A blog exploring the sexy, shocking, surreal, and silly side of horror films.

March 29, 2010

CREEP REEL: Blood on the Highway

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I've heard this movie sucks (pun intended) but the trailer amuses me. Needs more Xander, though.

March 28, 2010

Strange Invaders-- Cover Art: Classic, Characterless, or Criminal?

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Following up on my review of Strange Invaders (1983), let's compare its original North American VHS box art to its modern DVD art and see if either is worthy of the title classic, characterless, or criminal.


 VERDICT: Characterless

Featuring a tag line that sounds like the sarcastic exclamation of a exasperated husband ("Your sisters said they'd leave after dinner. SURPRISE! They're still here!"), the box art for Strange Invaders is otherwise fairly boring. I dig the long shadows being cast by the text, but the rest of the elements don't seem to mesh. Worst of all is the cheesy alien materializing out of the clouds, which clashes with the squiggly "Strange" text in terms of style and tone. By no means a crime against VHS box art, it's a fairly forgettable piece of art. At least it offers some air of mystery unlike it's modern DVD cover art.

Strange Invaders has had at least three different VHS box covers that I know of, including a fairly rare one featuring an alien head shot (currently available on eBay in the UK)



While the original box art offered some air of mystery, when MGM released Strange Invaders on VHS in 2000 and on DVD in 2005 they went with the philosophy of "You want aliens? Here's yer friggin aliens!" While this image certainly reflects the film's campy tone better than the VHS box art, it suffers from a bad case of collage-itis. It also puts too much emphasis on the alien faces which, let's face, look like brown prunes. Flying orbs and lazer fingers attempt to add a sense of excitement, but there's only so much outer-glow you can add to the composition before it starts to look cheesy and outstay its welcome.

While I prefer the original VHS box art, I like it only marginally better. In a somewhat fitting way, both these examples of cover art are as forgettable as the actual movie. A rare example of truth in advertising from the VHS art world.

Strange Invaders (Review)

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Strange Invaders (1983) 
Director: Michael Laughlin

Right from the beginning text scrawl and theremin-inspired music, it's clear that Strange Invaders has its tongue planted firmly in cheek. An attempted homage/spoof of cult sci-fi films and UFO pictures, Strange Invaders also throws in some modern gross-out alien effects. Unfortunately, the film reigns in its spoof qualities and leaves behind a movie as mediocre as the forgettable alien movies of the 50s and 60s. As a result, it is only the gross-out effects that are of any interest. That and Nancy Allen's chest (more on that later).


Charlie (Paul Le Mat), an entomology professor, goes in search of his missing ex-wife in the town of Centreville, Ohio. He finds the town and its residents off-putting: everyone and everything seems stuck in the 1950s. Wouldn't you know it, they're all gosh darned extra terrestrials -- extra terrestrials who blow up his car by shooting lazers from their hands. After he escapes back to New York, he sees a photo of one of the aliens printed in a rag similar to The Weekly World News. He finds the writer of the article, Betty (Nancy Allen), and together they leap over plot holes to track down the source of the photo and uncover the true intentions of the STRANGE INVADERS! Also, Nancy Allen doesn't wear a bra (more on that later). Srange Invader is a mediocre and tedious alien movie with only a few noteworthy effects and the charming presence Nancy Allen going for it

Rating: 2 out 5 Flannel Aliens.


No, not really. Although I used to see the VHS box for Strange Invaders in the horror/sci-fi section of the video store, and it does have some gross-out effects, the movie's not going to raise many hairs. The film is too couched in the UFO movie tropes of the 1950s and 1960s to have any atmosphere or dread. When the aliens unmask, however, they do tear and pull off their skin in a particularly gruesome fashion that involves air bladders, latex, and a stringy gooey adhesive. Also, the aliens have the ability to shrivel people and turn them into blue orbs. This shriveling effect is wholly unexpected but, like the unmasking effect, moderately shocking.

Sure, the skin's fun to rip. But how do you get back into it?


Again, not really. However, I found myself oddly attracted to Nancy Allen. Whenever I think of Nancy Allen, I think of her unglamorous role in Robocop ("Murphy, it's you!"), so I forget she she's known for doing nude roles and playing spunky, sexy girls. Strange Invaders turned out to be purely PG fare, so there's no nudity here, yet for some reason Nancy Allen never wears a bra. And she wears a lot of clingy fabric. And she does a lot of running in clingy fabric without a bra. Not only has she never looked better, more importantly she turns in the only real charismatic and interesting performance in the whole movie. I think this movie gave me a little Nancy Allen crush. It's unfortunate that today a woman who looked as natural as Nancy Allen would never get cast in a nude role or "sexy" part.

I can't come up with a sexual innuendo to accompany this picture of Nancy Allen sharpening pencils. Go figure!

Strange Invaders is pretty standard stuff. Yet, there's one sequence that borders on the surreal. While Charlie is sneaking into a church on his first day in Centreville, his dog is being attacked in another part of town. Through cross-cuts we get to see the dog being assaulted, but then we (and presumably Charlie) hear the dog's wail. Charlie runs out into the street calling the dog's name. Then the camera approaches him from his left, positioned low down to the ground and angled up at his face while moving on a dolly track, passing him by. Then the camera comes back on the dolly track in the same position but from the opposite direction. Then it does it again. This whole sequence makes no sense. Not surreal -- just confusing.

All Strange Invaders has going for it is its silly homage to cult sci-fi. From the look of the flying saucers to the in-your-face score, Strange Invaders is indeed is somewhat silly -- but not silly enough to successfully carry the film. To do the predictable plot and boring characters any justice, the film needed to embrace an Airplane level of silliness

March 26, 2010

Impossibly Cheesy - Viral Doritos Ad

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Apparently, this viral Dorito's commercial contest was made by some local folks. It's a sharp riff on Twilight that I can get behind. 

"You're impossibly cheesy..."

March 17, 2010

Gore-Met: Zombie Chef from Hell @ The Zed Word

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This week on The Zed Word, my zombie blog, is Zombie Cuisine Week.

To celebrate zombies and food, I've posted a review of an obscure film from 1986 with a classic title and VHS box: Gore-Met Zombie Chef from Hell

All you really need to know is summed up in the following video clip, but if you want to read my review of the film check out THE ZED WORD

March 15, 2010

Battle of the Tiny Terrors- NOMINATIONS OPEN

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Nominate your favorite tiny terror in the battle of the century!
Nomination Deadline: March 29th @ 12:00am

Horror fans! I need your help to fulfill a dream.

A dream in which horror fans like you vote for the TINIEST TERROR in horror history.

Picture if you will a Double-Elimination Tournament featuring every small, short, and tiny serial killer, creature, evil doll, puppet, mutant, alien and freak to ever appear in a horror movie. Each match, horror fans like you vote for who you think should win. Each diminutive death-dealers is eliminated after they lose two matches. Only one horror character will remain to be crowned THE TINIEST TERROR

But I need your help to nominate your favorite Tiny Terror. And I mean EVERY tiny terror. We all know Chucky or the Gremlins or the Leprechaun, but who thinks anymore about the creatures in The Boogens or the Demons from The Gate? It's time for every tiny terror in the horror genre, no matter how obscure, to stand tall in the spotlight. Dust off those old movies and nominate your favorite minuscule monstrosity!

How to nominate:

1.) Look at the list of current nominations at the end of this post
2.) If you see a name missing, leave a comment nominating your choice. If they meet the criteria, they will be added to the list.


Combatants in The Battle of the Tiny Terrors must be
  • a fictional character from a horror movie or TV show
  •  an autonomous individual personality (in the case of homogeneous groups like the Gremlins that have some distinct personalities, one will be chosen. In the case of indistinct groups like the Phantasm Dwarfs, a general character will represent the group)
  • Implicated in the death of at least one (1) person or capable and willing to kill
CURRENT NOMINEES (alphabetical)
African warrior (Doll Graveyard)
Aylmer (Brain Damage)
Baby girl (Doll Graveyard)
Baby Oopsy Daisy (Demonic Toys series)
Baby Selwyn (Braindead aka Dead Alive)
Beasties (Beasties)
Belial (Basketcase series)
Blade (Puppet Master series)
Boogens (The Boogens) -- one combatant will represent the group
Chucky (Child's Play series)
Critters (Critters series)
Demons (The Gate)
Dolly (Dolly Dearest)
Ella (Monkey Shines)
Fluffy (Crate Monster in Creepshow)
German soldier (Doll Graveyard)
Ghoulies (Ghoulies series) -- one combatant will be chosen to represent the group
Glen (Child's Play series)
Gremlins -- one combatant will have to be chosen to represent all Gremlins
Grizzly Teddy (Demonic Toys)
Hobgoblins (Hobgoblins)
Jack Attack (Demonic Toys series)
Jester (Puppet Master series)
Leech Woman (Puppet Master series)
Leprechaun (Leprechaun series)
Little Ashes (Army of Darkness) -- one combatant will represent the group
Mini-Dracula (The Creeps)
Mini- Frankenstein (The Creeps)
Mini-Mummy (The Creeps)
Mini-Wolfman (The Creeps)
Minions (Subspecies)
Mother Spider (Arachnophobia)
Mr. Static (Demonic Toys series)
Munchies (Munchies) -- one combatant will represent the group
One-Eyed Monster (One-Eyed Monster)
Phantasm Dwarfs -- one combatant will represent the group
Pinhead (Puppet Master series)
Rumpelstiltskin (Rumpelstiltskin)
Sam (Trick R' Treat)
Samurai (Doll Graveyard)
Six Shooter (Puppet Master series)
Talking Tina (The Twilight Zone)
Tiffany (Child's Play series)
Tooth Fairies (Hellboy 2) -- one combatant will represent the group
Torch (Puppet Master series)
Torok the Troll (Troll)
Totem (Puppet Master series)
Trevor the Rat (Meet the Feebles)
Troll (Cat's Eye)
Tunneler (Puppet Master series)
Zuni Fetish Doll (Trilogy of Terror)

March 12, 2010

Horror VHS in the Digital Day?

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An interesting post over at HorrorBid (generated by a debate on their forums) poses the question: Is it better to watch horror films on VHS or on DVD and Blu-Ray formats.

Let me be honest. I don't own ANY horror VHS tapes from the 1980s and 1990s. None. It's not a video format I'm a fan of.

For one, VHS looks terrible on my modern wide-screen TV. The picture does not line up properly when I play from my budget VHS / DVD combo. Therefore, my VHS / DVD combo spends most of the time stored away so I can watch DVDs and streaming video via my Xbox 360 because it has an HDMI cable. Primarily, however, I don't own a lot of VHS horror because when I was old enough to spend my own money the VHS had already given way to the DVD revolution. I've watched and rented a lot of horror films on VHS back in the day, but even now I own fewer films than I've actually seen. I still love VHS horror box art as an art form (you heard me -- an art form!), and that is largely why I've started this blog. I just never occurred to me to buy VHS tapes.

Even back in the day, I wasn't a fan of watching VHS films despite my love for their packaging. Until I saw the films on DVD as an adult, I never really experienced the value of many classic horror films. Take for example Sam Raimi's Evil Dead. When I rented the original Evil Dead VHS, the picture looked something like this.

Only darker. Grainier. A nauseating ride of visual sea sickness. I spent most of the time just trying to figure out what was going on. Even the parts that were clear were still grainy and hard to see. For years, I enjoyed Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness better only because their VHS copies were less stressed. It wasn't until about four years ago that I finally got to see Evil Dead on DVD and realized it was legitimately one of the best and scariest horror films ever made. It quickly became my favorite of the series (putting me in a minority, I know. Let's save that debate for another day.)

Therefore, when people ask me if I've seen 'this horror movie,' or 'that horror movie' from the age of VHS, my usual response is, "Sort of." Based on the quality of the VHS films I rented in my youth, one can hardly say I saw the films at all. 

Picture and sound quality aside, renting a VHS movie often resulted in misadventure and heart break. For example:

Rosemary's Baby on VHS: Rented three or four times from different stores only to have video stop or break on each occasion.

Gods and Monsters on VHS: First attempts to rent the film resulted in me receiving a mislabeled copy of Pierce Brosnan's Grey Owl and, once, a copy of Steven Segal's On Deadly Ground that was itself mislabeled as Grey Owl.

These are just two of several memorable examples of VHS-related snafus. I could have sworn someone was fucking with me on purpose. Never mind all the VHS tapes that suicided into my VCR by barfing spools of tape into the machine, killing itself and the machine in the process (not unlike a very lethal bee).

One the one hand, I see the appeal of watching VHS horror. I do miss the gritty, worn look of a film print when those films are still visible on screen. I don't miss popping in a film to see nothing but the VCR work itself into a heart attack trying to tame the wild tracking.

If you ask me, the best way to watch a horror film, regardless of VHS or DVD, is in a small, intimate theatre with a like-minded group of horror fans.

This intimate screening is exactly what we offer through Horror in the Hammer. Horror in the Hammer is a group of writers, artists, filmmakers, and fans based in Hamilton, ON who host and sponsor horror-themed events. Each month, we do a film screening at the Staircase Theatre (27 Dundurn St. North) called FRIGHT NIGHT THEATRE. This month we screened Korean vampire film Thirst. Next month, we're screening Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge. Come check us out if you like variety in your horror and an intimate horror movie experience. Don't worry, I won't try and cop a feel -- unless that's what you're into.

March 9, 2010

Chopping Mall: An Awakening to Horror

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Sadly, the glorious era of the VHS horror box art is truly dead and gone. Young horror fans today are growing up in the age of DVD horror art: a bland, cold, digitally filtered and homogenized age in which the call of the marketing teams and designers is primarily, "More of the same! More of the same!". I am truly sad for the lost art of the VHS box cover. It was precisely my love for VHS box covers that made me the horror fan I am today.

VHS horror in the 1980s and 1990s, like the horror comics of the 1940s and 1950s before them, needed art that was sexy, shocking, surreal, and sometimes even silly in order to stand out in the ever expanding new market of home video. I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s with parents who were careful not to let me watch a lot of adult horror movies. Therefore, much of what I learned about horror I learned from VHS box art. Every trip to the video store, I would disappear to the back of the store, passing the beaded curtain of the porno section whose mystery would appeal to me a few years later -- but not then. No, I got all the titillation I needed from the horror and horror / sci-fi section of the local Video Network.

If I can point to one image that made me a horror fan, it's definitely the VHS box art for Chopping Mall (1986). The perverted use of everyday items, the shocking grotesqueness of severed body parts, the tongue-in-cheek pun -- all of these things would become my favorite elements of the horror genre. I loved to spend my time in the horror section browsing the box art even though I wasn't allowed to rent anything. I had to imagine the kinds of thrilling horrors, dark taboos, depraved maniacs, and lurid nudity that were waiting to be discovered behind the greasy box covers and entombed in the mysterious spools of black tape. My fertile imagination was compelled to nightmares and all kinds of new and exciting dirty thoughts by the mystery of such films as Monster (1979), Maniac (1980), Evil Spawn (1987), The Rejuvenator (1988), Phoenix the Warrior (1988), Cinderella 2000 (1977) and Love Me Deadly (1973).

What I imagined films like Chopping Mall to be invariably turned out more disturbing and exciting than the actual films. In fact, most of the time the box art was completely irrelevant to the film's actual plot. Yet, VHS horror box art still holds a place in my heart.

Since I never had the opportunity to watch the majority of the VHS films whose box art captivated me as a youth, I've started up this new blog: Monster Chiller Horror Theatre. Monster Chiller Horror Theatre is an attempt to seek out and write about these films. As well as modern horror, I will cover and review the sexiest, silliest, most shocking, most surreal horror films of the VHS age -- that lost age that ushered me into horror.


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