Friday, July 3, 2015

The Son Of Celluloid Show Returns With Season 2

It's baaaaaaaaaaack. After a long hiatus, the Son of Celluloid returns with jokes from your favorite horror stars, reviews of Bobby Easley's films (River Runs Black, X, Boogeyman, and All Sinner's Night), Great Horror Quotes With Joe's Mom, the music of Calabrese, werewolf on alien violence, and titties!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore

I can’t decide if I was in no position or the perfect position to experience American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore the first time I saw it.  Let me explain.

The setting was Days of the Dead: Atlanta.  I was drunk to say the least.  That evening, I procured six edibles.  Yes, that kind of edibles.  Three pot brownies and three pot caramels.  My intent was to space them out and eat them over the course of the weekend.  I ate one immediately, then proceeded to continue drinking.  About 15 minutes before the screening, I decided to eat another as I found a seat.  As I sat down, I noticed a popular independent horror director sitting in front of me and handed him the other half of my brownie.  I’m not naming names.  I don’t wanna get anyone in trouble.  We’ll just say that his name rhymes with Madam Ballrant.  Anyway, I reached into my pocket to get another, and all I felt was empty wrappers.  It was then that the realization set in.  Throughout the course of a couple of hours of not paying attention and the drunken horror con social butterflying that my position as the horror scribe of Atlanta affords me, I had eaten all of them.  Jason Hoover later referred to it as “hero dosing.”  In other words, I was about to be FUCKED UP.  

As the movie began to run and it all kicked in at once, the thought “I really hope this is a long flick, ‘cause I’m not gonna be able to stand up for a while” crossed my mind.  Then, as I saw two women being abducted, I found myself incapable of doing anything but staring, slack jawed, at the screen.  For the next seventy-something minutes, I couldn’t look away.  I don’t think I even blinked.  It was like some Cenobite in the employ of Unearthed Films had affixed hooked chains to my eyelids, Clockwork Orange style, and was refusing to allow me even a momentary respite from the most intense gore I had ever seen being mainlined into my brain.    

I am happy to report that after a second viewing in a less drunk and far less stoned mindset, the movie retains its power.

For those unfamiliar with the Guinea Pig films, it was a series of seven (well, six and a “worst of”) Japanese ultra-gore films produced in the 80’s.  They became infamous after being found in a serial killer’s collection.  The apocryphal story of Charlie Sheen seeing Flower of Flesh and Blood (the second in the series and BOG&G’s spiritual father) and reporting to the FBI that he’d just seen a real snuff film is one of extreme cinema’s most beloved tales.  Now Stephen Biro, owner of Unearthed Films and the  American distributor of the Guinea Pig flicks, has undertaken the creation of another cycle, this one made in the good ol’ US of A.

Simply put, this is probably the most effective gore flick ever released.  What Marcus Koch has achieved here is a legitimate game changer.  This is a bold statement considering all of the flicks I’ve seen, but I have never seen gore effects this good before.  The way the skin moves when it’s cut.  The way the instruments catch on the bones.  The meticulous cross sections of severed limb stumps.  This is truly the masterwork of a man at the top of his game.  This is Marcus’ Day of the Dead, if you know what I mean. 

One complaint that you’re likely to hear about this film is that it has no story.  Well, yes and no.  There is no story in a traditional sense.  It’s the same as Flower of Flesh and blood in that the mutilation is the sum of the experience.  There is a higher concept and some intriguing symbolism (I’m still not sure what to make of some of it) if you’re inclined to look deep between the lines for it, but it’s definitely not out in the open.  The film is primarily concerned with being a real time chronicle of two women being dissected.  That’s it.  It’s an exercise in grueling atmosphere and visuals.  It’s an endurance test.  Speaking of which, people will say it moves slowly.  Those people missed the damn point.  There’s something either deliciously transgressive or sadistically nerve-wracking (depending on your perspective) about watching the clothes being slowly cut off of the ladies for a few minutes before the blood starts to flow.  It’s torturous foreplay.  It’s those agonizing minutes after being sent to your room but before a parent arrives for that whoopin’.  It’s those terrifying three seconds between stubbing your toe and the pain impulse reaching your brain.  The fact that it lingers on every minute detail forces you to feel rather than watch.

An aspect of filmmaking that is often unjustly overlooked is sound design.  To be honest, there’s not a hell of a lot of indie flicks whose sound you can say much nice about.  The sound design in this one, however, is superb.  As good as both the gore itself and the grim ambiance are, those aspects on their own wouldn’t shine nearly as much had the audio been entrusted to lesser hands.  Jimmy Screamerclaus takes an already potent brew and sends it over the top.

Caution: The next paragraph contains a slight spoiler.

One particular aspect of the film’s setup struck me as an absolute stroke of perverse genius.  Before their ordeal, the women are shot up with a nerve agent and given several drops from a medicine dropper.  When it is revealed that these drops were LSD, you immediately knew where the psychonauts in the crowd were by either a gasp or an “OH HELL NO!”  In addition to just being a unique and sick little addition to the proceedings, the real genius of that bit of business is that it adds a whole new level of identification for anyone in the audience who has done acid.  The camera may, literally and figuratively, be making the viewer share the gaze of the killers, but anyone who has ever dosed can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be tripping on the table.  You become trapped in the headspace of the victims, and it’s a truly harrowing idea.

Something happens at the end of this flick that caused a tremor in even some of the most hardcore members of the audience that night.  Hell, Madam Ballrant got up and walked the fuck out.  As the audio residue of that final image continued over the credits, we were left with the question, “Um, is it ok to applaud?  Can we do that while this is going on?”  It was a sublimely awkward moment.  As I filed out of the room with about two thirds of the people who were there at its start, I was pretty much silent until after a few shots and a couple of smokes.  AGP:BOG&G is the kind of flick you have to recover from.  Whether you’re looking for a breath of fresh air in the tired “faux-snuff” sub-genre, want to test your mettle (or that of your unsuspecting friends) with some depravity, or just want to marvel at an impressive practical effects achievement in the age of CGI, American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore is for you.  Those weak of stomach or constitution need not apply.  Nathan says check it out.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Horror Business Archive: Episodes 6-10

Here it is, Cellmates.  The second round of Horror Business Episodes for your streaming and downloading pleasure.  Horror Business and its sister show, Missing Link Mixtape, can be heard on alternating Monday nights at 10pm only on The FDTC Network.

Episode 6: Ask SOC
What do you do when a guest bails on you?  You make the mistake of asking your facebook friends for questions, that's what.  We end up talking about my horror history, which horror starlets I want to do dirty things to, vampire fights, my former life of crime, ectoplasm as lube, my theories on the genre, and a ridiculous amount of other stuff.

Horror Business Episode 6 Link

Episode 7: James Bickert
It's a special 90 minute episode of Horror Business featuring my interview with director/drive-in historian James Bickert. We talk Dear God No!, Drive-Invasion, porn, beer, BBQ, video stores, piracy, bondage, the Oath of Green Blood, and a whole lot more.

Horror Business Episode 7 Link

Episode 8: The Netherspawn
 With Halloween coming up and haunted attraction season in full swing, I went to the actors who stalk the halls of Netherworld Haunted House in Atlanta (my haunt home since 1999) for their best stories about scaring someone shitless.  Time for the monsters to speak

Horror Business Episode 8 Link

Episode 9: Making The Video
 The Son of Celluloid and Brad Slaton co-directed a music video for The Casket Creatures song "Zombie Werewolves From Outer Space."  Go check it out on youtube.  Then listen to this roundtable discussion between Nathan, Brad, and the band about the craziness that went into creating the video.

Horror Business Episode 9 Link


Episode 10: Home Haunter Eric Cotto
We heard from the actors at one of the largest haunts in the nation, now let's visit the other end of the haunt spectrum.  Eric and Nikki Cotto run a haunt out of their home to raise money for charity.  Hear the story of a family who turns their home into a house of horrors each year to help the community and for the sheer love of fear.  Also, Brad Slaton drops by to chat Starry Eyes and See No Evil 2.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Horror Releases For Record Store Day 2015

Here at SOC, we're all about independent everything; independent horror, independent music, independent wrestling, independent variables, independent women, independent clauses, whatever.  So, of course, I'm all about Record Store Day.  If you don't know what I'm talking about...well, first of all, shame on you.  Second, it's a day (specifically the third Saturday of April each year) when bands release special edition vinyls and indie record stores everywhere host events to celebrate the role of the record store.  Part of me thinks that maybe, if we had done something like this, maybe we could have saved the video store.  Anyway, there are always some cool horror related items every year.  In the past these have included things like a 7" with the Misfits version of skulls on the A side and Evan Dando's cover on side B, a glow in the dark Ghostbusters single, a limited to 666 Dracula 1972 / Satanic Rites of Dracula soundtrack, and a truly bad ass Last House on the Left Soundtrack picture disk that I tried like hell to get my hands on.  There are hundreds of unique releases of all genres specifically for the event, but I'm gonna focus on the horror tinged ones.  Now not every store will get them all, some have very limited print runs, and some will ONLY be available on Record Store Day.  So unless you wanna pay a fortune for them on ebay later, I'd suggest that you get there early, grease the right palms, plan strategically, or whatever you have to do to get the ones you want.  You can visit to find participating stores near you and see a full listing of all of the 2015 RSD releases.

Probably the most directly horror related is this 12" Walking Dead Soundtrack Volume 2 picture disc.  It includes the tracks...
Side A: Portugal the Man "Heavy Games"; Sharon Van Etten "Serpents"
Side B: Lee Dewyze "Blackbird Song"; A.C. "Be Not So Fearful"; Ben Nichols "This Old Death"

There will be a digitally remastered  re-release of the 1989 Rocky Horror Picture Show "Time Warp EP"
featuring the original, extended, remixed, and karaoke versions of the song.

GWAR, featuring everyone's favorite Scumdog from Adam Greene's closet Oderus Urungus (RIP) will be releasing a remastered vinyl pressing of their best album (in my humble but always accurate opinion) America Must Be Destroyed. It comes with an RSD Exclusivity Certificate and Gor-Gor Pop Up Album Art.

We all know that metal and horror go hand in hand, and the biggest metal release this year is When The Stillness Stops, the first track off of Slayer's upcoming new album. This cool ass picture disc single will also feature a live version of Black Magic recorded at Wacken in 2014.

Leatherface have nothing to do with TCM except the name, but they're a damn good punk band.  They'll be releasing a 3 disc box set entitled  Razor Blades And Aspirin:1990-1993.

One of the more bizarre releases this year that I honestly don't know much about is Nightsatan and the Loops of Doom by Nightsatan.  They're a band from Finland who apparently made a short film and are releasing the soundtrack on green vinyl with a region free DVD of the film included.  This is one of the more limited releases this year, so be on the lookout.  Here's the trailer...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review - Visceral: Between the Ropes of Madness

Is it possible to tell a psychological horror tale through the medium of extreme bodily violence?  Can horror told on a primarily physical level still be cerebral?  Can it engage your brain while kicking you square in the junk?  Felipe Eluti’s film Visceral: Between the Ropes of Madness (out 3/24 from Unearthed Films) answers with an emphatic “YES!”  It’s an ultraviolent mood piece gruesome enough to satisfy gorehounds but smart enough to deliver an intriguing character study in a torture flick’s clothing.

Synopsis: A boxer loses the biggest fight of his life. He slowly finds himself, giving up his dream and finds that life is not worth living. At least, those lives around him are not worthy of life. He steps through and unleashes an entity that torments him and guile's him to do unspeakable acts of torture and murder. As body counts rise and lives are diminished, will he have any hope? Any way to fight back to what he once was?

Visceral is not told as a straight forward narrative.  In fact, the story is rather thin by conventional standards.  It has very little dialogue and the vast majority of all character interaction takes place in torture/murder/rape settings.  This is the story of one man’s descent into a mental hell.  If told in a linear form, this probably wouldn’t have been enough to carry us through the film’s fairly short runtime (116 minutes including 12 minutes of credits).  What Eluti brilliantly does is tell that story in three different timelines, switching between them jarringly and without warning yet anything but randomly.  Telling the story in this way enables him to reveal things in an order that enables them to have maximum impact.  It’s a technique that many movies have tried, almost all of them less effectively than Visceral.

I fear that one of the film’s biggest strengths may also be what some will see as its greatest flaw.  I love it when a film doesn’t hold the viewer’s hand and instead gives them credit for being smart enough to figure out a difficult narrative style.  There is only one visual cue to alert the viewer that we have switched to a different point in the story.  It’s not apparent at first.  It may even be a little bit confusing until you figure it out.  Once you do, however, things start to fall into place and the progression makes sense.  A less astute viewer might be tempted to say that the film is jumbled and nonsensical.  I hate to say “if you didn’t like it, you didn’t get it.”  That just smacks of pretentious film school snobbery.   I think this flick may, however, be a case where that statement rings true.

If everything I’ve said so far makes Visceral sound a little too arthouse for your sadistic tastes, put that thought out of your sick little head right now.  Those looking to satisfy their cinematic bloodlust will find everything they need.  This is not a flick for the weak of heart or stomach.  I’ve seen a lot of violent flicks in the last few years, but very few where said violence is this raw.  The camera remains very fluid and sometimes shakes a little too much for my liking, but it never flinches or cuts away from the brutality.  The gore looks fantastic, and the lack of dialogue from the main character adds a palpable creep factor.   While pervasive, the violence never goes over the top in the sense of being unrealistic.  Oh, no.  It feels all too real.

That reality is aided by an aspect of filmmaking that is often overlooked – sound design.  The movie’s score (more of a dark industrial soundscape than a score actually) sets the mood perfectly, but the sound effects are where it really shines.  Each fist lands with a sickening thud that makes the impact of flesh on flesh resonate through your core.  The beautiful squishing and gurgling sounds of blood and entrails are perfect.  I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention some really good shibari-style rope work.  Those perverts out there of the BDSM persuasion (like a certain horror blogger) will particularly enjoy this added touch.

Visceral is an apt name for this film.  You feel it in your guts every bit as much as your brain.  It’s a movie that plays from multiple angles.  Some will find a top notch gore flick.  Some will find a harrowing peek into the abyss of insanity.  Hell, some may come away having seen a fucked up PSA about a hot topic in the world of sports; head trauma.  Whatever perspective you choose to view it from, this is a film that lays bare its tortured soul for you to touch if you dare.  If you go into it just as open, you’ll be rewarded with a remarkable viewing experience that is at the same time mindraping and, well… Visceral.  I haven’t seen a lot of Chilean horror, but after this and Hidden in the Woods, we may be looking at a new hotbed of genre goodness.  Nathan says check it out.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Son of Celluloid Picks the Top 13 Flicks of 2014

A couple of notes before we get started here.  First of all, this year I opened up the countdown to non-horror movies.  A lot of the best flicks this year danced around the edges of the genre; not really horror but somehow horrific.  Those classification defying films deserved a spot, so no more genre limitations.  Second of all, a couple of these movies were out before this year but were not widely available until 2014.  If I saw it this year, it’s fair game.  Let’s see, anything else…oh yeah.  If I had seen Found this year, it would have been an easy #1.  Ok Cellmates, I present to you my top thirteen films of 2014…

Honorable Mention: Purge:Anarchy, Proxy, Godzilla, American Muscle, Tusk, Collar, Deadly Virtues, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, The Hornet’s Sting and The Hell It’s Caused

13. Cross Bearer 
I’m keeping Cross Bearer at the bottom only because of questions over which year it should count as.  While the majority of horror flicks this year was concerned with exploring the edges of the genre and being so called “high concept,” Cross Bearer wallowed in sleazy slasher excess and was a blast to watch because of it.  Bloody, booby, and brutal goodness.  Adam Ahlbrandt has a definite handle on the basics.


 12. Tie - Captain America: Winter Soldier / Guardians of the Galaxy 
Even the Son of Celluloid needs a non-horror palate cleanser now and then.  Superhero movies are just what the doctor ordered, and this year Marvel released their two best films to date.  CA:WS introduced something new to the Marvel flicks; a real, honest to goodness plot.  It was a political thriller with the usual comic book movie  “bang pow boom” as an accoutrement.  Guardians of the Galaxy was just a fun as hell sci-fi romp.  While I can’t in good conscience give Marvel two spots on the countdown, these were my favorite theatrical releases of the year.

11. Time To Kill 
Don’t get me wrong, some movies are supposed to hurt, but the majority of the time the number one thing a movie should be is fun to watch.  I give Time To Kill the title of “Funnest Flick Of 2014.”  Plentiful tits and blood, a killer soundtrack, and a breakout turn from rising star Ellie Church make Brian Williams’ debut feature a neo-exploitation gem not to be missed.  Just don’t make an “all shots no beer” drinking game out of it.  Bad things happen.  I learned that the hard way.

10. Babadook 
Forget for a minute that this flick was ridiculously overhyped.  Is it the best horror flick in years?  No.  Is it a really good one?  Yep.  If I were giving out a Best Actress award, Essie Davis would have it hands down.  Child actor Noah Wiseman killed it too.  Add in great production design (am I the only one who thinks the monster looks like a caricature of Coffin Joe?) and a well-built pace and you have an effective little thriller. 

9. Morris County 
Matt Garrett’s Morris County is either the most depressing flick of the year or a pitch black comedy (or both) depending on how twisted you are.  It’s well acted, well written, contains some really good practical makeups, and has a deliciously grim atmosphere that I’ve heard compared to Happiness.  The third segment can completely bum me out or have me in stitches depending on the mood it catches me in.  That kind of tonal complexity is a rare achievement.

8. Cold In July 
You had me at Lansdale.  Cold in July is a little bit of everything.  It’s a revenge story.  It’s a hard boiled noir.  It’s Don Johnson being a cowboy badass.   It’s a character study.   It’s a gripping look at how violence affects our lives.  And in the last half hour, it’s a balls to the wall violent slaughterfest.  In other words, this one’s got something for everyone.  Between this, We Are What We Are, Stakeland, and the flick at #6, I will now officially watch anything with Nick Damici in it.

7. I Am No One 
With his first feature, Jason Hoover has recreated the serial killer movie.  Mix the style of Man Bites Dog with the spirit of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and you have I Am No One.  Foregoing Grand Guignol excess in favor of chilling, quiet moments with violent punctuation, Hoover uses the faux-documentary style to its full potential.  Mike Nall is brilliant as the killer, always seeming a little too calm not to be coiled to strike.  Through interviews and observation, the human face that hides the mind of a maniac (doomed to be a killer since he came out the nutsack?) slowly cracks and falls away until a climax that is one of the best single scenes the underground has produced in a long time.  The true horror comes after the movie when you realize just how many people like Charles Lake you might have known.  This is grown up horror, and it’s a direction I hope the serial killer sub-genre continues following.

6. Late Phases 
The first great werewolf movie since Dog Soldiers.  Late phases takes the flavor of an old school creature feature and, as many of the best horror flicks from the past few years have, added a double shot of genuine pathos.  Nick Damici is wholly believable as a gruff, blind Vietnam vet dealing with his new life in a retirement community, a deteriorating relationship with his son, and the werewolves that make monthly attacks on his neighborhood.  A supporting turn by Tom Noonan as a priest and practical creature effects by none other than Robert Kurtzman are both worth noting.  The CGI blood is worth ignoring.

5. Come Back To Me 
I figured that a movie based on Wrath James White's book The Resurrectionist had zero chance of not disappointing. The source material is extremely graphic, and with the current lack of balls in the horror movie game, I knew the flick wouldn't match the book's intensity. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, though. Come Back To Me did omit the over the top violence, but still found a way to capture enough of the story's original tone to make it palatable to both fans of the book and mainstream horror without it feeling neutered.  It’s genuinely eerie, builds the tension well, and the finale is a straight up kick in the balls.  If you haven’t read the book, the twist will get ya.

4. Blue Ruin 
This is what would happen if some everyday schlub like you or me tried to pull off some one man army, Death Wish vigilante type of shit.  In a year with multiple well done revenge flicks, this is the best.  It’s got some satisfyingly bloody set pieces, but writer/director Jeremy Saulnier makes sure they are felt and actually have an impact.  Moments of comedy weave in and out of the tragedy of a man obligated to do a job he’s nowhere near ready to carry out.  That man’s journey is made all the more gripping by a tour de force performance by Macon Blair.  It’s the second best (behind only the masterpiece that is Found) movie everyone could have gotten at Wal-mart for ten bucks this year that no one bought.  

3. Nightcrawler 
The best way I can describe Nightcrawler is “exactly what 4amin a big city feels like captured on screen.”  It shows a deftness and confidence behind the camera that is surprising from a first time director like Dan Gilroy.  The entire cast is on point.  Jake Gyllenhaal (who looks terminally ill in this flick) is immensely creepy and practically oozes sleaze all over the audience.  If he and Rene Russo don’t get Oscar nominations, the terrorists win. Bill Paxton is awesome as a total dick.  The flick looks absolutely gorgeous, exhibiting the best cinematography of the year.  While the story works literally, everyone I’ve talked to sees something different in it metaphorically.  That kind of multi-level filmmaking is refreshing.  Since it’s 2014 exposure was limited, I expect the February DVD drop date to ensure this one makes it on a multitude of “Best of 2015” lists.

2. Starry Eyes 
Worst casting couch ever!  Part biting show business satire and part body horror, Starry Eyes is the story of an aspiring actress who just may have gone too far in the pursuit of a role in the film The Silver Scream.  I’ve heard it compared to the work of both David Lynch and Roman Polanski, and I can see the best of both influences in it.  I see a lot of Cronenberg too, especially the superb use of (well done) makeup as character development ala The Fly.  Alex Essoe puts in a great performance, showing the chops necessary to be a possible future genre mainstay.  The gore is practical and suitably gooey.  Starry Eyes seems to exist between eras; with a 70’s Euro-horror feel, an 80’s score, and a bleak as hell millennial nihilism.  I would give anything for the people behind this to go the Found/Headless route and actually make The Silver Scream

1.Pieces of Talent 
I just noticed that my top two movies both involve struggling actresses and the world of filmmaking.  Interesting.  Anyway, If you pay attention to the underground horror scene at all, there’s no way Pieces of Talent flew under your radar.  Joe Stauffer’s flick got a lot of buzz, and every bit of it was deserved.  Charlotte toils away at a seedy strip club where she meets David, a filmmaker who adopts Charlotte as his leading lady and muse.  But just how far will David go to realize his artistic vision?  The first thing I loved about this flick was David Long as, um… David Long.  It’s so hard to get a read on his character.  He definitely plays him weird as hell, but it’s not quite an endearing weird and not quite a menacing weird.  It’s that kind of “there’s something wrong with that dude, but I’m not sure what” weird.  I’ve never seen a performance like it before.  Kristi Ray brings a likable vulnerability to Charlotte as well.  Another thing that blew me away is how the film played with tone and form, veering between different styles of horror to weave an intricate stylistic patchwork and keep the audience on their toes.  It’s alternately subtle, creepy, funny, bizarre and dreamlike, and brutal and bloody (with practical effects I might add) when it needs to be.  First person “found footage” style footage is used in conjunction with standard third person style in a way that is far more effective than any full on FFF.   The final, lingering thing that stuck with me was the feeling that, if I were just a little crazier, David could be me.  Any creative type, from a filmmaker to a painter to a writer, can understand David’s motivation to some extent.  It’s a look at the state of independent horror filmmaking through a prism of madness, and it leaves that sickly feeling that you might not be as different from the villain as you would like to believe.  The fact that it’s miles ahead of the majority of similarly budgeted films on every technical level (sound, editing, cinematography, etc.) is just icing on the cake. Pieces of Talent is an impressive and truly unique film.  Stauffer and Long are currently raising funds for a sequel.  I hope to god that it happens.

 Starry Eyes, Blue Ruin, Come Back To Me, Late Phases, Cold In July, Babadook, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy are available on Amazon either on DVD/BR or streaming.
CROSS BEARER is available HERE 
TIME TO KILL is available HERE
I AM NO ONE is available HERE 
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