Kind of a slow news week this time out with not a lot of big stories to report. You may have heard that NBC is planning a reboot of The Munsters called “Mockinbird Lane” that will be darker than the original slapstick sitcom. We have the first character cast for the series.
How many of you saw the trailer for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows? How many of you cringed in horror when you saw the trailer for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows? For those of you who remember watching the gothic horror soap opera Burton’s vision is a little troubling. I suppose we should have figured as much as he his Tim Burton but still the amount of humor in the trailer sure seems like the film is going to be eons away from the original show.
Next question…how many of you are fans of Hammer Horror? Peter Cushing? Christopher Lee? We have a double treat this week with a review of a new book devoted to Hammer Studios as well as a interview with the book’s author, Marcus Hearn. Thanks for checking in.
THE TERRIFYING NEWS
Trailer for Darren Lynn Bousman The Devil’s Carnival
In The Devil's Carnival, sinners are invited to a theme park where they endure the repetition of their transgressions. What chances do a conniving kleptomaniac, a gullible teenager, and an obsessed father stand when facing their own moral failings? Lucifer and his colorful cast of singing carnies invite you to grab a ticket to The Devil's Carnival to find out!
Nintendo invites you to a haunted hotel
To promote its new 3DS videogame called Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir, Nintendo is inviting fans 18 and over to an authentic haunted hotel. In addition to hands-on game play, guests will enjoy scares, food and beverages. Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir invites players to experience immersive supernatural thrills they won’t soon forget using the built-in camera functions and augmented-reality features of the Nintendo 3DS system. Players must use the “diary of faces” – a 16-page AR Book included with the game – to view ghostly images and interact with the world in the story. The lines between reality and fiction blur in this spine-tingling horror adventure.
Interesting tribute to Halloween Producer
The city of South Pasadena, California installed a tribute to Halloween producer Moustapha Akkad on a city street where the iconic film was shot in 1978. Sitting at the corner of Oxley and Fairview (across from the “Strode house”) is a bench, under which a plaque says the following: "In Loving Memory of Moustapha Akkad, Known to the world as the Godfather of the Halloween film series, Your Legacy lives on... Filmed in So. Pasadena 1978." How cool is that!
Famke Janssen to Star in Eli Roth’s Netflix series Hemlock Grove
Famke Janssen is set to star for the Eli Roth directed series Hemlock Grove. The series will be available for Netflix members to watch instantly, beginning early in 2013.
Hemlock Grove starts with the body of a young girl, mangled and murdered in the shadow of the former Godfrey steel mill. Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a biotech facility owned by the former steel magnates. Others believe the killer could be Peter, a 17-year-old Gypsy kid from the wrong side of the tracks, who tells his classmates he's a werewolf. Or it could be Roman (Skarsgard), the arrogant Godfrey scion, whose sister Shelley is disturbingly deformed and whose mother, Olivia (Janssen), the otherworldly beautiful and controlling grand dame of Hemlock Grove.
As the crime goes unsolved and outlandish rumors mount, Peter and Roman decide to find the killer themselves, confronting unspeakable truths about themselves and Hemlock Grove as the mystery unfolds.
Grandpa Munster cast for NBC’s Mockingbird Lane
NBC’s Munsters reboot has its first cast member. The part of Grandpa Munster will be played by actor Eddie Izzard. Mockingbird Lane, is being developed by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies) and executive produced by Bryan Singer.
Absentia Director Mike Flanagan’s next film
Writer-director Mike Flanagan next film will be Scare Dares, a new indie horror thriller. Flanagan previously helmed the festival hit Absentia (reviewed below!), which is now available on DVD and VOD. Scare Dares concerns a smartphone app that guides people to locations with a history of paranormal phenomena. The story focuses on a group of friends who decide to use the app to visit various spots around central California and take part in the app's challenges. Naturally, things go wrong.
THE TERRIFYING REVIEWS
Absentia (Phase 4 Films) DVD Review
After finishing Absentia I’m not sure whether to give the film an A or an F. This is really one weird film. Dare I say that it has either dazzled me with brilliance or baffled me with BS. Former drug addict Callie has come to live with her older sister. Tricia’s husband disappeared seven years earlier and she is finally able to legally declare him dead…and that’s where the trouble begins for both sisters.
Tricia begins to have terrifying visions of her dead husband, which her therapist dismisses as simple guilt over having him declared dead. Meanwhile Callie finds herself drawn to an ominous tunnel near the house that might also be connected to other neighborhood disappearances. As Callie begins to investigate a string of local disappearances that goes back nearly a hundred years, Tricia’s life is turned upside down by an unexpected visitor.
On one hand, Absentia is an amateurish production in many ways. The camera jitters spasmodically throughout, particularly in exterior shots, which is unnerving to the viewer. The morose musical score seems like it was lifted out of a small town funeral home and is consistent throughout, even in scenes, which should be happy, creating a depressing tone to the film. But…the cast, while clearly unseasoned, is remarkably genuine in their performances. These actors don’t look like actors and as such they are believable in their roles. But best of all Director Mike Flanagan comes up with some plot elements that are completely original. We basically have a modern take on a Grimm’s fairy tale but set in a modern, urban setting. With little in the way of budget or visual effects Flanagan manages to create a pervasive unsettling atmosphere and manages the rare feat of an ending that leaves you guessing and questioning everything you just saw. Ok it’s not an A but its definitely not an F and its most certainly worth 90 minutes of your time.
The Afflicted (Midnight Releasing) DVD Review
In The Afflicted, Leslie Easterbrook plays a bonkers religious zealot who makes the mother in “Carrie” look like Mrs. Cleaver. When Maggie’s husband Hank (played in a nice cameo role by Kane Hodder) attempts to abandon his family one night, Maggie kills him, and tells her four teenaged children that he ran off with another woman. Little do the kids know that their their troubles are just beginning. As her obsession with a cut-rate TV Evangelist grows, Maggie becomes more unstable abusing, and outright torturing her children. She beats them, and forces them to beat each other. She mashes handfuls of lard down their throat all the while using the ages old mother proclamation that “starving people would love to have this food.”
As her desperate children reach out to for help to the adults in their community such as their school counselors and even the TV Evangelist, their mother is able to put on veneer of downtrodden mother, abandoned by her husband and doing her best to provide for them. The adults turn their backs on the children. Eventually Maggie even forces her daughters into prostitution right in their own home in order to make money for the mounting bills.
The Afflicted is an uncomfortable film to watch. Maggie’s brutality is matched only by her sheer insanity. Easterbrook gives a performance that, while over-the-top in a big way, is sheer brilliance. Her fragile psyche teeters between doting mom and mommy dearest. She’s four ways of nuts and that is true horror. The actors who play the kids are relative newcomers but they more than hold their own. It was also nice to seen Kane Hodder get a role that doesn’t involve him being under layers of makeup or a mask. While his part was short it was memorable. The film dwelt a little bit too long on the personal life of the TV Evangelist but The Afflicted ranks right up there with The Girl Next Door on the uncomfortable meter.
Snow White A Deadly Summer (Lionsgate) DVD Review
There is a comment on the back of this DVD from a reviewer who describes this film as “Children of the Corn meets A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Now I don’t know what film this guy was watching but that description is about as accurate as me saying it’s like The Ten Commandments meets Scarface. I’ll admit that I popped this disc in for one reason, and that it that it co-stars Maureen McCormick who, of course, starred as Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch. I mean come on…Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in a psycho horror movie? What’s not to like about that? As it turns out…everything!
A teenaged girl named “Snow” lives with her wealthy father (played by Eric Roberts) and proverbial wicked stepmother Eve (McCormick). Eve is tired of Snow getting all of the attention so she talks her husband in to sending his daughter to a 4-week boot camp for troubled teens. Once there Snow meets the other kids and hears the urban myth about a camper who murdered another camper 25 years ago and disappeared. The camp is run by a couple of ex-military twits who yell and scream at the kids all day about duty and honor and choosing the right path.
At night, Snow has nightmares about the other kids getting killed and just on cue the same kid is found dead. As the bodies pile up…nothing really much happens. Snow virtually walks into every answer as if lead along by a leash in this poorly written, poorly acted, and poorly produced film.
Scenes which are supposed to take place at night look like they are in broad daylight, one girl is found dead with a noose around her neck yet without any marks on her throat, and McCormick is laughable as a psychotic who sneers and talks to her reflection in a mirror. It’s obvious after seeing this film that McCormick’s best days as an actress were getting hit in the face by a football and screaming, “Oh! My Nose!”
Rebel Blood #1 (Image Comics)
Written by Alex Link and Riley Rossmo
Art by Rile Rossmo
Alex Link and Riley Rossmo present their take on a zombie virus that seems influenced by the Resident Evil series in as much that the virus not only turns people into blood crazed zombies but mutates them as well. As an added threat, it also mutates animal life. A former firefighter named Chuck is trying to pickup the pieces of his career. After a fall leaves him unable to continue his career as a firefighter, he takes a job manning a fire outpost in a rural forest area. It’s boring work but at least he is able to provide for his family. But everything changes when he gets a chilling radio call from local law enforcement about a rabies like virus that is causing animals and people to mutate and attack anything nearby.
Rebel Blood is a four-issue mini-series and is pretty standard fare. The issue ends before we get a ton of action which is typical of a first issue. The best part o Link and Rossmo’s story is the inner turmoil that Chuck has…we see him having daydreams of arriving in time to be the hero and save his family, arrive just in time to save his son but not his wife, and even kill his wife purposely along with a zombie…apparently for her incessant nagging. The art is average to good with a bit of a John Romita Jr. look. Capable but nothing outstanding.
Vampirella 15 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Written by Eric Trautmann
Art by Jose Malaga
I’ve been a Vampirella fan since I was just a wee lad and even if I didn’t always get the stories, I was enough into puberty to know she always looked damn hot in that slinky outfit. Was never that crazy about how the character was handled when Harris Comics has the rights and turned every comic into a swimsuit issue. But under the good people at Dynamite have been doing a great job of concentrating on story first and sex appeal second.
In this continuing of previously started plot, Vampirella and her friend Sofia are on the trail of a centuries old fiend who is looking for the pieces an ancient text that once pieced together, can offer untold power. They’ve trailed him…or it…to ancient crypts along the Turkey and Armenia border where Sofia is the first to encounter the creature…unfortunately for her. Their ally, a German priest named Schuld, narrates most of the issue. Trautmann uses his narration to fill in the backstory while Malaga illustrates the events that are unfolding as Vampirella battles the creature. So even if you’ve missed the recent issues you don’t feel you’re lost in the middle.
Trautmann saves his best for last as he reveals a plot twists that could have deadly consequences for both Vampirella and Sofia. Dynamite reminds me a lot of Dark Horse in their early days where their best books, and the books that got them over with fans were licensed properties like Star Wars and Terminator. Dynamite has take a similar strategy with books like Army of Darkness, Robocop and Vampirella. Strong stories and good art. Vampirella is in good hands!
Vincent Price House of Horrors #1 (Bluewater Comics)
Written by: Jay Katz
Art by: Stefano Cardoselli
So you say you have a comic utilizing horror icon Vincent Prices name and image? Ok, I’m cool with that. I love Vincent Price. This limited series is actually a spinoff from Bluewater’s Vincent Price Presents. Great concept…but not so great on the execution. What would seem like it would be an anthology series instead only features one story. One 24-page story that seems more like an 8 – 10 page story that is stretched out far beyond the miniscule plot.
The tale concerns a man named Nick who is something of a loner. Invited out with the boys after church Nick instead retreats to his home where he delights in torturing and killing his pets: rabbits, rats, turtles, cats, etc…until one day the pets decide to get their revenge. Bottom line is that this is like a classic old EC Comics type of story. The difference is that they told those stories in 8 – 10 pages, sometimes even fewer pages. Caroselli’s art hits the right notes. It’s suitably gory and grisly and framed well. But half the book is unneeded fluff. There are numerous pages of repetitive scenes of violence. We got the point…tell us a story now.
The Hammer Vault – Marcus Hearn (Titan Books)
Outside of Universal Studios, no film studio has a greater association with horror and a greater legacy than England’s famed Hammer Studios. In the 1950s horror films were at a low point. What passed for horror were low budget, Drive-in films like “I Was a Teenaged Werewolf” and other such fare. That all changed when Hammer produced three films that help usher in a new era of horror: 1955’s The Quartermass Xperiment, 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein, and 1958’s Dracula. In addition to starting a new wave of horror, Hammer also made household names out of two actors who have become legends: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
The Hammer Vault by Marcus Hearn is like taking a trip through the annals of Hammer Horror without ever having to leave your living room. This over-sized book is fully illustrated and filled with hundreds of rare photos of rare Hammer memorabilia that Hearn has unearthed while researching the book. The book runs in chronological order from the earliest films to the recent productions in the all-new rejuvenated Hammer Studios.
These include items such as pictures of rare movie posters, lobby cards, press kits, scripts, publicity stills, behind-the-scenes photos, newspaper publicity stories, and film critic reviews of the day. These items are the Oak Island for Hammer horror fans. Any of these items would be highly desirable for any Hammer fan. Hearn provides a look at each of the Hammer productions and note that it is not just horror. While Hammer is most famous for horror films, Hammer produced many different types of films including dramas, crime films, Hitchcock-style thrillers, historical epics, and more.
Hearn provides information on each production and includes photos of noted material from the films. surrounded by my favorite was a shot of Raquel Welch in her loin cloth from One Million Years B.C. taken during a luncheon. If you’re a fan of Hammer and are looking to become a collector of Hammer Memorabilia, this book is a must have. And please stay tuned below for my exclusive interview with author Marcus Hearn.
Mania Interviews Marcus Hearn, author of The Hammer Vault
Mania: How long did it take you to research and put this book together?
Hearn: It took a year from beginning to end, but that process relied on a lot on information I had already gathered from the archive, and items I had already scanned and photographed. And that process began in 1994.
Mania: What were the biggest difficulties you encountered in tracking down all of this material?
Hearn: There were three parts of the process, and they were all tricky. First I had to establish what existed – and when you aren’t talking about mass-produced items that’s a process you can never be sure you’ve completed. Secondly I had to get hold of the items – many were in the archive but some were not. And finally, I worked with the designer Peri Godbold on deciding what to include and what to leave out. We probably had enough material for three books.
Mania: Was there one piece of Hammer material that you got particularly excited about finding that you weren’t expecting ever to locate?
Hearn: My ambition was to illustrate every page with something that fans hadn’t seen before. It was a tall order, but I hope we achieved that, or at least came close. So all of that was exciting.
Mania: Was there something that you had hoped to find but didn’t?
Hearn: There was some bizarre stuff that eluded us. I knew that the1958 release of Dracula had been accompanied by a publicity campaign for the Blood Transfusion Service, and I knew that The Man Who Could Cheat Death had tie-in road safety posters. Sadly I wasn’t able to find any artefacts from either of those campaigns, but we found a substitute for the latter, which you can see in the book.
Mania: How enthusiastic and helpful were the people you worked with in putting together this material?
Hearn: Hammer has always been extremely helpful, but this time I also worked with fans and collectors to fill the gaps. Everyone just wanted to be part of it, and the collectors contributed some of the rarest items, such as David Peel’s ring from The Brides of Dracula.
Mania: If someone wanted to start collecting Hammer memorabilia, what advice would you have for them?
Hearn: Start with posters. The rarest Hammer posters go for five-figure sums, but there are some really nice international posters that still go for less than $100. I’m sure they represent an investment.
Mania: And what’s the best source for Hammer memorabilia? Do items like lobby cards, press kits, and other promo materials come up for auction say at places like eBay very much?
Hearn: Oh yes. The big auction houses deal with the rarest items, but there is an enormous amount available on eBay. Hammer were pioneers of film marketing, and they produced a huge amount of material.
Mania: In your opinion, what is hammer’s most important film and why?
Hearn: The most important film is probably Dracula, because that’s where their opulent, transgressive style was perfected. It’s one of the most important post-war British films, regardless of genre.
Mania: When most people think about Hammer Films they think about their horror and sci-fi films but as you show in your book they produced many different types of films. What was Hammer’s most successful, non-horror or sci-fi film?
Hearn: One Million Years B.C. was the most commercially successful film they made. It was also advertised as their 100th film. I’m not sure it would fit into the horror or science fiction genres, but it was the closest Hammer ever came to becoming a mainstream filmmaker. Unfortunately they couldn’t hold on to the combination of talent and distribution necessary to repeat the trick.
Mania: Regarding, “Never Take Sweets from a Stranger”, the film about a paedophile, you mention that Columbia had concerns that the Hammer name would compromise its distribution. Was Columbia afraid that the film would just be viewed as just another horror film and its subject matter not taken seriously?
Hearn: I think Never Take Sweets From a Stranger is one of the most important films Hammer ever made. And I think it would have been more widely noticed, and better remembered, if Hammer hadn’t put their name on it. The Hammer name was a contributory factor in it receiving an X certificate, which excluded many of the young people who really should have seen it. Columbia were very proud of the film, but it didn’t do any business and is virtually unheard of today.
Mania: Do you think with films like “Never Take Sweets from a Stranger” and “Hell is a City” that Hammer was desperate to be viewed as more than just a maker of horror films?
Hearn: I think that Anthony Hinds and Michael Carreras, who respectively produced those two films, both had interests that were significantly broader than horror film-making. But by the late 1950s Hammer was typecast and it was difficult for them to make any other kind of film. And I think both of them, especially Michael, were aware that diversification also made good business sense. The horror boom lasted longer than I’m sure either of them could have predicted, but when it ended Hammer was in a lot of trouble.
Mania: How important was it to Hammer to make films that appealed to American audiences?
Hearn: It was crucial. America was Hammer’s most important market, because that was where the distributors’ money came from. Having said that, unlike many of their British contemporaries Hammer always aimed for the international market.
Mania: Did Hammer try too hard, at the expense of their own artistic visions to make films that Americans would like?
Hearn: Ironically I think Hammer compromised a lot less after America became seriously interested in the mid to late 1950s. Prior to that they had often cast American leading men and ladies, who were rather incongruous in their British thrillers. Once the horror films came along they very rarely used American stars, and yet these films were far more popular in the States. I think Hammer realised something that the James Bond producers and the Monty Python team subsequently understood, which was that American audiences will often respond to things that are quintessentially English.
Mania: What is your favorite Hammer Film?
Hearn: My favourite science fiction film is Quatermass 2, and I think the best Gothic horror is The Brides of Dracula. Although I can appreciate the ‘Hammer-ness’ in almost all of their films.
Mania: Hammer scored a major coup by securing the rights to the English version of “Let the Right One in”. “Let Me in” became Hammer’s first new film to get a theatrical release. What do you think about the prospect of Hammer’s success in the 21st century?
Hearn: The Woman in Black, which opened in February, has been spectacularly successful. Right now (early March) the film is well on its way to a $100 million gross. This is great news because the film deserves it, and it’s also welcome because it will help to secure the future for the company, enabling more films of this type and the preservation of the archive.
Mania: Marcus, thank you so much for your time today. I really enjoyed the book.