A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Rue Morgue Queer Fear Movie Poster

Rue Morgue and Queer Fear screen ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 2’ to celebrate Pride and recognize the film’s cultural significance

With the immediate success of the ground-breaking 1984 horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was not long before parent company New Line Cinema immediately began plans for a sequel. While they may have been the parent company, the father of Freddy-fright himself, the late legendary writer/director Wes Craven, chose not to participate in the production after reading the script by David Chaskin. The directing reins fell to Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark, Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies) who brought about an ambiguous approach to the narrative. Rushed into production and opening on November 1, 1985, on an estimated budget of only $3 million, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was met with mixed to negative reviews despite the mass blitz of hype going into it, including the famous FANGORIA Magazine 50th Issue cover. However, all was not lost, as Robert Englund – the man synonymous with the role of ANOES burned child molester turned dream stalker Freddy Krueger – has said that the film did very well in Europe due to its psycho-sexual subject matter. That subject matter remains prominent to this very day and is the reason why, 32 years later, Rue Morgue magazine has resurrected their CineMacabre movie nights in collaboration with Queer Fear, a Toronto based LGBTQ organization.

Keep reading after the trailer

The film, starring Mark Patton (Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and the upcoming Amityville: Evil Never Dies) as Jesse Walsh, takes place five years after the original, as Jesse’s family is getting settled into 1428 Elm Street. Unfortunately for Jesse, Freddy Krueger has decided that he can return from the dream world through Jesse’s virginal body and soul. It was an unusual and daring approach to an already established (and growing tired) formula of the girl-in-trouble slasher vibe by having a male in the protagonist role. Patton, a now openly gay actor, does demonstrate several tendencies and mannerisms that may be absent from the behavior of other lead male players, but this works here and he does it unintentionally, as the character himself is not gay. Or is he? Director Jack Sholder has stated in interviews that when viewed under the homoerotic context, the entire film resonates as a journey of self-discovery for Jesse’s homosexuality, which is why he rejects Lisa (Kim Myers, Studio 5-B, Hellraiser: Bloodline) during sexual arousal (albeit she ultimately saves him) and instead runs to the poster-boy jock/friend Ron Grady (Robert Russler, Sometimes They Come Back, Vamp) for help and protection. Upon first viewing, the homosexual innuendos did not blatantly present themselves to the viewer, even when thrown right in their faces such as the scenes containing the sadomasochistic torture and subsequent killing of the gym teacher, Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell, Total Recall, Virus) while a naked Jesse stands afraid and confused in the shower. Cue the highest pitched scream ever!

You Are All My Children Now

In fact, ANOES 2 takes a daring approach to the subject matter by changing the rules and dynamics set forth by Craven’s original. It is, to some degree, a total mind-fuck of a movie that could seriously be broken down and debated upon in any college or university film studies course. Aside from the symbolism that appeals to the LGBTQ community, there are other factors that ask the viewer to read deep into the material — namely the entire climax and the controversial crossing over of Freddy into the real world: was it reality or was it simply a dream hallucination caused by Jesse’s internal struggle against Freddy? Or by that time, was it Lisa’s dream – tired from the emotional struggle of her push and pull relationship with Jesse and hosting a party – that crossed over into the dream world? The entire climactic elements of ANOES 2 are some of the most iconic of the series, especially with Freddy Krueger looking upon a few dozen horrified teenagers claiming in such perverse threatening fashion “You are all my children now” (as one viewer will touch upon later on and this writer agrees).

Rue Morgue Magazine, breeding out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is a staple of horror publications around the world, and had suspended the CineMacabre horror movie nights (previously written here on 40oz. of Horror some three years ago), but thought it was now time to return. Executive editor Andrea Subissati took the time to discuss the journey of bringing this subjectively followed Elm Street sequel back to the big screen.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2
Rue Morgue and Queer Fear screen ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge’

“The decision was collaborative between myself, our programmer Richelle Charkot and Queer Fear’s Joshua Cross. Joshua had just returned to Toronto after being away for a few years and was keen to bring Queer Fear back, so I proposed the collab, and he’s the one that felt strongly about ANOES 2. I liked the idea of a sequel marking CineMacabre’s return and part of CM’s mandate is to movies that don’t get screened a whole lot, so ANOES 2 fit the bill perfectly. The next all-important question was whether or not we’d be able to secure the rights to screen it, so Richelle got right on that and set it up and gave us the date! She also took care of promotion, including hiring Andrew Barr to do the amazing poster of Freddy in a rainbow sweater, and Joshua did a great job securing the pre-show entertainment and post-screening discussion panel.”

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Rue Morgue Queer Fear Movie Poster
ANOES 2 poster art by Andrew Barr

Indeed, any promotion is important to a movie and more so a movie event of this magnitude, as it also tied into the Pride activities found across North America. The poster was a colourful take on Krueger by cleverly brightening some of his sweater hues and encompassing everything about Elm Street 2 – from its horror roots for the horror fan to the subtext adored in the gay community. Barr elaborates that Richelle “hired me to do other posters, so she decided they needed a poster for this one and I was the one to go.” Barr’s first work with Rue Morgue “was a poster for Them back last January.”

The event, housed once again in the vintage College Street venue known as the Royal, proved successful with an undeniably impressive turn-out on June 28, 2017; fans were lined up down the block with the concession dishing out popcorn and booze from the ground floor right up to the awaiting patrons in the upstairs bathroom levels. Whether straight or gay, moviegoers packed the ANOES 2 screening and weren’t afraid to voice their laughs or comments during the film – making the whole experience feel more like a grindhouse midnight movie cult viewing than a Wednesday primetime endeavor.

The Cultural Significance of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2

The sell-out crowd demonstrated that while the film may be a somewhat forgotten sequel in the lineage of the Elm Street franchise, its cultural significance may live on longer than Freddy Krueger himself. Subissati gave a very good point in that “Oftentimes, you can’t tell the cultural significance of a movie until a few decades pass and you can look back in retrospect with more clarity, and ANOES 2 is a perfect example of that.” Barr himself reveals that “it was the first Elm Street I ever saw back when it came out on VHS. One of my friends said you have to see this movie, so I saw that movie.”

The film is nothing short of a culture shock when you look at that timeframe – the Halloween series was on hiatus, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was still in pre-production, Friday the 13th had killed Jason – so what exactly was New Line to do to give their Elm Street sequel an edge? To see so many people turn out to a screening of the film shows that time heals all wounds, as Subissati continues, “One thing I noticed when I was chatting with people in the lobby is that most horror fans saw ANOES 2 when it first came out and dismissed it as an oddball misfire in the franchise. The original ANOES is so inventive and seminal that most audiences weren’t expecting something so different in the first sequel. I certainly hadn’t picked up on the film’s queer elements the first time I saw it in the ’80s but they’re unmistakable now.”

One of those people in the lobby showed more balls than were used in the coach’s death scene by showing up to this event in the guise of Freddy’s famous later on-screen nemesis Jason Voorhees. The man behind the mask – so to speak – was Toronto resident Skyland Fisher, who has his own similar outlook on the sequel saying “it [has] definitely the most ’80s feel of any Nightmare on Elm Street Film. The clothing style. The music style. It has this whole feel that says this is the 1980s. I almost can’t put it into words. It has the most iconic scenes of the series, in my opinion, like when [Freddy] goes ‘You’re all my children now’ and the whole pool scene; it was incredible. Also the whole him coming out of Jesse’s body, like cutting him open and everything, amazing scene. [It’s] iconic to the franchise.“ No doubt, before CGI dominated and subsequently ruined the horror genre, the practical effects headed by Kevin Yagher were on point, from Freddy’s makeup, the aforementioned Freddy-evolving-from-Jesse scene to the school bus perched high upon a hellfire pit. Whether or not the script was strong, the direction was resourceful, or the acting was believable, the special effects presented here were those of a time now forgotten by most modern filmmakers, and they prove to be some of the most extraordinary of the series.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is one of those films that I find important, even if I don’t objectively love to watch it.

Make no mistake that ANOES 2 tries to upstage neither its predecessor nor any of the successful entries in the series, such as Part 3, Dream Warriors, which is perhaps the biggest success and highlight of the franchise. Subissati even admits “ANOES 2 is one of those films that I find important, even if I don’t objectively love to watch it. The first film is a landmark in horror and probably my personal favorite of the bunch. In terms of watchability, ANOES 3 is the real crowd-pleaser, so I guess I love the first three films for completely different reasons!” Fisher backs up her statement, adding that ANOES 2 “hammers [the gay subtext] home in the most hilarious way. I like the franchise in general but kind of stopped liking it after Part 3. It hits its high point then slowly declines from there. 2 is probably my third favorite. I like the first one the best and third is the one after that I like most. I would say [Dream Warriors] was so iconic [in relation] to Part 2 because Wes Craven returned in a capacity and also the return of Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) brought up the game. They added in new elements like the Dream Warrior powers.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, Barr isn’t hesitant to say that “for the longest time, [ANOES 2] was the only one that I had seen. I didn’t see another one until 4. And for the longest time, those were the only two I saw.”

Regardless of your orientation or sexual preference, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 symbolizes what continues to be a fundamental element of the horror genre that many critics discard, in that it brings together fans of all types, with no negative bias or prejudice; working together to maintain a piece of beloved art. While certainly Rue Morgue Magazine, Queer Fear and any organizations of the type, work together or independently to revive life into forgotten favorites, it is important for all of us in the horror community to never discard a film upon its initial viewing because somehow, somewhere, elements may just play a more prominent role in our society ruling on a fundamental basis beyond our imagination. Maybe that is truly Freddy’s Revenge: exposing us to our own realities; forcing us to admit that even in horror, acceptance and change are necessary.

For more information on Rue Morgue Magazine and CineMacabre horror nights, visit: www.rue-morgue.com

For more information on Queer Fear, visit them at: queerfear.tumblr.com/

For more information on Freelance Illustrator Art Mercenary, Andrew Barr, visit his website: www.moviemonsters.blogspot.com

Very special thanks to Andrea Subissati, Richelle Charkot, Rue-Morgue Magazine and Marrs Media Inc., Andrew Barr and APB Art, Skyland Fisher, The Royal, Amy Rusan, Joshua Cross and Queer Fear, the LGBTQ community, and to all of the horror fans around the world who keep our genre alive.

Resident Evil: Vendetta

A big V for Vendetta: The new ‘Resident Evil’ animated film finally hits home with grounded franchise fandom

After a total of eight films built out of the godfather franchise that gave birth to the survival horror video game, was it possible that this ninth, but subsequently third of the animated series portion, hit the jackpot? Having a limited one night only theatrical engagement, the new Resident Evil: Vendetta ran in select theatres nationwide on Monday, June 19th 2017. It is safe to say that if you felt the concluding entry in the live-action portion of the Capcom franchise, last winter’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, was probably best left unwritten and unproduced, this new animated film was everything that a Resident Evil film should have been from the start and more.

The live-action series, starting in 2002, did their own thing for better or worse, introducing established video game characters into an otherwise alternate RE world. Three of them, alright maybe four, were good and the other two sadly, were not as good. Flashback to 2008, Resident Evil: Degeneration – the first of the animated films – made its debut on DVD and Blu-Ray and that was a welcome return for fans of the franchise. Intertwined with the video game universe, that film welcomed adored characters like Claire Redfield (Alyson Court, “Resident Evil 2”, “Murdoch Mysteries”) and Leon S. Kennedy (voiced then by Paul Mercier, “Resident Evil 4”) back in a new storyline expanding on the corrupt corporation known as Umbrella and evolving the infamous, and infectious, T-Virus. However, it still lacked some of the “Umph” that the first few video games had. Fast forward to 2012, Resident Evil: Damnation pops up in a storyline focusing on Leon (Matthew Mercer, “Monsters University”, “Resident Evil 6”) and giving RE fans their extra fix with another beloved character, Ada Wong (Courtenay Taylor, “Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City”, “Skylanders Academy”). Soviet nation corruption, mixed with experimentation on the T-Virus, lead to a better developed story and the appearances of the tyrant monster Mr. X, so it hit some of the right notes. But what else could be done with this animated line of the franchise? Where are more of the major characters that populated the video games; characters that we all wanted to see come alive in this format.

Keep reading after the trailer

Worry no more Resident Evil gruesome gorehounds – Resident Evil: Vendetta delivers from the very beginning. Launching with a more defined and intriguing narrative structure, we are re-introduced right away to Leon Kennedy (veteran voice actor Matthew Mercer reprising the role once again) in a scene that foreshadows how he will play into this new story while simultaneously letting us all reflect on the loves and the loss in his life so far throughout the video games and movies – story remnants of the Los Illuminados from RE4 are even carried over later on in a nice touch. The best part of these animated films is that they indeed interlock with the running storylines of the games – making it one mass true-to-form Resident Evil world. No sooner after this tease of Leon are we launched into action that is reminiscent of the very first game with a team, led by the number one contender for franchise favorite character, Chris Redfield (Kevin Dorman, “Fallout 4”, “Real Steel”, “Avatar”), as he heads into Mexico on a rescue mission to retrieve a woman and her young son both of whom have been kidnapped by arms dealer and now bio-weapons terrorist Glenn Arias (John DeMita, “Final Fantasy”, “Friday the 13th: The Game”). The helicopter descends and the team gets right to…a creepy old mansion. Perfect. There is just the right balance between the “we have seen this before” element and the “danger lurks so grab the edge of your seat quick” adventure looming on the horizon.

Resident Evil Vendetta

A lot goes down in this opening ten minutes, and then the opening title screen hits. Seriously!? All this and the film is only really beginning. The main antagonist is introduced with such bravado and a hint of compassion, as is a peak at his subsidiaries that will both play prominent sub-boss roles, and we see how the vendetta story arc comes into play. One quick negative remark here and that is that we get the proverbial and clichéd “Noooooooo” shouts into the sky by not one, but two characters; whether it was meant to mirror the other and their vendettas – these just get a bit ridiculous after how many years in movies. Granted, this is the only negative for which can be said here. Right back into the positive saddle is the face that long-time fans have clamored to see whether in the animated or the live-action but never had, and that is the character of Rebecca Chambers (Erin Cahill, “Power Rangers: Time Force”, “Boogeyman 3”); Chambers is an original game character that actually encountered the T-Virus before Chris Redfield and others – she even had her own prequel game on just that encounter with Resident Evil Zero. Where favorites like Jill Valentine and Ada Wong have their no-nonsense and tough-as-nails attitude, and Claire Redfield has her heart on her sleeve with innocence even in her strongest times, Rebecca Chambers is the full real deal combining strength, skills, wills, and the smarts to deal with all kind of situations. In fact, she will play right on the equal field along with Chris and Leon because of her smarts – she has figured out Arias’s new “A-Virus” and developed a vaccine! For this reason, she also becomes the major target in the new story. Not to jump ahead but if you want to see why Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy are the faces that run the RE places – you will not be disappointed as both get some star-shining, serious ass-kicking moments.

Resident Evil Vendetta PosterThe animation is by far the best yet of any of the animated movies, which are a testament to the ever growing CGI technology, but also the team behind-the-scenes who gives the direction and editing to make these scenes blend together and actually forget you are watching animated characters. There is a ton of action here, with some superb hand-to-hand combat sequences and a jaw-dropping scene with Leon, on his motorcycle, racing to evade the nasty virus-infected dogs known as the Cerberus. We have zombies. We have blood. We have brains. We have guts. We have creepy, dark settings like the aforementioned Mexican mansion, as well as dark halls of institutes and even New York City skyscrapers. We have characters that, although established through video games and previous films, still have their own demons and work to face them each day. This is not a fictitious land where heroes experience these horrors then move on – these are characters that hurt, feel, reflect, and ponder what their life is. There is even a great scene with Chris Redfield where he downplays fellow soldiers’ compliments to him with an insight into the reality of being a heroic soldier in a corrupt, virus-infected world. There is a formula that resonated with every game player in 1996, 1998, 2000 and so on up until, maybe Resident Evil 5, that was simply: establish the horror, work the mood, follow the characters, uncover the secrets of the plot, fight horrific zombies and other nasties and lastly, have a climactic battle with a huge experiment turned monster that will gladly make someone need a change of underwear when revealed. Unlike any of the live-action, and the past animated films though they did have their climactic battles with evolved virus-infected characters, Resident Evil: Vendetta gives us the biggest and best while paying homage to the classic Tyrant of the original, and the extremely popular William Birkin G-Monster of RE2.

In a time where the reboot button was partially set on the video games with the recent back-to-the-basics Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, and an actual remake planned to start a fresh line of live-action films, there was nothing more rewarding than knowing that after all this time – the creative was able to hit this entry out of the park and out of this world. The other audience members in the theatre this evening equally shared this enthusiasm – reacting to certain scenes – and geeking out by the time the end credits rolled; clearly ready to rush home to play their favorite entries or discuss and theorize where Vendetta fits in and speculate what will happen now (or where it exactly fits though one viewer did mention she believed it was just before, or just after, Resident Evil 6). It is a rarity to have such a compelling horror video game turned animated movie that asks questions, gives the answers, and takes you on one hell of a ride in between. RE fans have no vendetta against the creative anymore – this time fans have a movie that truly can make them proud to be resident, evil.

Resident Evil: Vendetta is scheduled for Blu-Ray and DVD release July 18th, 2017.

Twin Peaks 2017 Review

Is it Future… or is it Past? ‘TWIN PEAKS’ Returns

It’s happening again

That gum we liked was going to come back in style. After three years of patience, television audiences and specifically, dedicated die-hard fans of Twin Peaks got their wish on the evening of Sunday, May 212017. The series that last aired 27 years ago and was resurrected by original co-creators David Lynch (Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet) and Mark Frost (Hill Street Blues) is back. Shrouded in secrecy, in a world full of advance spoilers, it already began to set a new benchmark that protecting your vision is still possible; thanks to a broadcast company like Showtime being amazingly supportive and keen with their marketing, and the loyal fans who wished nothing more than to discover the mystery on their own.

If the casual cable clicker wanted something refreshing on their channels, then this new incarnation (or third season) of Twin Peaks will have their eyes bulging and their brains exploding. Starting out strong with a flashback to the Season 2 (then Series) Finale, we see Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee, Dirty Sexy Money and John Carpenter’s Vampires) telling Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan, Desperate Housewives and Showgirls) she will see him again in 25 years. The beautiful and artistic camera pans transition us right into the opening credits with Angelo Badalamenti’s famous, award-winning, theme striking all the right chords to re-enter this beautiful world. Instantly the chills are re-awakened in our psyches and our subconscious as we see Cooper, the good side of him that was trapped in the evil-dwelling maze of The Black Lodge, receiving new messages from The Giant (Carol Struycken, The Addams Family and The Witches of Eastwick); The Giant being just one of many supernatural inhabitants found there (a.k.a. “Dugpas” for the fellow Peaks geeks) however the current credits list him now only as ?????.

Keep reading after the trailer

Admittedly, by the half-hour mark, the viewer could be easily lost due to the stretched tone of certain scenes where running time is not of the essence or simply because we are here, then there, with new characters that are not introduced immediately but rather through explanatory means of later scenes and sometimes other characters. Alas these strings do tie together in some way, shape or form; creating a key to unlocking this new series and the mysteries therein.

Twin Peaks 2017 ReviewThe first two parts in what is proposed as an 18-hour long film aired back-to-back and if the first set up some serious “What the F*CK!?” reactions, and everybody’s nails were ruined from scratching their heads; the latter was the hammer that drove the nails deeper. Gloriously returning to some more familiar territory, if you would call The Black Lodge, familiar territory, and welcoming back more residents of the small Washington town including Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick, Riverdale and Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers), James Hurley (James Marshall, A Few Good Men and Gladiator (1992)) and Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie, Gone in 60 Seconds and Wild at Heart) – Sarah clearly having not much prosperity in her life since her daughter’s murder and the revelation that her late husband committed the crime. Speaking of, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise, Jeepers Creepers 2 and RoboCop) appears to good Cooper, in the lodge, and so does Laura. A few more friends join this lodge party already in progress too but Lynch brilliantly reassures us not to be content with the old faces because things are still not as they seem. In fact, something is wrong and the question lingering throughout this new narrative: Is it future…or is it past?

Not the Twin Peaks you know

Undoubtedly, some viewers and Peaks fans will not be happy and it is impossible to please all, but Lynch and Frost repeatedly spoke that this is not the same Twin Peaks seen last so we were all duly warned, and for those of us adventurous and daring enough to embark on the new journey then we are, so far, greatly rewarded if not mentally tasked (or even emotionally drained starting with the brilliant return of the late Catherine E. Coulson as The Log Lady; performing to standards despite her failing health).

By the end of the part 102, we are getting closer to the town we once knew and the people in it, but we have to allow Lynch and Frost the freedom and TIME to get us there. Anybody can complain that this isn’t what they expected, and why are we not with all our beloved characters of the past, and the answer is simple. Twin Peaks is going to be a journey between two worlds; the good Cooper is in the Lodge and can’t leave while the bad is doing business dealings of his own including manipulation of people from South Dakota all the way up to Las Vegas.

We have 16 more hours ahead of sheer art and entertainment reflected in a pristine box of brilliance and madness. Like one, or two, characters in the new series, we have to watch this box continuously, patiently, and if you watch close enough, some wondrous things are bound to appear! (Get aroused too soon in the process and there’s going to be trouble!)

I’m a long-time, huge fan of this series, as is my Mother who I remember watching it on TV in its original run, yet I was too afraid to watch. Having now submerged myself into the world of David Lynch and his filmography, it is a trip always worth taking whether I understand right away, or continue to doubt my own theories on what his stories are about with every re-watch. I was so pleasantly mind-warped by these first two episodes and yet I instantly warmed to seeing the familiar once again, and disturbingly moved by the unfamiliar. That is the work of David Lynch folks, and that is the Twin Peaks we are getting now. It’s not just a slice of nostalgia; it’s truly a whole new Cherry Pie. Recommendation: pick-up Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks book available now and it just might help you with some stuff. Parts 103 and 104 are already on demand for those with Showtime and some other on demand media services as well. Don’t spoil it!

Review of Chandler Riggs in 'Mercy'

Chandler Riggs: Future “Scream King” shows us some ‘MERCY’

Spotlight on Chandler Riggs: Why this direct-to-DVD King Adaptation of MERCY is worth the watch

It’s hard being a child actor in the entertainment industry no doubt and surely harder to be a good one. With Nickelodeon and Disney Channel programming, many child actors get stereotyped into one clichéd image or another. Children characters are often all the more annoying and whether watching as a child, a teenager, or an adult, you can’t help but shake your head in frustration. You have your rare gems among the bunch and, with specific view on the horror genre, only one name stands out: Danielle Harris. She entered the scene with a top billed spot in Halloween 4 and 5; solidifying her status as a future scream queen and showing that not all children are depicted as bratty or cookie-cutter fodder. Then comes the television phenomenon in the Fall of 2010 that continues to this day. The Walking Dead introduced the world to characters out of a major graphic novel series. The show introduced us to Chandler Riggs. While an entire article can be written on the importance of the Carl Grimes character (a personal favorite), it is the young adult portraying him that takes center stage.

Having parents who work in the entertainment industry (William and Gina Ann), the now 17 year-old Riggs was well suited, and protected, once he got into the business but his qualifications and abilities to be there speak for themselves. Born June 27th, 1999 out of Atlanta, Georgia, Riggs would not enter the spotlight until his first bit into horror as a boy in the 2006 feature Jesus H. Zombie. Then with the introduction of The Walking Dead, not since Danielle Harris has a child actor rose to such prominence and admiration among many fans, and their natural ability to play realism on the silver screen is what separates both from the rest. The horror genre also deals with mature subject matter so its takes an extra gifted talent to handle that responsibly and play to that level respectably. Riggs does that and more, especially as The Walking Dead seasons continue for his character Carl, and so too did he three years ago in this little horror film called Mercy.

Keep reading after the trailer of MERCY

The supernatural elements of witchcraft and demonism have been featured in countless movies, so it is difficult in this modern era to make one that actually feels fresh. Directed by Peter Cornwell, this film seemingly shot somewhere between 2012 and 2013 found its North American release in the Fall of 2014. Mercy could easily have been a title that came out and sat as a dust collector but it wasn’t to be, especially since the storyline is an adaptation of Gramma by the legendary name of Stephen King; the story featured as part of his short-stories collection called Skeleton Crew.

Mercy is not just a clever title

The generic title Mercy is actually revealed to not be a cash-in for just a strong sounding word, but is actually the name of the grandmother character that young George (Riggs) is very close to. The storyline plays out that in 1967, Mercy was subject to witnessing her husband take an axe to himself while she cared for a small baby. Flash forward to modern day, George, along with his older brother Buddy (Joel Courtney, Super 8, The Messengers) and Mother Rebecca (Frances O’Connor, The Conjuring 2, Bedazzled) are forced to move back to Mercy’s home and care for her while she is in her final stages of life. No longer the healthy and caring adult that was able to guide George; it is now his responsibility to sit by her side and inject her with the necessary medication to keep her at peace. Just one thing though – the other residents of the old age home where Mercy (Shirley Knight, As Good As It Gets, If These Walls Could Talk) was at were scared of her, and often would keep a bible near to ward off any danger. With decay just touching the surface of her skin, and strange mannerisms, the film slowly starts inserting the creep factor as the audience gets to understand that Mercy may have more going on inside of her than one might think. As his family is in danger, and some members are hurt or killed including Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story, The Practice) as a long-time family friend, it is up to George to uncover the mystery behind his grandmother’s behavior and face up to his demons.

Chandler Riggs Headshot
Check out Chandler Riggs in ‘MERCY’

The traditional King elements of story structure and something lurking beneath the surface are all present, and while the film was shot on a modest budget, the special effects and bloodshed are never presented as more than they should be – angles, lighting and sheer cinematic effect take priority over explicit visuals. This is credit to the film, including the mythical Death Wolf beast which is shown only through shadow shapes and glowing yellow eyes; effective and leaves the viewer enthralled by the danger rather than risk exposing a limited effect and ruining the moments. The narrative structure, including flashbacks, flows smoothly and never does it feel dragged out (as some King material can so credit to Screenplay Writer Matt Greenberg there).

The most satisfactory bit is that it has a distinct beginning, middle and end – nicely wrapped up within George’s world and never once does the film stray from his perspective and importance to the story. If there was only one complaint to be had, it would be in the climax where George must decide what sacrifices he has to make to free Mercy’s soul from the demon Hastur; corrupting or purifying his own fate in the process. The understanding is there but the sequence gets confusing especially when there is a gross vomiting of blood or other supernatural matter that winds up all over George. In retrospect, it does make sense how he plans to evade the evil that is now seeping into him but on first watch, it leaves a little bit to question. The chill factor is only effective as the music that accompanies it and the soundtrack did not disappoint with atmospheric tones and resonance courtesy of Reza Safinia. Another reason this film is effective? It’s Producer! Jason Blum is no stranger to horror and likely had a hand in keeping this on track too with his long list of credits including ‘Insidious’ and Paranormal Activity.

All-in-all, Mercy is definitely one to check out if the creepy-supernatural genre is your cup of tea and the film is clearly as popular on the rental shelves as it is thanks to Riggs involvement. This was Riggs first leading role and to demonstrate the understanding of the emotional levels that he had to show in the film – loss of family, loss of surroundings, loss of self – is a lot to ask for a younger teen at the time yet he nails every moment. Between this film, The Walking Dead, and the new thriller Keep Watching, there is a strong future ahead for the one day “Scream King” Chandler Riggs, having just graduated as well from High School and accepted into Auburn University in Alabama.

Having had the opportunity to meet Chandler Riggs twice (class act, professional and a polite as all hell kid might I add), I told his Father just a little over a month ago at Horrorhound Weekend, that Chandler “has redefined the performance standards for any young adult actor now and in the future.” This writer stands by his words. Riggs has already been nominated and won multiple Young Artist, Satellite and Saturn Awards for his performance on The Walking Dead’ so have mercy on anybody that thinks anything other than he will be a name in the genre for a long time to come.

William Riggs (and Chandler) have an official merchandise website www.chandlerriggs.com where you can purchase personalized authentic autographed photos with proceeds supporting the Wounded Warrior Project, Make A Wish Foundation, National Kidney Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and more. You can also join William and visit the locations of The Walking Dead; learn more by visiting www.dadszombieroadtrip.com.

Don't Hang Up movie review

The true horror thriller is calling and you definitely ‘Don’t Hang Up!’

While the horror genre has continued to wander in and out of our theaters, and Netflix streams, there have been very few lately that have the ability to leave any sort of mark for its fan base. Independent horror has seen a devoted increase over the last several years with many new filmmakers entering the scene if only for their film to be shown at one or two festivals. Zombie television is okay and possession scares on the big screen can grow old, but to take conventions from fifty years of horror thrillers that we love – I Saw What You Did And Know Who You Are, Black Christmas, When a Stranger CallsScream and Saw – and tie their principle elements (and best ones) into one recycled premise well then you have Don’t Hang Up.

Recycled as it may be, the film’s plot is actually refreshing; taking the simplicities of some of these earlier films, and working them into a pseudo-2017 era. With a limited theatrical run, but available on iTunes for rental or purchase, Don’t Hang Up has brought back something missing from genre fare. It has turned those horror clichés upside down and even succeeds in making the home phone, cell phone, computers, and our reliance on internet and Wi-Fi scary again! I can’t remember the last time a horror film was able to utilize all those things, even making a Smart TV scary when it turns on and off, while furthering the plot and enhancing the tension. In fact, the oldest trick, or should I say prank, in the book is turning the lights out. You think the dark can’t be scary anymore? It can always be scary especially in your own home. This film actually succeeded in drawing the viewer into it, laying the framework for your mind to start trying to figure out who the murderer is and how the characters actions influence their fates.

Keep reading after the trailer

Everybody has done pranks, phone calls, or other nasty jokes that ultimately ends up getting them in trouble one way or another. Enter our two main characters: Sam Fuller (Gregg Sulkin, Anti-Social) and Brady Mannion (Garrett Clayton, King Cobra, Hairspray Live – talk about diversity of roles! A future Zac Efron perhaps?); these two college frat pranksters are having the time of their lives along with their other two buddies in causing fear among many an unsuspecting victim. Running a successful feed of YouTube videos, these boys are drawing viewers in by the masses by preying on the fear they temporarily instill upon both guys and girls. While the film runs the risk of alienating the characters and making them unsympathetic, especially Clayton’s Brady, it takes enough time to show that Sam actually has feelings and dealing with relationship troubles with his girlfriend Peyton (Bella Dayne, The Goldbergs, Person of Interest) and even the absence of his parents. But it is the biggest dick of them all, Brady, who has the most baggage that is likely causing his behavior, when we learn of his lack of parental attention, failing grades, and wanting to escape it all by proving he can be something more to his parents by joining the Army. No sooner are they back in the prank calling action while chugging beer and munching down pizza when it is Sam’s phone that rings with an ominous male voice that has decided he’s going to turn the tides on them. If you think it is Scream all over again, you’re wrong, this guy literally toys with these guys – with that toying turning to torture once he reveals just how close he is to them, friends, and family. The fact that this film right away tosses the virginal-girl-in-trouble protagonist out the window and gives us two guys that are suddenly stripped of their egotistical masculinity, and made vulnerable, is grounds for immediate applause to Screenwriter Joe Johnson and the Directorial Duo of Damien Macé and Alexis Wajsbrot.

Don't Hang Up Movie Review

After the opening credits, one still has to wonder what they can expect from the acting especially when you have the fratboy, college nuances blatantly overacted at almost every turn. Turn it does though by fifteen minutes into the film, with Sulkin giving his most over to the part and finding that internal innocence that has now being violated. Despite the asshole that you do love to hate in Brady, Clayton’s teary puppy dog eyes when the character is at his most emotionally unstable, can’t NOT garner a bit of sympathy that yearns to help him and his friend out of this dire situation. That is yet another great thing about the film that it can warrant that type of response from the viewer where even though you know the guys deserve a good kick-in-the-ass and scare, the extremes they are put in now bring the fundamentals of their very humanity to the surface.

The cinematography is phenomenal, especially given the limited resume of the Directors, and the shots used immediately set the tone, environment, and pace; bringing us up close and personal in times of trauma for our characters, and far away for shots that make even the bravest viewer squirm not knowing where the killer is lurking. Sometimes with an independent production, certain values are compromised whether it is picture or sound but both are clean and crisp; the contrasts appropriate for the murky atmosphere that envelopes over the course of the film and the sounds from creaking floors and moving doors provide enough additional tension to keep an eye over your own shoulder.

Just when I thought that I knew what was going to happen, the film took a turn and gave me something more than I bargained for. Without spoiling it, I will say that even the experienced horror fan that could likely put the pieces together, won’t totally be sure until the final reveal and even small things, nothing original by any means, are placed just right where you are still clinging to the seat with your eyes locked onto the screen.

It is too bad that the film was not able to get a wide release, because it is exactly what the horror genre needs more of. It brings back the heyday of horror happenings. The tension is there. The horror is there. The blood is even most certainly there. There is no skimping on the carnage suffered by the victims or even the protagonists for that matter.

Lastly, it was a bonus to see Sienna Guillory (Resident Evil: Retribution) in the cast, with her part having an extremely vital role in establishing the storyline and more specifically, what the viewer and our characters are about to endure. It is with great pleasure that I say don’t skip it because when a genre entry like this comes calling, you don’t hang up!

Slumber Party Massacre 3

Just a Stab in the Dark – A look back on ‘Slumber Party Massacre 3’

February 2001 marked the start into a new venture of horror for me.

Slumber Party Massacre 3 VHS Cover
VHS Cover

The Scream franchise had concluded, Hall8ween: Homecoming (now Resurrection) was in development, Jason X was in limbo and no Elm Street entry anywhere in sight despite the Freddy vs. Jason rumors. But it was the likes of movies such as Cherry Falls which brought my young horror mind to the deeply vast multitude of slashers that were out there. I loved slashers and was familiar with the 80s boom but DVD was still new at the time and VHS were beginning to be sold off the rental shelves. This was where the magic happened as Jumbo Video (Dundurn) in Hamilton, Ontario began selling off previously viewed VHS. I must have spent almost an hour rooting through and there it was, calling out to me, Slumber Party Massacre 3. The rich red font with the picture of a drill coming down over three scantily-clad girls, and this yellow ribbon stating “UNRATED” felt like I was holding a piece of forgotten horror history. If that wasn’t enough, the VHS cover art quoted Joe Bob Briggs with such lines as “Nine breasts. Ten dead bodies.” That right there is an absolute classic! Modern horror just wasn’t cutting it when gratuitous gore-fests (relatively speaking) like this exist. It’s this reason alone that Slumber Party Massacre 3 will stand above all other 80s/90s B-Horror (even Popcorn) and the other two entries in the franchise.

The first driller killer kill of my life

The film starts with Jackie (Keely Christian), Diane (Brandi Burkett) and their friends playing volleyball on the California beach. When was the murder going to begin? Was there going to be a plot and if so, did it tie into the two that I had not seen? All this didn’t matter because then this random guy (Yan Birch), with a mysterious expression, walks up to them and this weird, off-kilter beat on the soundtrack plays. Weird! (Probably hence his “Weirdo” screen credit). They finish their game and set up plans for the rest of the day. One girl walks alone, gets into her car and there it is….the first driller killer kill of my life! Right through the car seat, grinding and thrusting – ah yes, the drill thrusting; clueing into the fact the drill was meant as a visual metaphor. I didn’t openly think this though or really care too much, but many critics of this franchise have. It’s a film for God’s sake, get over it.

Slumber Party Massacre 3 The slumber party gets underway, with Jackie running into the neighbor, Morgan (M.K. Harris) who portrays one of the most interesting characters in the film and another red herring as a possible suspect. All the girls come over and do their girl things — and honestly, as a teenager, I didn’t know any different — maybe girls didn’t go to the bra and panties extent in real life sleepovers — with guys dropping by to be goofs and hook up. The weirdo even sneaks around, and we are never told why this guy wants to lurk; he was surely up to no good. You could assume he just had a paraphilia touch for voyeurism and was hoping to see action.

Keep reading after the trailer

If you need a spoiler alert for a movie released in 1990, here it is: SPOILER ALERT

As they get picked off, one by one, I was trying to figure out who the killer was. I love any slasher that has you guessing. After repeated viewings, I definitely picked up on the clues including the photograph shown during the opening credits. Proverbial horror-film handsome hunk, Ken (Brittain Frye), is revealed as the murderer as the climax ensues.

This is where the standard B-Horror movie fare really takes a turn to the dark side, and while a casual viewing will have the fan laughing and enjoying, a deeply thorough look shows the true darkness behind Ken’s killing spree: his retired Uncle from the Police Force is killed and this sets Ken off on a killing spree to honor his Uncle. Sound lame? Not exactly. When Ken was just a little boy, he had too much of a bond with his Uncle — not by his own choice — the film shows his memory as P.O.V. flashbacks to his Uncle getting awfully close. So I think you get the idea of the type of abuse that was going on here. Further evidence of the abuse and lingering shame felt by Ken is shown when he hooks up with a girl, and later in the most controversial and borderline rape/kill scene, with Maria (Maria Ford). As soon as physical touch is made, Ken withdraws in shame. Any stalker/slasher usually is thrown into a psycho-sexual troubled category but to go this route I thought was awfully daring.

The violence amps up with the girls getting beaten around, and drilled excessively — with the weapon I mean — and it falls to Jackie, Diane and Susie (Maria Claire) to take down their attacker. These girls aren’t stupid either despite the occasional opportunity to run out the door (before Ken locks it), and actually use the volleyball net and house accessories to trap Ken. The volleyball net and therefore, the scene itself, actually foreshadowed to what would help the girls! Brilliant. Ken gets one more kill before Jackie goes to town prior to the cops showing up (thanks to Morgan); clearly psychologically scarred, Jackie drills the ever loving shit out of Ken where there is no coming back for a fourth entry in the series. These closing moments, and the sheer blood splatter alone, left me in awe and loving every second of it.

A financial success

Slumber Party Massacre III CVD Cover
DVD Cover

Shot on a low budget of $350,000 from New Horizons/New Concorde, produced by the legendary Roger Corman, directed by Sally Mattison and written by Catherine Cyran, Slumber Party Massacre 3 wasn’t even meant to be a part three but just another film hence why the original storyline following sisters Valerie and Courtney was discarded. The film had a theatrical release in 1990 earning back four times its budget! Not too bad if I do say. The VHS was released in both Rated R and Unrated versions (I scored the latter), and then later as the Massacre Collection, released on DVD. Interestingly, fans rejoiced because seven additional minutes over and above the previous unrated edition were added — making it a true-to-form ultimate cut which adds further character development and humanizes the girls even more so that the viewer cares for them. Outlets like Media Play or Suncoast were the only places to find these DVDs and thank God for that. Now with the help of Shout! Factory and most recently, their sub-labelled Scream Factory, all three Slumber Party Massacre films are available in HD and in all theatrical, unrated, and unrated/extended forms.

The horror franchise fanbase also continues to grow and I am proudly one of them; websites such as www.hockstatter.com led by Tony Brown, pays homage to the series and their sister series Sorority House Massacre. In 2003, I was even on the hunt to find Slumber Party IV, and I eventually did, as it was known then as Cheerleader Massacre. Didn’t have any real resemblance to the rest of the series but with the inclusion of original SPM star, Brinke Stevens, I keep this fondly in my VHS collection. Speaking of Sorority House Massacre, SPM3 was shot just after SHM2 including the use of the same house set and later, the use of screenshots from SHM2 used on the back of the SPM3 VHS and DVD cover art. Imagine that!? Certainly threw me even back when I first got that VHS wondering what these images were actually from. Mystery revealed the more I educated myself and SHM2 kept eluding me until a few years later when I got a copy and voila, there were the scenes. Those errors aside, I say that Slumber Party Massacre 3 remains the best in the series, of all the Slumber Party and Sorority House Massacres out there, with its portrayal of strong female characters, better-than-average dialogue, obligatory red herrings and low budget gore (better than CGI any day).

I will never get rid of my VHS, DVD or Blu-Rays, and I encourage any horror fan that has not seen the series, let alone this entry, to go find the Driller Killer before the Driller Killers finds you.

Which Slumber Party Massacre is your favorite in the series?

Phantasm: Ravager - The Tall Man

OUT OF THIS SPHERE-ICAL WORLD! – Fans should be pleased with Phantasm RaVager

…and closure to a long, loved franchise

Over the last several years, rumors were abounding that Don Coscarelli was prepping a fourth sequel to one of the most mind-bending horror films of the late 70’s: Phantasm. The last sequel, Part IV: Oblivion was direct-to-video in 1998 and received mixed reactions from franchise fans. Production limitations, specifically money, came into play and that same issue would play a pivotal part in delaying the fifth installment.

However, when the first screen images and teaser poster leaked in early 2014 – Don Coscarelli let the true salivating begin. Veteran actor, the late Angus Scrimm, spoke highly of the shoot and it was later revealed that all the original cast members would be back for what would be the fifth and final adventure for Reggie (Reggie Banister), Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) and Jody (Bill Thornbury).

Distribution can be a bitch and that would ultimately be the reason why “phans” had to wait two extra years to finally see the film. Thankfully, Well Go USA Entertainment answered the call and finally put out the DVD; complete with absolute respect for the project as the DVD comes with Audio Commentary, Behind-the-Scenes Footage, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, Outtakes and the Trailer!

Phantasm: Ravager

I was ready for Phantasm: RaVager

Perhaps it was all the internet hype and secrecy of the film details that I just wanted to enjoy this movie so much that I would overlook anything negative, or maybe it was the fact that the world lost Angus Scrimm which truly means this is the final time we will see The Tall Man in all his glory – either way, I was ready for Phantasm: RaVager and it did not disappoint me one bit.

Keep reading after the trailer

A fantastic score hits and we are right away thrust into the world of Reggie where in this new adventure, he is searching the desolate wastelands of Earth – post Tall Man encounters – searching for Mike. It has been nearly twenty years since part four, but the plot itself takes place ten years later (since early scenes of Reggie were filmed in 2008 when the project was going to be a short online series and not a full-length sequel). The actor, Reggie Bannister, hasn’t lost his touch at all with the character, resuming all the quirks, one-liners, and nuances that made the character such a fan favorite to begin with. Once he reclaims his 1971 Barracuda, then the film really launches into gear with an early confrontation with The Tall Man. Hearing Angus Scrimm’s voice once more instantly sent chills down my spine and every word seemed Godly – thundering around my surround sound speakers.

It wouldn’t be Phantasm though if the story actually seemed to make sense the whole way through, oh no, suddenly we’re thrust into an alternate reality – or maybe the real world – of Reggie suffering from severe dementia and receiving a visit from Mike. Suddenly all the stakes just got higher as we, the audience, don’t know exactly what is happening and the realization kicks in that one of our favorite characters is ill and dying. As another horror icon says, no tears please as it’s a waste of good suffering, and Don Coscarelli along with Director David Hartman realize this and give us a balls-out (steel balls or spheres to be exact…BIG ONES!!!) apocalyptic grand finale where it is all out war against The Tall Man and his legions of undead. Mike, along with deceased brother Jody, re-unite with Reggie and they take it too the streets for some hardcore combat.

The CGI in the film is acceptable because as we watch it, and for those fans who know the struggles of putting this film together in the first place, we obviously do not expect major Hollywood CGI effects. The killer spheres served their purpose and the landscapes, grain, lightning, dust, and crumbling earth blended well into the film shot with the actors either on green screen or make-up set pieces. It is a step up from any SyFy channel feature too. The music by Christopher L. Stone is great and those old Phantasm themes creep into the action and suspense at all the right moments including the opening and closing credits.

Phantasm: Ravager - Reggie

Indeed a tremendous improvement from Oblivion, RaVager succeeds in piecing together story elements that tie the entire series up with hinting explanations as to what characters are truly where in their lives, and when we finally have to say Goodbye to them, it is done so in true Phantasm fashion that will leave no fan unsatisfied (I would hope!). Kudos to Don Coscarelli for completing his Phantasm vision that began almost 40 years ago after so much red tape, he fought through all adversity, and to the cast, and crew, and director, for spending almost eight years to give the fans the desired closure that was needed but not without the lady in lavender (Kat Lester) and final “BOYYYYY!” to echo into eternity.

Visit www.phantasm.com for all the details on the series including RaVager!