Thursday, June 26, 2014

'Street Trash' (Movie Review)

It's difficult to make a great movie with absolutely no redeeming qualities. That's why Street Trash is such a rare gem. Director Jim Muro, who would later go on to be the Steadicam operator for every movie EVER helmed this filthy masterpiece in 1987. It's vile, offensive, hilarious, and one of my favorites of all time in the genre.

Lets rewind to the year 1998. MP3's had just been created, George Michael was arrested at a truck stop, and I was working at the local mom&pop video store. In the dankest reaches of the "Cult Cinema" section, there was a VHS tape labelled Street Trash. I unassumingly brought this movie over to my friends place for our weekly friday night video marathon, not realizing what would ensue. After a single showing, Street Trash was instantly catapulted to the top of our "Dude, holy SH*T you need to watch this!" list. It was so gross, ludicrous, and downright awful that it immediately stole our crappy teenage hearts.

Street Trash really isn't about anything. Anything...except LIQUOR THAT MELTS HOBOS. Booze shop owner Frank finds an old sealed box containing "Tenefly Viper", some hooch he begins selling for a buck a pop. Turns out it has the nasty side-effect of melting anyone who drinks it from the inside out in a technicolor acid explosion. Scrapyard kid Freddy steals a bottle of the stuff, and unwittingly gets himself and his little brother wrapped up in a war against Bronson, a psychotic war veteran who is king of the bums and also a cannibal. What follows is total insanity, and multiple elaborate death scenes featuring eye-scorching rainbow goo.

Seriously, the special effects in this movie are just awesome. The fact that they went with insanely bright neon gore fluids instead of blood is genius, and it's a testament to the zeitgeist of sleazy 1980's shock cinema. Keep in mind this movie is also a snapshot of "Pre-Giulianni" New York City, where murderous vagrants and CHUD's hung out near the peep show booths.

Gratuitous slime Muppet FX aside, Street Trash really sets the bar high (or low?) as an equal opportunity offender. It sets back every race, religion, and minority social group back roughly 3 decades. However, it delivers everything in a wash of ridiculous slapstick comedy that actually makes it endearing in a terrible way. So many of today's "shock films" come off as mean-spirited; pushing boundaries of good taste just for the sake of it. Street Trash approaches everything with the mentality of a 3rd grader. Besides the notorious "severed penis football game", there is a scene where an obese man has sex with a corpse, and it's scored by humorous xylophone music. Street Trash treats necrophilia like a knock knock joke.

If you're at all interested in exploitation cinema from the 1980's, or like movies that make you feel like an awful person for enjoying them, then you really owe it to yourself to watch Street Trash at least once. It's fantastic, and oddly overlooked even in today's internet landscape where the most obscure films find a following. I'd personally recommend the "Meltdown Edition" DVD or Blu-ray that includes a great documentary and some stickers. Everybody loves stickers!

Grade: A+
Reviewed via DVD. Running Time 91 MIN.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

'Night Things' (Movie Review)

It's REALLY difficult to find Night Things via a Google search. Do you know how many horror movies have the words "night" and "thing" in the title? Hint: A LOT. Chances are good you've never heard of this low budget flick, which is a shame because its one of the best independent horror releases I've seen in quite a while.

Night Things tells the story of Alex, who is caught in a time-space vortex created by her evil abusive grandpa tinkering with ancient Mexican demon technology. No, seriously. She's holed up in a rural cabin trying to find a way home before the malevolent "night things" murder her...wait for the night. Eventually Haley, a (convenient) physics student arrives through the vortex on her bicycle and the two hatch a plan to escape before some tar drooling maniacs in robes can bury them alive as sacrifices.

When a movie draws heavily from its influences, only one of two things happens. Viewers either think it's a derivative piece of crap, or hail it as a wonderful homage to films of the past. It's an odd phenomenon I attribute to the presentation. Night Things totally nails the delivery, which renders any of its missteps forgivable.

First, I want to have a high-five marathon with whoever decided to film this with a Super 16 camera. THANK YOU. Thank you for using actual film instead of convenient digital technology that makes low budget movies look like poorly shot home videos. The grainy warmth of the media goes a long way in setting the tone of the movie, and adds an eerie wash over the entire proceeding. It also has the added benefit of making low budget practical effects look better than they are, where high def digital cameras expose every tiny flaw. OK, I've filled my indie filmmaking PSA quota for the month now.

Second, I love the fact that the story in Night Things is totally unapologetic. It lifts concepts from Evil Dead, Phantasm, and even The Langoliers then slickly meshes those ideas into its own story. You'll clearly recognize them, but you won't care because you're being entertained. There are creepy troll people called "Lures" running around in brown robes, first person camera chase scenes, and weird pillars that form a soul battery vortex into another dimension. It's like a Sam Raimi/Don Coscarelli highlight reel, and I loved every minute of it. The only thing it was missing was a Bronson Pinchot cameo.

I don't want to get into spoiler territory here, suffice to say that Night Things doesn't hand hold. It explains just enough to keep the plot moving without the ham-fisted over analysis that so many indie horror movies fall prey to. Do I care WHY there are nocturnal demons in that vortex? Of course not, and Night Things knows that. It also features some solid acting, legitimately great jump scares, and a really great twist ending.

OK, I've gone on long enough about this movie. It's a hidden gem in the massive indie horror landscape and anyone who loves movies like Phantasm or bizarre sci-fi horror in general should check it out!

Grade: A-
Reviewed via DVD. Running time 91 MIN.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gore. Hoo. Uh. What is it Good for?

That title is an Edwin Starr joke. The internet really needs an audio track sometimes.

As previously mentioned, I grew up rather conservatively. Many of my genres of interest were stifled by this environment, but horror storytelling was the worst. Like a twelve year old with Playboys, I hid a stack of Goosebumps novels under my bed. As that pile slowly transitioned to Stephen King books, my parents hadn't eased up at all at how unwelcome anything horror was in their house.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Practical Gore FX as an Artform

Every horror fan has their one special gross-out moment. Maybe it's that scene you hate to watch, but can't look away from. Or maybe it's a scene from your favorite flick that is so over-the-top in its ultra violence that becomes comical and you can enjoy watching it over and over again.

My favorite for certain is the "dirt bike escape" scene from Lamberto Bava's schlock masterpiece Demons. As a kid, it melded together everything that was awesome (dirt bikes, heavy metal, scary monsters, katanas, and torrents of spraying blood) into one amazing climax that still stands the test of time in cult cinema. If it were my choice, Demons would win an Oscar in the category of "Most Amazing Movie Ever", with a nod to The Thing as runner up.

Whatever you feel the pinnacle of splatter is, I bet no one reading this has a favorite "gore moment" that is all CGI. Why? Because practical effects are an art form.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ultimate Gore-A-Thon 2014

It's no secret that over on Terrorphoria we love gory movies. While we advocate for the advancement of the medium by using fancy words like "film", and "script", and "camera" we're not above enjoying copious amounts of arterial spray.

So when the fine folks over at asked if we wanted to take part in their "Ultimate Gore-A-Thon 2014" we were like "Holy crap where do we sign up?!"

So for the next week we'll be writing some entries about the gooier and grosser side of our favorite genre and linking you to great content from other participating sites.

You should bookmark this link to the full index of all this years entries.

I'm looking forward to using even more Tales from The Crypt-esque alliteration this week than I normally subject everyone to. Why? Because I just can't resist the temptation to write "blood-soaked blog post".

'Summer of Zombie 2014' Blog Tour - Bryan Cassiday (GUEST POST)

“The Creature That Wouldn’t Die”
a blog by
Bryan Cassiday

Unlike the creature it portrays, the zombie genre isn’t dead, as so many have prematurely claimed.  Just look at the success of The Walking Dead on TV and that of World War Z at the movies.
The success of the zombie genre, more than any other genre, is in large part due to the popularity of the Internet.  You need go no further than Facebook to see the proliferation of zombie groups.  I would say zombies are becoming even more popular than ever due to their omnipresence on the Internet.

My favorite zombie book is Dead City by Joe McKinney.  It is one of the few zombie books that match the intensity of George Romero’s groundbreaking zombie flick Night of the Living Dead.  Romero’s movie breathed new life into the walking dead, or ghouls as they were called in the movie.  They were never actually called zombies.

Before Romero’s movie, zombies never ate people.  Mostly, they lumbered around in a trance like the ones in White Zombie, which starred Bela Lugosi.  Lugosi commanded his army of zombies to attack people, but they didn’t eat them.  The zombies’ taste for living human flesh was dreamed up by Romero. 

Romero’s flesh-eating zombies are the zombies as we know them today.  But not quite.  Modern zombies have mutated over the years.  Some of the more recent zombies, such as the ones in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later move faster than Romero’s shambling hordes.  However, they still crave the taste of living human flesh.  These newer zombies tend to be products of disease.  Radiation from outer space caused the dead to walk in Night of the Living Dead.  Today’s zombies are more likely to be caused by the spread of a plague.

Though it’s true that the popularity of Max Brooks’s horror novel World War Z hasn’t been duplicated recently in the publishing world, I don’t believe the zombie genre in fiction is, for that reason, dead.  It’s still out there, and the Internet is keeping it going.  There are plenty of zombie books being written.  You can’t write these dead guys off.  They may seem like they’re dead, but that’s the way it’s always been.  Zombies look like they’re dead, whereas in reality they’re not.  The same could be said of zombie books.

Another one of my favorite zombie books is Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night, which is a really creepy book about zombies created by a madman.  I also like David Moody’s Autumn series.  And don’t forget Stephen King’s Cell, in which the transmissions by cell phones are turning people into zombies.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephen King cooks up another zombie book in the near future. 
The bottom line is the zombie genre is not dead. 

Another factor that is keeping the genre alive is the explosion of self-publishing.  Many of the zombie books that are coming out these days are self-published.  Zombies are circumventing the Big 5 New York legacy publishers and continuing to thrive in self-publishing.  Nobody can stop zombies.  They have a life of their own.  They want their day on the printed page, whether it be on paper or on a Kindle-type reading device, and they will get it, one way or the other—if not in New York, than in the rest of the country.

Zombies rule!

In my most recent Chad Halverson zombie apocalypse thriller Poxland I explored the political aspect of a zombie apocalypse and how the politicians would respond to it, how the apocalypse favors the politicians because they have the resources to take refuge from it, whereas the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves as the world collapses around us.

The zombie plague in my book is spread by conspirators who have a hidden agenda when they precipitate the disease.To see a list of all the zombie books I have written in my Chad Halverson zombie apocalypse series, see my Web site at  Also connect with me on Facebook  and Twitter.

The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 33 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don't miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #SummerZombie

AND so you don't miss any of the posts in June, here's the complete list, updated daily!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Now Screaming: "Blue Exorcist" (Anime Review)

If you are part of my generation of clinging-to-our-last-twenty-somethings, you probably grew up when anime consumption meant staying up to watch Cartoon Network at 4am or catching that weird 6:30am slot when Dragon Ball Z was syndicated. The highly privileged had older siblings that could grab physical media from a really hip video shop, but most of us were left with no convenient option to watch every episode of these highly serialized shows.  Further, we had very little control of what Anime we watched, always at the mercy of network programming and sibling politics.

Experiencing this niche medium back then had a perk we didn't realize: curation.  Any time we managed to watch Anime, it was something a passionate executive fought to get on a network.  Any time we watched a VHS or DVD, it was something that someone had hunted down and invested in.  It was pretty rare that we watched something that disappointed us.

Now, the game has changed.  With almost every streaming service flooded with this programming, not to mention one service (Crunchy Roll) entirely dedicated to it, there is an embarrassment of riches.  I imagine I'm not alone in feeling intimidated by the selection.  As a husband, father, and worst of all, an adult that has to do grown up things like show up to work every day, time has become the most precious currency.

Most occasions I've tried to cue up the random anime, I've been left wanting.  When my buddy said I should give Blue Exorcist a try, I probably shot him my famous look of snobbish condescension (my wife is pretty positive this is my resting state).  However, he couldn't have been more right.  This show kicks more ass than Juan Valdez's boot.

The show follows Rin Okumura, a teenage boy that is pretty normal except for that tiny detail that he is the son of Satan.  Raised to think he is a normal human in a non-supernatural world, he is suddenly forced to deal with unrefined lethal powers, vicious demon attacks, and hiding his identity in a world extremely prejudiced to anything Satan related.

Tonally, this show is all over the place in a great way, the amazing sort of genre anarchy you can only find in anime.  When it's horror, it is balls-to-the-freaking-walls horror.  The blood and gore in the first handful of episodes is enough to satisfy the most macabre palates. The story then shifts when Rin finds himself in a Hogwarts of sorts, a magical school to train young demon fighters, while hiding the fact that he is the cultural equivalent of Voldemort's offspring.

Some episodes focus on teenage social issues.  Some focus on demon and church political intrigue. One features one of the most absurd but amazing kaiju fights I have ever seen between a giant squid and a giant pet cat. One is structured almost entirely on meta humor, poking fun at the entire swath of monster-of-the-week television. The entire stretch is only 25 episodes, but each one is entertaining and unique, closing with a handful dedicated to an epic, it-ends-here battle between the forces of light and darkness.

Even better, there isn't a character in this thing that doesn't feel round, intriguing, captivating, and endearing. Most are given their chance to shine, whether it be in an epic magical fight or a social event.  All are charmingly flawed, with there own specific wants and desires.  Seriously, few things do characters this right.

My wife and I blew through these episodes in under a week and I can't recommend it enough.  Even though it's short, it has the sort of fulfilling end that leaves you wanting more but not just feeling cheated.  Honestly, I just can't wait to share it with another friend so that I have the excuse to watch it again.

Grade: A
Currently Streaming on: Netflix, Crunchy Roll

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Beginner's Guide to Horror Games

Horror in video games has roots tracing far back into the 1980's when people were playing Chiller in the arcades or running from Leatherface in that Texas Chainsaw Massacre game for Atari. It's a wonderful genre that adds an extra layer of tension, and when done right can be as scary as any horror movie because of the extra immersion. Whether you're just curious about horror games and don't know where to start, or you played Resident Evil 2 back in high school and you want to see what's available now, hopefully this guide will be a helpful resource to get you back into the world of terror!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Now Screaming: "Contracted" (Movie Review)

In a plot that plays out like it was written by my baptist minister father to scare teenagers into wearing chastity belts, Contracted is about a girl getting roofied and raped at a party and catching one hell of an STD.  Now, brace yourselves, as we have to talk about that damn "R" word for a minute.

I will be the first to say that any subject in art should be fair game, whether that art be pretentious pedigree or shitty schlock.  That said, the marketing blurb for this film (that summary you read when you are trying to decide if you are going to watch the movie) states that all of this happens after a "one night stand."

As I said in my Godzilla review, don't lie in your marketing.  It makes you an asshole.  In this case, it's exceptionally terrible because it's a cruel bait-n-switch to any rape survivors out there.  The movie itself actually handles this matter deftly and with tact. It's just a shame the marketing couldn't rise to the same level.

Alright. Rant over. Back to our scheduled programming.

From there on we have a rote virus/infection horror story.  Satisfying nausea-inducing effects abound as our protagonist (Samantha) descends into biological uncertainty. The highest compliment I can give is that I had to stop the film once with the comment, "This is not something I can watch while eating."

What elevates Contracted past other entries in what I like to call the "What the hell is happening to me!?" genre is the nontraditional heroine. Most horror films follow a very sympathetic WASP-y chick. Samantha certainly is white, but she is very unsympathetic.  Recovering from the break up of her first lesbian relationship and her failing career, she takes it all out on the friends and family around her.

Unfortunately, there is a reason that the "What the hell is happening to me!?" genre is predominantly used in books and television, not movies.  Even at a taught 78 mins, this move felt long.  Also, the budget limitations are evident in silly ways, such as scenes awkwardly reusing set locations.

It's not the sort of thing you can watch in mixed company, or will ever desire to watch again, but Contracted is a competent enough film for horror fans.  If nothing else, Community fans will enjoy watching the very funny Charley Koontz in a very small supporting roll.

Grade: C
Now Streaming On: Netflix

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

'Deadlight' (Game Review)

I'm always up for a good side scrolling platform game, so when I saw that Deadlight was free on "Games with Gold" on the Xbox 360 it was time to invest a few hours of my life in it. Now that I've beaten the game, I want about 75% of those hours back.