This week I review Manborg, the latest from Astron 6 and the remake of Maniac starring Elijah Wood. I also drop some commentary on the trailers for Ender’s Game and The World’s End and heap praise on the Judge Dredd fan film, Judge Minty.
This week I review Manborg, the latest from Astron 6 and the remake of Maniac starring Elijah Wood. I also drop some commentary on the trailers for Ender’s Game and The World’s End and heap praise on the Judge Dredd fan film, Judge Minty.
With the recent release of Evil Dead and the impending release of Carrie, this week’s episode takes a look at horror movie remakes. Remakes that don’t suck, that is. Remakes or reboots, however you want to call them, tend to get a bad rap and while most of them deserve it because they represent a lazy product and Hollywood’s resentment toward its greatest money machine, horror, there are a few that are classics.
We’re back this week with a look at the spooky indie horror flick, I Am A Ghost and the new original series on Netflix, Hemlock Grove featuring music (which I am told is too loud) by Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats.
It’s been a long time coming, folks, but here it is. I’m back! There are going to be some radical changes and the site, while staying on topic about horror, cult and exploitation movies is making the move to video. I decided that simply writing blogs that nobody reads wasn’t a big enough pain in the ass, already, so why not make it harder and put it all in a series of videos no one will watch?
Do me a solid and subscribe to the channel. New episodes are aiming to launch every Friday and I encourage you to let me know what you think of the new format in the Youtube comments. So don’t be shy. You certainly weren’t shy around here.
Theme song from Cinema Suicide: Boston Hardcore Caligula by Agoraphobic Nosebleed: Buy that shit on iTunes!
(used with permission)
Music bed: Issus by Black Pyramid from the album, Adversarial: Buy that shit on iTunes!
(used with permission)
I know. Things here have been really quiet lately. There’s a reason for that, too. I’ve been working away at a novel. It’s been easy to divide my attentions lately due to a growing feeling of being disenfranchised from horror thanks to a parade of lousy movies and a incoming barrage of even lousier movies on the horizon. But yesterday something happened in Connecticut that made it even easier.
By now you’ve probably heard. You’d have to be a hermit not to have. A man named Adam Lanza killed his mother and then drove to a nearby elementary school and killed 26 people before turning the gun on himself. 20 of his victims were children in two classrooms that he targeted specifically. The dead ranged from ages 5 to 10. He specifically set out to kill the youngest and most vulnerable children in the school. You’ll understand if I don’t much feel like talking about violent movies right now or at any point in the immediate future, for that matter.
Tragedies on this level don’t usually affect me like this but I’m having a really hard time with it. Even 9/11 took a little while to really register with me but this time around I’m struggling. Ordinarily I’d just keep it to myself but my strength being writing, I feel like I need to talk this out and since I have a blog, why the fuck not here? Like an asshole, I tried to talk it out in public over Facebook but I was shouted down for not picking a side in the war of ideologies and the comments were hijacked by warring factions of the paranoid right and nauseatingly self-righteous left. So I quietly deleted the post and hoped that everyone felt for bad for being assholes. So to everyone, I apologize. Here’s hoping Obama’s New World Order secret police don’t come for your guns and implant an RFID chip under your skin before sending you to the concentration camps. And to the other side, I hope your endless Facebook lobbying for gun bans goes well and may your Prius get ever the better gas mileage. Your self worth, after all, is determined by your personal carbon footprint. I apologize for being wishy-washy in your bitter war of rhetoric but I was far too busy being gripped with fear, wondering if the next time my five year old daughter gets on the bus to go to kindergarten might be the last I ever see of her. My spare cycles were spent sympathizing with twenty six families who would be left with unopened Christmas presents under the tree this year.
The irony of being brow beaten with a pair of tacky ideologies is that everyone giving me shit for being soft on the issues was without children and you’ll excuse me if this sounds unfair because maybe it is but there’s a valuable perspective in being a parent. It shouldn’t take children of your own to see why 20 dead kindergartners is a tragic thing beyond measure but in the present American climate the battling factions in the war to see who can accelerate the decline of western civilization with greater efficiency couldn’t hitch their ideological wagons to this killing spree fast enough. The bodies were still warm as the Internet echo chamber fired up with calls for weapons bans starting at assault weapons all the way down to all guns. You had Mike Huckabee scolding America for secularism in schools. You had the usual paranoid scumbags desperately grabbing at any hold they could find to blame this on the president. The fringes are flexing their creative muscle to somehow work their usual end times prophecy shit into the discussion with claims of RFID chips and despotic police states emerging from the tragedy. I really can’t wait to see what Alex Jones makes of this.
The media certainly isn’t helping things doing as they have in the past, filling the news cycle with whatever opinion or analysis they can dredge up for the bottom feeders, trying to pin easy answers to the wall for public consumption so the disbelieving mobs can find something, anything that makes sense to them.
But this doesn’t make sense and it never will and this is exhausting. If 2012 is going to be remembered for anything, it’s the year the maniacs won. 2012 will be the year a crazy asshole under the delusion that he was The Joker hosed a theater full of people down at a midnight Batman show. This was the year another crazy asshole shot up a church full of Sikh people under the impression that they were Muslims. This was the year another crazy asshole shot up a shopping mall during Christmas shopping. This was the year a crazy asshole shot up a number of cops, killing one of them, the chief of police, when they went to serve a search warrant on his home. This happened a couple of towns over from where I live. This was the year a heinous, evil, crazy fuckhead snuffed out 26 lives, 20 of them having barely started living. Turning the gun on himself was too good for him and it came way too late. The first person he should have killed was himself.
I’m tired of this. I’m tired of violence. I’m tired of people finding any excuse to validate their stupid fucking opinions at the expense of dead people. I just want to let this be what it is. I don’t want it to represent a side of a larger argument. Right now all I can think about is how I have children coming up in a world where not even the littlest ones among us are safe. We can put up a wall and bring them up as best we can and love them with everything we have in us but how can I know that the next morning she goes to school or on a day we send him to school some mad man with a gun didn’t take his medication that morning and is on his way to their classroom to settle some imaginary beef?
Cinema Suicide is going on a bit of a hiatus. Not forever. I’ll be back but right now I just want to write a book, read a thousand books and try to make sense of a world where even very young children are fair game for mass murderers. I’d rather not spend my time watching violence on the screen and be critical of it when it’s all around me in the world I live in. Things are coming apart around us and our entire culture is on the verge of critical mass. I’d rather do something positive with my time for the time being. The Twitter feed, however will stay open since I like having a laugh with you guys and that’s a pretty good way to do it.
I’m sorry, everyone. There’s a number of you guys who are reading this now who have been coming around for a long time and you’ve been extremely supportive. I appreciate that. I really do. Thanks for making this all worthwhile and I’m sorry I turned this into an emo LiveJournal but I needed to get this out of me. My heart goes out to everyone who lost someone yesterday. From one parent to another, I’m so sorry.
Listen up you primitive screwheads! Back in 2007 not long after I started up Cinema S, I announced the birth of my daughter Delilah here. In a way, she was the inspiration for this blog. Maybe one day I’ll explain it. But let it be known that I have once again procreated.
At 6:10pm on, I shit you not, Halloween, October 31st, my wife Nise gave birth to our second child, our son. We named him Ash and the reasons for that should be obvious. I admit, Ash isn’t his full name. Nor is it Ashley. It’s Ashton but because of a certain iconic horror franchise we’re calling him Ash. Our little goblin was actually due on the 23rd but the kid came built in with the weirdest DNA that seemed to inform him that he was a little more than a week out from his dad’s favorite holiday and being born on Halloween would probably be fucking awesome!
So here he is. Ashton Christopher. 7 pounds, 11 ounces and cute as hell. Nise gives birth like a boss and she’s recovering nicely. Tomorrow we get to bring him home. So say hi to Ash!
We even found ourselves with a bit of celebrity well-wishing so excuse me while I show off.
@cinemasuicide ah best to both of you. Happy Halloween.
— Joe Hill (@joe_hill) October 31, 2012
— Bruce Campbell (@GroovyBruce) October 30, 2012
Around 4pm eastern, news dropped today that inspired more Star Wars angst since we all stepped out of Episode 1 and realized that we’d been had. I’m sure by now you’ve heard. It’s late as I write this and everyone who wants to know knows. George Lucas has sold his company Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney company for $4.05 billion dollars. This means that Disney takes the reins over the entire Lucasfilm production company and its related properties meaning that primarily Disney gets total control of Star Wars.
Back when Marvel was acquired by Disney the entire internet exploded. We’re talking an outpouring of fan emotion and anxiety the likes of which have never been seen. We had histrionic fans spewing the most ridiculous hyperbolic bullshit on every internet outlet that allowed them to panic in public. Fan speculation was anything but measured and reasonable. The general tone saw super Marvel team up books where Wolverine and Goofy teamed up to stop Doctor Doom and Cruella DeVille’s plan to flood New York City and loot it’s animal shelters to make new villain capes out of Dalmation pelts. No one on Earth could foresee a future where we got the shit entertained out of us at the receiving end of two Iron Man movies, Captain America, Thor and that fucking amazing Avengers flick! High octaine fun the way a summer movie should be, brought to you by The Walt Disney Company. Nobody seemed to notice as they tried their best to wipe the tears from their eyes at the conclusion of The Muppets without being seen that The Muppets was triumphantly brought back to screen by, wait for it, The Walt Disney company.
Maybe there’s little crossover between Muppet fans, Marvel fans and Star Wars fans that makes it hard to see that Disney’s involvement in Star Wars is not the cataclysmic ending to the innocence of your childhood that you think it is. I’m in a fighting mood right now and my need to spar verbally with short sighted nerds on the internet who need something, anything to complain about is being satisfied by an endless wave of endtimes prophecy that predicts cameos on The Clone Wars from Donald Duck. You have caught me at an interesting time, true believers.
Let me explain why this is awesome.
The stakes have never been lower. George Lucas got lucky with Star Wars. I’m talking “intelligent life in the universe” lucky here. For all his vision in the technical department, George Lucas is a supremely lousy storyteller. I once read a biography of him called Mythmaker and I gleaned two bits of fact from it.
Now, item number 2 doesn’t necessarily indicate anything bad. Plenty of filmmakers are derivative. It’s the nature of art and there’s plenty out there that there’s is seriously derivative of other work and is just as good if not better. Case in point, Star Wars. It lends credence to my argument, however, that Star Wars succeeded because Akira Kurosawa, to whom Star Wars owes a huge debt, is an awesome filmmaker and the formula of the Saturday matinee serial is proven to work in any medium. But poll your friends who like Star Wars and ask them what their favorite movie in the series is. Ten’ll get you twenty they say The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe they prefer Jedi but I guarantee that nine times out of ten they’re not going to say Star Wars (or A New Hope, if you actually call it that). The first in the series is great but the trilogy really takes off when Lucas handed off the writing and direction to other people and put himself in the producers chair. He was able to concentrate on the parts of the craft that he actually enjoyed, pioneered an innovative new wave of special effects and founded one of the leading companies in Hollywood post-production. The Empire Strikes Back was the true genesis of the Star Wars legacy and the hands-off material in Lucas’ magnum opus is the best of it all with some exceptions, which I’ll get to.
I still remember when the prequels were announced and how insane I was going. I was going to school at the time and when the trailer hit, we crashed the school’s network trying to download it. The school eventually came up with a solution to save bandwidth by putting the quicktime trailer on a public server and letting us all in one by one to download it. We all went insane watching this thing. It played again and again and again and we all declared it the greatest thing in the universe. We were all so, so stupid. When the time finally came to the see the movie none of us could believe what we were seeing. I actually occupied a holdout of apologists who hung on to this naive idea that Episode 1 was actually everything I’d hoped it would be but after a couple of weeks and a couple more viewings I couldn’t take myself seriously anymore and had to admit that I hated nearly every second of it. If there was anything I enjoyed it was the fight between Qui Gon Jin, Obi Wan and Darth Maul toward the end because let’s face it, that fight is fucking awesome!
I allowed myself to get pulled back in for the sequel, hoping that there would be improvement, but there wasn’t. By the time Revenge of the Sith rolled out I took it in out of a strange sense of obligation but I loathed it and I still loathe it to this day. Why did I hate it so much? What was the culprit? This was easy to figure out. George Lucas was the problem. He insisted on writing and directing each one of them because his OCD had progressed to such a level that he’d never be able to let anyone else touch his baby. In the intervening time there was the needless Special Edition. DVD boxed sets arrived forcing you to buy them all or nothing in expensive sets. Theatrical re-releases were engineered to squeeze every last drop of blood out of the franchise and with each new development, Lucas drove more and more of us away. Star Wars as managed by George Lucas, science fiction’s analog to Moses, had become a zero-sum game. True fans of the order found before the Special Editions were impossible to find and the hold outs were the worst kind of nerd. A dork with no sense of taste or judgement, a sub-triple digit IQ with bad skin and a meaningless collection of unopened toys. By this point, even I’d sold off all my sealed Star Wars action figures for a modest profit.
So here we are. Lucas is old and tired and sick of trying to figure out a way to satisfy fans in a way that’ll make them spend their money on his product while still producing the product on his own misguided terms. He’s tired of being the greatest fallen idol of all time. Disney happens to be in the unique position of looking for an angle that sells something to boys. I’m the father of a five year old girl. I know all about the market power of Disney because of her. Thanks to Tinker Bell and Princesses, Disney has the little girl demographic on lock. She doesn’t give a fuck about anything unless it has Cinderella on it. But they’ve made all the money they’re going to make off Cars and boys are a market share that is slipping through their fingers like dry sand. They made some headway with Marvel but Disney is sealing the deal with Star Wars. Boys from 3 years old up to grown-ass men will be shelling out for this foolproof product because as much as we hate George Lucas, we still can’t pry ourselves away from Star Wars fully. Even though we know that we should.
The benefit is that Disney, love them or hate them, is a faceless money-making automaton. This is a company which shamelessly shook off the Disney family. It has become the Skynet of the free market and they know what you want. I should hate this being as I am a cynical asshole with high standards but I don’t. I understand Disney’s objective and their handling of both The Muppets and Marvel have been amazing, quite frankly. Disney remains hands off. They acquired troubled properties with a solid potential for growth and nurse them back to health by giving them the space to grow and keeping their hands out of the mix. The Muppets hadn’t been in the public eye for a long time, it’s a big part of the movie’s story. Marvel has always had trouble staying competitive and turning a profit. Star Wars is at an all time low and fan confidence in its creator couldn’t be any lower. From where Disney sees it, even if they fail, they’re still doing better than Lucas did.
There’s a caveat to all of this and it’s the one part of the deal which bugs me. Disney has announced a new Star Wars sequel, Episode 7, to be released in 2015.
I won’t lie. I’ll probably see it. I don’t know anything about it except that they’re referring to it as Episode 7 and I can only assume that it takes place after Jedi but I will pay for this. I know I will. I’m like that. But I don’t relish the thought. I like to think of Episodes 4-6 as a complete cycle. I don’t think it needs anything else. Upon review I decided that it didn’t need prequels. They were unnecessary. This is why I also don’t like the Expanded Universe. If you’re unfamiliar, Expanded Universe is all the Lucasfilm approved stories on the side in the form of books, comics, video games and any other means of telling more stories about Luke, Leia, Han and whoever else. There are hundreds of thousands of pages of this stuff and it all amounts to little more than licensed fan fiction. I know I’ll draw some flak for this as lots and lots of people enjoy all these books and games and shit but of nearly all that I’ve seen, I’ve hated. I prefer to ignore all of it. The only Expanded Universe stuff I’ve ever cared for was the Gendy Tartakovsky short animated series Clone Wars and the currently running Clone Wars show as both were pretty sophisticated and gritty for a franchise that had been watered down to meet the broadest market appeal.
We are facing a brave new world of possibility for Star Wars. There’s a new commander at the helm and the future for Star Wars looks bright. I have hopes that Disney will restart the production for the TV show that stalled due to budget problems (apparently it’s EXPENSIVE!). I’m also an unapologetic fan of Walt Disney World and an expanded, far less restrictive license hopefully means a greater presence of Star Wars in the theme parks. I have stars in my eyes thinking of an entire Star Wars themed resort.
I haven’t been this excited about Star Wars since I was a kid. I was a super fan. I can recite large portions of the dialog from The Empire Strikes Back from memory. But over time I’d grown sick of seeing it shit on time and time again by the very person who had created it. It was almost as though Lucas had nothing but contempt for it. As though Star Wars had locked his career as a filmmaker down to this one project when all he wanted to do was abstract shit like THX-1138. Now that he’s gone, existing in a consultancy role only, I am extremely excited and ready for more Star Wars.
To all the haters out there who think this news is the worst thing ever, I want to know why. I’ve seen your shitty, alarmist scenarios on Twitter and Facebook. Worry that Disney is going to make Star Wars something for toddlers but you’re wrong and you’re stupid. Disney has no interest in watering down the product. It’s succeeding on its own and their formula for success is to own it and then get out of the way so it can do its thing along with their vast network of market support. If you can’t see how Disney taking over Star Wars is a good thing, you’re a fucking idiot.
I try not to post this news-y shit anymore around here. Between Dread Central, Shock Til You Drop and all those other horror news sites (do we really need THAT many?) there’s really no point. I suppose I could just copy and paste the press releases I get just like they do, but I’m all about the opinion, yo. I couldn’t really resist with this one, though. Evil Dead and me go back a ways. A pivotal moment in the evolution of my horror fandom came when one night my friend Mike and I rented Evil Deads 1 and 2 (also Day of the Dead) and this represented one of the first times I’d ever seen gore on a scale such as those pictures present. I’m having feelings, you see. This remake, because it’s another motherfucking remake, really gets under my skin even though I’m on the record having surrendered to the inevitability of remakes. So here. I’ll just post the shit and then down below I’ll drop science. Get it quick, this is not likely to be around for much longer.
I need to keep reminding myself that I can’t go too hard on this flick because of the two Evil Deads I greatly prefer the sequel and what’s ironic about that is that it’s a fucking remake. Yes. I prefer a remake. I also prefer the remake of The Thing. No, not that recent one which isn’t really a remake even though the trailer makes it look like one, I mean the Carpenter version which is a remake of the Howard Hawks movie, The Thing From Another World. So I’m not going to shit on this because it’s a remake. That would be fatuous. I’m going to take it at face value and shit on it because it’s shitty and deserves the scorn that I’m about to heap upon it.
See, even though the first Evil Dead is actually peddled as a straight-faced horror flick, it’s still pretty fun thanks to Sam Raimi’s developing film chops and his addiction to high-silliness. This is why its reputation endures. The sequel goes bonkers and this is why the perception is that the entire Evil Dead franchise is the Bruce Campbell show – being on a spectrum of over-the-top – but this trailer seems to shake all of that off. It has all the elements. The cabin. The book. Those low-angle running through the woods shots. The witch in the basement. The car. It has the evil spirits possessing people and it looks really gory, which is what they’ve been tantalizing nervous fans with all along. It has the endorsement of both Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, which to me says nothing. I’ve read stuff that Stephen King has praised in pull quotes and still didn’t care for it. What about this trailer that gets under my skin is the tone of it all. This movie looks mean. The violence appears to be without irony, without that Raimi smirk. Yes, I realize that it’s not a Sam Raimi movie but you absolutely cannot take an icon of horror like Evil Dead and turn it into this gut churning festival of evisceration without winking at the audience. If what you wanted to make was a contemporary gore-filled horror flick, that’s fine, I’m sure you can go through the motions and drench your cast in blood among that typical body count movie with all the trimmings that horror fans have come to expect but when you take the premise and familiarity of Evil Dead and remove all the likable stuff, leaving only cruelty and violence, what you have is just another formulaic modern theatrical horror movie with a familiar name.
One final note, the script has a credit for Diablo Cody who tops my list of most hated writers in Hollywood. I loathe Juno and my review of Jennifer’s Body is most unkind to Ms. Cody. Even if this trailer appealed to me and didn’t set off all these alarms I’d still be extremely suspicious.
I know I probably stand alone on this. Horror fans, as a community, have become a desensitized lot these days. Those of us on the older end of the fan spectrum are viewed with contempt and are widely regarded as grumpy old motherfuckers. Meanwhile, the younger fans are paying for this shit and reveling in it because they don’t know any better since they’ve grown up with this bullshit. So hate away. Even people I know who should know better are all over Facebook with OMG! OMG! I CANT WAIT!!!!
I am disappoint.
I’ve been a fan of the Tank Riot podcast for years and when I’m a fan of such media, I have a tendency to talk and talk and talk about it in the interest of promotion. I am a fan to such a degree that when their last Facebook page admin decided that he was “addicted to facebook” in the literal sense of addiction and had to walk to away in order to get his life in order (I swear I’m not making that up) they came to me about maintaining the group as people actually use it and it’s a good way to stay in touch in the event that you have no idea to what purpose an RSS feed serves (they have one – so do I, as a matter of fact). Every now and then the Tank Riotists will do an episode about a topic I’m rather versed in and I spend the entire podcast yelling at the radio about whatever it is that they forgot. They have a podcast about zombie movies and adequately cover the spectrum from the perspective of a trio that is unaware that Italy and Spain also produced some great flicks and the whole time I was all “OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS! THE BLIND FUCKING DEAD! HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD OF THE BLIND DEAD? GOD! SOMEBODY SAY THE BLIND DEAD!”, but I also can’t claim that I’m bitter or anything. I’ve actually been on the podcast twice. I’m featured at the very end of ‘Conspiracy Theories 3‘ talking about The Bohemian Grove and I was asked to chime in on my top 5 ‘so bad they’re good movies’ in their episode ‘Best Worst Movies‘. Recently they slipped past me again with their latest episode, Motorcycle Movies. A certain distinction has to be made, this being Cinema Suicide and all, that these are not necessarily Biker Flicks. Though Biker Flicks make up the bulk of the podcast’s conversation, it’s not necessarily the focus. A few movies discussed are simply movies which have a rather prominent bike in them. However, again, this was a podcast where the bulk of my commute to and from work, where I tend to listen to most of my podcast subscriptions, was spent yelling at the radio. So I figured I’d do a supplemental article here to go along with the Tank Riot
Tank Riot’s Sputnik mentions this one and it’d be hard not to but very little is said about it. Sure, most people know about Mad Max at this point. Mel Gibson being such a
n anti-semite movie star these days it’s hard not to know this flick. There’s a ton of confusion over it since the Max sequels go off into post-nuke territory but this entry in the series, the first, is all taking place before any sort of disastrous cataclysm sends Australia down the toilet. As a matter of fact, without the context of the Australian outback, Americans are easily confused. Sure, this flick is pretty dystopic and things in Australia are clearly coming apart but the outback is really remote, like the American southwest was during the westward expansion. It’s not at all inconceivable that roving gangs of marauders could make life miserable for people out there with the police having a hard time keeping a lid on things. Check out Red Hill for a recent example. The Toe Cutter’s gang in this flick is a nasty bunch and totally on par with the usual gang of suspects found in any given American biker flick where the bikers are the bad guys. There’s a lot of crossover between American exploitation movies and Australian exploitation movies so this comes as no surprise. But like most of the great biker movies that aren’t trying to ape Easy Rider, they play as your typical western movie analog where a lone representative of law and order has to go balls-out in order to thwart the bad guys. Mad Max does it with aplomb, though. This is a movie best characterized by a soundtrack of roaring engines and clouds of flying auto parts as all manner of automotive crashes shatters vehicles and bodies go flying. It’s a beautiful thing.
Heading back to Australia, here’s Stone. If Mad Max is a Western where the bad guys ride motorcycles rather than horses, Stone is closer to an actual biker flick in the way that we understand it. At its heart, Stone is a murder mystery but it takes a sympathetic approach to the biker lifestyle where most people regard bikers as The Other and turn away from them, assuming the worst. Stone isn’t exactly Easy Rider, where the biker lifestyle is equated with the true American Dream of living free and doing as you please, the bikers in this flick, The Grave Diggers, are a rough motherfucking lot and their behavior is, in fact, deviant, but it’s probably the closest thing that Australia could come up with while still maintaining the exploitation vibe that film financiers were expecting. It’s filled with lurid scenery and violence and while it’s a definitely play to capitalize on the popularity of biker flicks, it’s just alien enough to register as original. It’s also a lot of fun to watch.
England has never been a hotbed of motorcycle activity. It’s an entirely different culture fixating on different parts of its own industry. In the US it was easy to fetishize motorcycles as we have a tendency to fetishize anything with wheels and the lifestyle of the biker has a certain romance to it that symbolizes the true spirit of America, warts and all, but it never really hit in England even though England is the manufacturer of a popular line of bikes, the Triumphs. So it’s really weird that one of England’s coolest cult items, Psychomania, featured such an American paradigm in the role of its film’s villains. Psychomania is pure exploitation only it takes a really weird route on its way to a quick box office cash grab. This one attempts to exploit the popularity of A Clockwork Orange but throws in all this insanity involving a satanic biker gang called The Living Dead. They make a pact with Satan to become the living dead as long as they kill themselves. It’s about as ‘biker-flick’ as a British movie can get and man alive is this flick British!
Werewolves on Wheels
It comes as no surprise that the biker movie machine milked as much coin as they could from the paradigm so it didn’t take long for producers to starts mashing up genres. Biker movies already had a really mild horror vibe to them, the ones where the bikers were malicious sadists, at least. Werewolves on Wheels came right in the middle of the satanic hippies panic that was an unfortunate result of the Manson murders. Bikers already had a weird crossover with hippie culture at the time so it’s a natural pairing to be made when you’re trying to come up with something original to frame your drive-in movie presales meetings with. Well, yeah, we have this idea for a biker flick but it’s like no biker flick you’ve ever seen before! This one has satanic hippie bikers and, wait for it, werewolves. Every shifty exploitation movie financier suddenly showers you with dollars. The plot of Werewolves on Wheels, for such a piece of garbage, is remarkably convoluted that involves satanists poisoning bikers so they can curse this gang’s old lady so that she turns into a wolf by the full moon and then she turns her boyfriend into one, too. The poster is misleading. So is the title. There’s not a whole lot of werewolves riding motorcycles, which would be fucking awesome. As a matter of fact, it’s an early example of horrific body count movie as bikers are picked off night after, in what is the world’s longest recorded full moon period ever.
The Pink Angels
Now, where each of the previous entries in this list weren’t pure biker flicks, each one had an element that would sell them to a wider audience or were barely a biker movie to begin with, The Pink Angels marks my fifth and final entry and it’s actually pure biker. The Pink Angels is named so because it’s rough and tough group of dudes on bikes is, in fact, gay. Very gay, as a matter of fact. The entire movie is a series of ridiculous gay jokes. It’s like 80 minutes of zany stereotypes and gay jokes but for the most part it keeps a remarkably soft tone to its humor. This flick and it subject matter could have been incredibly mean spirited and trotted out its characters like morality freak show hitting low for the easy gay jokes and while it dances dangerously close to that territory at times, it follows the biker lifestyle of dudes on bikes living free how they want to and then it goes completely off the fucking rails in the end and has this insane, unbelievably sad ending that makes me wonder if director Larry G. Brown and I were laughing at the same thing. Seriously. It’s completely fucked up.
I recently submitted a top 10 list to Brian Solomon’s Vault of Horror blog as part of a sort of collaborative top 10 list of horror TV shows but the catch there is that we ordered these shows sorted by favorite and in the end, it’s going to be a single list and you’ll never get to see my actual submission nor did I get to extrapolate in exhausting detail why I happen to think that these shows are winners. I figured I’d throw it up here because I don’t think I’ve ever done any such thing. We used to have the TV Eye column but that covered what was happening in the world of television horror, science fiction and fantasy from week to week and didn’t actually represent what Tony Nunes or myself happened to think were actually good shows. So here it is, the official Cinema Suicide greatest horror TV shows of all time list in order of greatness!
10. Doctor Who
I’ve had this conversation with a more than few people. With the return of The Doctor several years back, Doctor Who found its way back into the hearts of nerds everywhere and it’s a beautiful thing. It has routinely found its way on to top ten science fiction lists with such regularity these days, making sure only to reference Eccleston, Tenant and Smith and eschewing the notion of the other eight doctors that it’s fairly safe to assume that Doctor Who in its present incarnation is a towering modern epic of science fiction proportions but I dare say, it’s also one of the finest horror shows ever produced. I mean that! Straight back to the William Hartnell Doctor. Doctor Who is manic and cheeky and fun and dominated with future tech and time travel and all that awesome shit but it’s also peppered with arcs and episodes absolutely steeped in terrifying shit. Right from the get go you had the horror of the Cybermen, these hollowed out shells of people stripped down and replaced with machine parts, their awful modulated voices emerging from open mouths, hardly moving to speak the words. It’s some severely creepy shit. During the Tom Baker era (my personal favorite) you had The Ark In Space, which finds The Doctor and his companions on board a satellite orbiting a dead Earth where an alien organism has infected the cryogenically frozen humans on board, turning one of them into something else with the intention of turning them all into something else. In recent times, Stephen Moffat has turned up the heat with episodes about werewolves, the “Are you my mummy?” ghost kid, The Family of Blood and god damn it, The Weeping Angels (in what is my favorite time travel related episode of anything). I maintain that Doctor Who cribbed some inspiration from Hammer’s previous scientist dealing with scary shit, Professor Quatermass.
9. American Horror Story
I would ordinarily have a really hard time putting a series on this list that as of this writing has only one complete season of TV and hasn’t even started its second (though, that’s right around the corner) but the first season of American Horror Story delivered so fully on its promise of spooks and scares that I just couldn’t leave it off the list. So effective was it that the mid-season ending left us on such a weird spot that I wasn’t sure where they could possibly take it from there but when the show resumed it went even further off the fuckin’ rails! It managed to buck TV horror conventions and in a day and age when a haunted house movie, typically an extremely restrained affair, shows you everything and leaves nothing to the deadly machinations of your own imagination, American Horror Story went there, damn it! They kept their shit in check and gave you some spooky twists and turns in the story. I knock points off for Dylan McDermott’s affair subplot dragging on a bit too long but side players, Denis O’Hare, Evan Peters and Jessica Lange had me glued to the set week after week. The forthcoming follow up season takes (most of) the same cast, winds the clock back to the 60’s and sets the show in a completely unrelated insane asylum. Who comes up with this? This is a bold, fucking insane idea and it’s pretty much what basic cable horror needs right now. And all of this came from one of the dudes who created Glee.
Fringe has had enough time on TV these days to be a fully fermented product that in spite of fairly drippy ratings, manages to stay on the air in true TV cult land. If ever there was a show that was the spiritual successor to The X-Files, Fringe is it. In its beginnings it was an extremely entertaining show even as it struggled to figure out what it was in the midst of a streak of monster of the week episodes but somewhere in between all these mad science gone horribly wrong episodes, Fringe started to tell a story about black hat scientists working underground in accordance with a secret manuscript. Of course, these were the days of Lost and every motherfucking genre show on TV had to have some extraordinarily convoluted metaplot running behind the scenes of week to week mayhem but it eventually figured itself out and gave us lots and lots of human bodies rendered to protoplasm, cleaved in half by closing pan-dimensional gates, spontaneous human combustion and whatnot and it was all kept on course by a solid cast of players who made the trains run on time. Fringe cribbed conspiracy theory and black science mythology from some of my favorite conspiracy theory sources, The Philadelphia Experiment and The Montauk Project and once it figured out what it was doing, it ran absolutely wild with great ideas for weekly horror.
7. Twin Peaks
I had a hard time with this one seeing as how Twin Peaks isn’t exactly horror but it’s deeply unsettling and seriously weird in such a way that it puts its viewership on edge. Much of David Lynch’s work is like that. It’s hard to pin down to any one genre but everything he does is so uniformly strange and deliberately engineered to make viewers uncomfortable by genuine mystery that it sort of drifts into horror territory without ever realizing it. That is, until the show’s cancellation in the second season when the show’s narrative went completely bonkers, introducing the very idea of The Black Lodge, The Man From Another Place and so on. The mystery of Laura Palmer’s murder, clearly wrapped up in the film Fire Walk With Me, kept people hanging on and made the show one of the most off-beat noirs of all time but it was the addition of the usual David Lynch surrealism that made it so incredibly strange and compelling. Twin Peaks played itself out like taking in a production of Our Town during a particularly bad acid trip. It expanded on the themes of small town life’s facade and the corruption that lives just beneath the surface, ideas Lynch had taken for a ride with Blue Velvet only this time around, thanks to the Writer’s Guild going on strike and leaving TV networks hungry for content, Lynch had an easy in and provided prime time television with something so incredibly uncommercial and spooky that its cancellation midway through the second season came as little surprise to anyone.
6. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
For the longest time, because I thought the original movie was so incredibly stupid, I held a firm grudge against the Buffy TV show which looked supremely lame from the perspective of someone who had already judged the show based not on its merits but on some bullshit uninformed opinion. Then I caught an episode called Hush and my world changed. Hush aired during the fourth season and by this point it had established itself with a firm mythology that left my head spinning. Angel and Buffy had established their tragic romance. Riley and The Initiative had been introduced. Faith had already torn through Sunnydale. Willow had a werewolf boyfriend and there was all this other stuff happening that suggested an ongoing narrative arc that is like heroin to me. Growing up on the continuing adventures of comic book super heroes left me with a craving for a show that did more than tell a single story in an hour or half hour of TV. Buffy did just that by lifting the narrative mechanism that made The X-Files so much fun by giving each season an ongoing challenge from week to week but lifting things from time to time with an monster of the week. By the time the credits rolled after Hush, I had raided my sister’s complete collection of VHS episodes taped from TV, including the pilot, and was caught up in no time by binging on four or five episodes a night. By the time the show reached its series finale I was a walking encyclopedia of all things Buffy and Angel. I actually think Angel is the better show but you couldn’t have one without the other so I’ll include Angel by implication. I still pester Stephen Moffat and Russel Davies from time to time via Twitter to inspire them to actually produce the Ripper series that was proposed but never followed up with.
5. Dark Shadows
I’ve moaned about this in the past and pointed my finger at Hollywood numerous times about its contempt for the horror genre. It hates horror. The people who produce it are viewed as Hollywood pariahs and the people who consume it are viewed as degenerates whom you probably want to keep your children away from. Unfortunately, horror makes a lot of money and few things are as perfect an example of that than Dark Shadows. Dark Shadows began life as a marginally horror-flavored soap opera on ABC in 1966 but when ratings flagged and it was at risk of being cancelled, series creator Dan Curtis introduced the vampire Barnabas Collins, played by Jonathan Frid, and the show took off dramatically in a new direction. What was originally played down and kept to subtleties with the occasional ghost story all of a sudden involved the undead, werewolves, zombies and other horrors on a regular rotation. The dark Collins family secret of the tragic Barnabas took over the show and on a daily basis, this is a soap opera, after all, the show ran through a series of particularly ridiculous but extremely fun episodes, something in excess of 1,000. Unlike other horror TV shows and because it was an ongoing daily soap, Dark Shadows introduced the idea of the long narrative arc to genre television. Prior to Dark Shadows, this was unheard of and it helped the show sail deep into cult TV territory, constantly being rediscovered by new generations of fans and landing its own film adaptation (which I’m told is positively rancid) and dropping mad reference on Mad Men. You can also catch up with many episodes from the run on Netflix and for the truly dedicated, I’m told there’s an outrageously priced boxed set which has every episode from the run.
4. Kolchak: The Night Stalker
To most people, Darren McGavin is probably best known as the foul mouthed dad from A Christmas Story but for those of us with a yen for old school TV, we immediately recognize him as Chicago journalist, Karl Kolchak, a writer with a weird tendency to find his way into crimes involving the supernatural. It began as a super popular made for TV movie called The Night Stalker, adapted by Richard Matheson from a novel by Jeff Rice and turned out to be really popular. Popular enough to find its way to a weekly series. Week after week, Kolchak pursues all manner of beasts in expertly written episodes that were ground zero for the Monster of the Week concept. This would later translate to shows like The X-Files, Buffy and Supernatural. Kolchak wasn’t exactly scary as broadcast standards at the time wouldn’t really let it go there like the TV movies that preceded it did and the vibe is actually pretty appropriate for younger audiences but it’s a quirky show that’s a lot of fun and the very foundation for weekly horror to come. Previously, the only horror on TV came in the form of anthology serieses like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and One Step Beyond. Dark Shadows had established the idea of the ongoing horror arc but Kolchak was the galvanizing moment for the generation that grew up with it. Unfortunately, it aired during the same tragic Friday at 10pm slot that killed Star Trek and suffered miserable ratings and was gone after a single season. Lucky for you, however, you can see them all, minus the TV movies on Netflix.
3. Tales From The Crypt
My family had an intermittent subscription to HBO but it came and went depending on how much my parents were watching it. So when we had it, I would throw in a video tape around 10pm, set it to EP mode and record as much as the tape would allow throughout the night in order to catch those weird early morning blasts of this show. This is one of those shows that everyone remembers. It was minor cultural phenomenon. It spawned Cryptkeeper toys and a surge in sales of the EC reprints of the comic and how could a horror fan not want a piece of the action? It was spawned by some of Hollywood’s most fun directors, guys like Robert Zemeckis and Richard Donner. Week after week it featured a new tale directed by the last people you’d ever expect to turn up in such a place. I mean, Michael J. Fox and Arnold Schwarzenneger not to mention actual horror directors like Tom Holland and Tobe Hooper. They also had a group of killer writers. People like Frank Darabont, Richard Matheson and Fred Dekker. They captured the essence of those awesome comics perfectly with unsavory characters meeting ironic ends and the results could be somewhere between extremely funny and exceptionally horrifying. Everyone who ever watched the show has a favorite episode, too. I’m curious to know what yours is. Mine, an episode which actually haunted me a bit, is called Television Terror, which features Morton Downey Jr. trying to stir up ratings for his ridiculous TV show by locking himself in a haunted house that turns out to be actually haunted.
2. The Twilight Zone
I am related in a distant way to Rod Serling. True story, bro. But I’m not letting my relation color my judgement. If that had happened this would be in the first place spot, but that is reserved for another show. No. I realize that this might piss off a lot of people who hold dear to the idea that this is probably the greatest horror TV of all time but you must understand. It was a tough call. See, The Twilight Zone is the template for all horror and sci-fi TV to come in its wake. Week after week. Season after season. The Twilight Zone delivered some of the most clever short format anthology horror the world had ever seen. It had competition in the form of The Outer Limits and that show also had its merits but The Twilight Zone had Rod fucking Serling at the helm, that amazing theme song and a menu of extremely memorable episodes that everyone remembers. Burgess Meredith, henpecked and desperate to just crack a book and leave the world behind, finally left with that time after the bomb only to break his very much needed glasses. William Shatner in the grip of panic as a horrible monster on the wing of his airplane disassembles the engine. “The rest of the book! To Serve Man! It’s a cookbook!” This show was absolutely pivotal and even though I’ve seen them all, I still make time to catch the marathons on Syfy even though I can just catch them whenever on Netflix.
1. The X-Files
I suspect that the key to a classic horror TV series is the theme music. Four of these shows are also on my greatest horror and sci-fi TV theme songs list. For many of my generation, TV in the 90’s was defined by either Seinfeld or Friends. If it’s an indication as to what sort of person I am, I have probably seen a combined total of four episodes of both of those shows and I can’t tell you much about them except that one show featured a terminal romance between someone named Ross and someone named Rachel, Elaine was a pretty lousy dancer and that Jerry Seinfeld played a guy named Jerry. I think. However, if you have the time and the desire, I can sit you down sometime and explain in excruciating detail every last motherfucking piece of the X-Files puzzle. Every monster of the week. Every appearance of the Cigarette Smoking Man. I can tell you where Mulder got his nickname (Spooky) from. For me and my kind, we were all singularly dedicated to The X-Files. Some of those assholes also made a habit out of Xena: Warrior Princess but you have to cut them some slack. The Internet was still a new thing back then and readily available lesbian porn wasn’t quite the abundant resource that is, say, right now. The X-Files was a perfection of timing. The post-Reagan/Bush 90’s was a time when public suspicion of the government was at an all time high. The Cold War was pretty much a thing of the past, the potential nuclear war that would kill us all was a shadow of its former threat. What the fuck do you get paranoid about? Aliens. That’s what. Aliens from space. Not Mexico. It was brilliant science fiction. Scary as fuck when it wanted to be with episodes about The Fluke Man and Eugene Tooms, The X-Files could maintain that horror vibe even when it was funny as hell in what is my all-time favorite episode, Jose Chung’s From Outer Space. Like The Twilight Zone, it lured in legendary writers like Stephen King and William Gibson and had a weekly cast of outstanding guest stars like Brad Douriff, Bruce Campbell, Michael McKean, Peter Boyle and Steve Railsback. Ordinarily, the final Duchovny-less seasons would disqualify The X-Files from my top spot since I figure the number one show on this list was going to have to be flawless from start to finish but let’s face it. No show, not even the later seasons of The Twilight Zone manage to stay that fresh. Plus, the running mythology of the show, the alien contact coverup, the fate of Mulder’s sister, Scully’s cancer, The Roush company and The Syndicate. Even in its waning years, peaking with the ultimate fate of everyone’s favorite b-characters, The Lone Gunmen, The X-Files maintained a consistent pace fusing horror and science fiction in a way that was extremely versatile and entertaining to the last drop. The X-Files is a show that I dearly miss.
Friday the 13th: The Series
A product of Friday the 13th in name only, I badly wanted to put this show on the list but it missed more than it hit and early episodes were far better than later episodes. The idea was very novel, cousins inherit their uncle’s antique shop only to discover that a Faustian deal left items sold from the shop cursed. Every week had them tracking down and recovering a cursed item whats power had typically been discovered by its present owner. Mayhem ensued. It was a good show but suffered a casting change somewhere in the middle of season one and lost a bit of its footing in further episodes. I guess it runs in syndication on some of those mythical all-horror channels that seem to run only on the rarest of American cable networks. I think it was a Canadian production that went to network syndication as soon as it was released and it ran on Sunday afternoons for me locally with a syndicated (and extremely gory) War of the Worlds show right after it that featured the guy from Predator who kept telling big vagina jokes to everyone.
Forever Knight used to run late nights on some of the former UHF channels turned into Fox/UPN/WB affiliates somewhere in the 90’s before it found a wider audience in reruns on the Sci Fi channel. That is, after it had a brief run on network primetime. This was probably the first vampire TV show that I can think of that embraced the Anne Rice model of the vampire. Prior to Forever Knight, vampires were still the predatory villains of horror but Forever Knight was one of the first instances that I can think of that took that stereotype and turned the vampire into its own tragic hero with some pretty significant flaws. The show suffered from some rotten acting and cheesy writing at times but it spawned a fascinating mythology and a cult audience that was as hungry for new episodes as fans of Dark Shadows or The X-Files.