I don’t think so.  When was the last time that the humans in a Godzilla flick presented an engaging, emotional story?  Hell, when was the last time they even mattered?  That’s right, the first one.  People forget that Gojira (as well as its American counterpart for that matter) was more than a monster flick.  In its day, it was considered controversial and somewhat subversive.  It used the story of a rampaging beast to address a lot of subjects that were extremely taboo in Japanese society.  It was dark, intense, and pretty powerful when viewed in context.  Then, when Godzilla himself became hugely popular, the human story became secondary.  They’re just there to deliver a little exposition and run away screaming.  Nothing more than the plate that the action is served up on.  Would it have been nice to have a powerful story with well-drawn characters framing the destruction?  Of course, but I think it’s a bit ridiculous to go in expecting that.  Those that did may have forgotten what kind of movie they bought a ticket for.

The other problem people are having is the lack of Godzilla in Godzilla.  I didn’t time it, but I would estimate that Big G is on screen for about 20 minutes out of the film’s 123.  Sure, I would have liked to see a lot more of the main man, but there are quite a few factors that keep me from sweating the titular monster’s meager screen time.  I get what they were going for and I think it worked.  Godzilla is in the flick just enough for the story they’re telling.  I know, I know, I was expecting a Final Wars style balls-to-the-wall monster romp too.  But it’s more along the lines of the first one and I’m cool with that because when Godzilla IS on screen, it’s magical.  Even when we’re not beholding him in all his glory, those glimpses are enough to make me feel like I did as a kid watching the old flicks on late night TV.  For example, for a while we only see Godzilla’s back as he swims across the Pacific towards the inevitable city-destroying confrontation.  It plays like an action hero’s “someone is gonna get their skull caved in” walk.  You know what’s coming, and it’s gonna be glorious.  Plus, we get some great moments with the MUTOs outside of their interaction with Godzilla.  There is one scene (I won’t give too much away, but it involves a train trestle) that is one of the strongest moments in the flick.  I also have my doubts that those killer visual effects would look nearly as good had the animators had an entire movie’s worth of kaiju footage to contend with as opposed to focusing on keeping fewer scenes looking so bad ass, making it a question of quality over quantity.

My one major issue is that it’s about 15 minutes too long.  I will admit to looking at my watch a couple of times, particularly during the first half, and wondering when business was gonna pick up.  Don’t get me wrong, when it does get going it clicks on all cylinders.  It just takes its sweet time getting there.  Had they paced the expository stories faster, or cut some of it altogether, it would have fixed everything.  No one would be bitching.  The story wouldn’t have time to feel uninspired and the human to Godzilla ratio would be more along the lines of what people were expecting.  It’s fine as it stands, but it seems to me that some tightening up would have made it a stronger flick and delivered something closer to what the people who didn’t dig it seem to have been looking for.

Random Thought #1: I must have reacted loudly to a lingering close up of one of my beloved Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, because people looked at me like I was crazy.  I couldn’t help it.  I love those little guys, and seeing one on an IMAX screen made me one happy Bogey.

Random Thought #2: Speaking of IMAX, see it that way if at all possible.  I’m not normally a big IMAX fan, but if there was ever a movie that demanded to be seen on the biggest screen possible it’s this one.

Random Thought #3: Bryan Cranston reminded me a lot of Adam West in this flick for some reason that I can’t put my finger on.

Is this the Godzilla flick that I was expecting?  Nope.  Is it the Godzilla flick I wanted?  Kinda.  Is it a Godzilla flick that I enjoyed the hell out of?  Damn straight.  It got too slow for my tastes here and there, but when Big G showed up, all of that was a distant memory.  I literally found myself, on more than one occasion, cheering at the top of my voice in the theater before I even knew I was doing it.  Outside of that rare, incredible kill in a horror flick, that never happens.  When I looked around, the rest of the crowd was cheering too.  As I said before, I felt like a kid watching this.  As long as you know what kind of movie you’re going into, I think it will have the same effect on you.  Here’s hoping that this is the first of many stateside trips for the terror of Tokyo.  Godzilla proves, once again, that he will always be King of the Monsters.  Long live the King!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Win An Autographed Copy Of The Casket Creature's EP She Screams!

The Lunatics from the Sticks.  The Ghastly Ghouls of Gainesville.  Dirty South Frightrock Juggernauts.  Whatever you want to call them, The Casket Creatures are back with a brand new EP called She Screams.   It delivers all of the ferocity and raw terror you’ve come to expect from the reigning kings of Atlanta’s horror rock scene while continuing the evolution of their sonic attack.  After lineup chaos that would cripple most bands, The Casket Creatures have emerged a leaner, meaner beast ready to raise the dead and rock the living.

Throughout their two full length albums and now the EP, you can hear a clear progression.  Like any good band, they continue to evolve and challenge themselves while maintaining their trademark sound.  She Screams sees the Creatures move in a somewhat “punkier” direction.  They’ve shed a few of their more metallic elements without sacrificing any of the intensity.  I think a lot of that lies in the guitar work.  With Jamie’s departure, last axe-man standing Derek Obscura’s signature sleaze/glam punk edge takes center stage.  If I were to compare it to anything, I would say the guitar style sounds sorta reminiscent of a less poppy version of Wednesday 13’s better work.  That’s not to say it sounds the same, however.  Derek definitely has his own style and flair… and damn can that boy write a catchy ass riff!

Where the rhythm section is concerned, new bass monster Cliff Damnage brings a punishing energy to the bottom end.  Wow, that sounded vaguely dirty.  Anyway, nothing against any past member, but Cliff is the perfect fit for the band and his contribution goes a long way towards the gelling of a cohesive sound.   Besides, it’s always a good sign when your bass player is named Cliff, right?  As they’ve had a bit of a Spinal Tap drummer situation going on lately, I can’t really say much as to the drums on the record.  I can say, however, that after seeing new skin basher Brandon Deadly in action live, he’s more than capable of taking up the mantle.

Ryan Cadaver continues to develop the signature “aggro-croon” that makes him one of the most dynamic frontmen in the genre, but the real surprise on this album is in the backing vocals.  She Screams features a LOT of harmonizing.  Remember when harmony was a dirty word in heavy alternative rock until Alice In Chains showed us that it could be damn amazing?  This is the American horror punk equivalent.  The harmonies on songs like Haunted and The Final Night (is it kosher to call horror punk “woah-oh-oh’s” beautiful?) take the role of vocals in this style of music to a new level.

The band definitely maintains their macabre sense of humor on this EP.  The interlude that precedes Zombie Werewolves From Outer Space reminded me of some of the silliness from The Ghastly One’s classic A Haunting We Will Go-Go album.  Graveyard Girl strikes a great balance of light-hearted and heartless, and GKMF revels in giving the world a giant middle finger with a little smirk in its sneer.  Even straight ahead tales of terror like the title track, a botched exorcism ode, and the apocalyptic The Final Night crackle with an element of fun that makes this a great Halloween party album any time of year.

As far as picking a standout track, there really isn’t a weak link in the bunch.  I guess I would have to go with the title track, She Screams.  It stands alongside Lizzie’s Song and A Step Ahead of Death as possibly the best song the guys have ever unleashed.  In fact, the songwriting all around is top notch.  I catch myself singing these tunes in the shower, which I consider the mark of true quality.  I know, the mental picture of me in all of my sudsy, naked glory belting out Zombie Werewolves From Outer Space just made this one a must own.  You’re welcome.

The Casket Creatures, Phantom Troublemaker, and SOC.

By now you’re asking yourself “how do I get this goodness in my earholes?”  Well, She Screams is currently available for purchase on Amazon, itunes, and CD Baby… OR you could enter to win the autographed copy I’m giving away.  That’s right Cellmates; I have one brand spanking new copy, autographed by your favorite horror punk band, to give away to one of you.  Who loves you, baby?  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below with your email address and your favorite horror-influenced song.  It could be horror punk, metal, some obscure blues song about crossroads demons, an Alice Cooper classic, a country murder ballad, a movie score, Heffalumps and freakin’ Woozles, whatever.  As a bonus, if you go check out The Son OfCelluloid Show (LINK) AND subscribe to the youtube channel, I’ll enter your name twice.  Just make sure you alert me to that in your comment.  The contest ends on April 23, and the winner will be announced on episode 3 of The Son Of Celluloid Show on April 28.  Now get cracking, Cellmates!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: Hidden Horror

All film fanatics know the exquisite frustration of whole-heartedly loving a flick that no one else seems to know exists.  How the hell has no one else heard of your beloved, unappreciated masterpiece?  On the other hand, there are few geeky pleasures quite like leading someone into a dark new corner of the garden of cinematic delights and showing them their possible new favorite movie.  That’s what a hundred and one of the top writers documenting the horror genre today (with one MAJOR exception, ahem!) have done with Hidden Horror.   It’s like perusing the horror section of a video store in the days of yore with your weird, horror obsessed friend pointing out the gems.

Being both a diehard horror junkie and the holder of a (pretty much useless) degree in film studies, I have read far more than my fair share of film criticism.  To be honest, the vast majority of these books suck like Vincent Gallo promised them that it would be their breakout role.  That’s why it makes me extra happy to report that Dr. AC and his cohorts did damn near everything right with Hidden Horror.  It’s a collection of essays highlighting some lesser known fright flicks that the writers think deserve more respect and a wider audience.  I like that the roster of contributors is so deep and widely varied.  The amount of different styles, voices, and perspectives keeps the reading fresh throughout.  All of the writing is quality, and the enthusiasm these folks have for the genre bleeds through every word.  Hidden Horror even contains entries from 3 What Halloween Means To Me alumni; John Squires, Freddie Young, and Jude Felton.  Cellmates represent!

Although with any list like this you’re going to find a few that don’t exactly fit your definition of obscure (TREMORS?  Really?), for the most part the movie selection is top notch.  Everything from groundbreaking flicks like Coffin Joe’s At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul and HG Lewis’s protosplatter classic The Gore Gore Girls to VHS era favorites like Razorback and extreme foreign shockers like Ichi the Killer get equal time and love.  I’m also happy that the majority of the films, while not widely seen, are fairly easily available.  Too many “horror you haven’t seen” lists miss the whole point and get all kinds of snobby listing movies you can’t get your hands on. 

The cake from the launch party.  How cool is that?
The finished physical package of the book itself deserves a mention.  Most independent horror books look the part.  They’re cheaply put together and often badly edited.  Not so with Hidden Horror.  It’s a class production all the way; from the killer cover by Brett Harrison to the appealing, photo laden layout.  One of my biggest sticking points with small press books lately is the sheer amount of spelling and grammatical errors.  It’s like people forget that this is the final product they intend to represent them as a writer/publisher.  For this Grammar Nazi, that’s a deal breaker.  It may seem like a small thing, but I’m two thirds of the way through this book and have yet to find a typo.  Aaron Christensen is excellent in the role of editor.  Well done, sir!

 There’s something else I dig about this book; and I warn you, we may be veering into TMI territory here.  Hidden Horror currently occupies the highest place of honor a book can hold in my house… the back of the toilet.  On a recent hibachi excursion, some friends and I were discussing how the age of the smartphone has all but done away with the time honored tradition of bathroom reading.  We also discussed what makes a good addition to a lavatory library, and Hidden Horror exemplifies what I look for in what I lovingly call a “dump book.”  Each entry is self-contained and runs about three pages; a perfect length to stimulate your mind when you’re not going anywhere for a couple of minutes.  When talking about books, I constantly hear “I just don’t have time to read as much as I’d like to.”  Well, if you’re too busy to consume the whole book in a couple of sittings, fear not!  Prolong the fun and ensure that your next 101 times upon the throne will be both entertaining and educational.

Any book that lists Alucarda, In a Glass Cage, and Company of Wolves together is an indispensable tome as far as I’m concerned. No matter how well versed you think you are, you will leave this book with titles to track down. Hell, even I came away with an updated "must see" list.  Hidden Horrors stabs you with 101 of the best obscure horror needles so you can skip the bloody haystack, and it deserves a place in every cinephile’s library.  Nathan says check it out.

Hidden Horror is available here... AMAZON
...and here... BARNES & NOBLE
... and here... KITLEY'S KRYPT

Son Of Celluloid's Video Interview With Fred Vogel

It was getting close to midnight on a cold Sunday night in February.  The madness that was Days of the Dead Atlanta 2014 was over.  Most of the celebrities were on their planes home and the unconventional conventionalists had returned to their lairs to sleep off their buzzes and gush over the treasures they purchased.  Those of us left at the hotel were brutally tired.  The walking dead weren't all on TV that evening.  I can't speak for everyone, but I was in that weird space where you're simultaneously hung over from the previous three nights and still drunk from that day.  It was at this bleary-eyed witching hour that one of the coolest events of the weekend occurred.  
I had been trying to get together with Fred Vogel, who I refer to as the Patron Saint of the Underground, for an interview all weekend.  He was busy as hell, as was I, so the calm after the storm proved to be the right time to sit down for a chat.  If I need to explain who he is, then report to Remedial Independent Horror101 on the double.  Few people embody the SOC battle cry of "SUPPORT INDEPENDENT HORROR" like him.  Fred (along with his lovely wife Shelby), is the mastermind behind TOETAG Inc.  He's been spreading the sickness for almost a decade and a half with movies like Redsin Tower, Sella Turcica, Maskhead, Murder Collection, and the infamous August Underground trilogy.  
The original plan was to chop this interview up and incorporate it into episoides of The Son Of Celluloid Show, but since the show is taking so long and this interview is too good to hack up (although that would be kinda fitting), I decided to go ahead and put it out there.  My only regret is turning the camera off.  Once the official interview was over, he hung out and shot the shit for about an hour, all of which was a golden education in the world of indie horror.  Talking to Fred was a true pleasure, and I think you'll dig the video.


For all of your TOETAG Needs, go to http://www.toetag.biz/

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