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

July 26, 2010

Screamwave #13: ICHI THE KILLER

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Jenn is back for another episode of Screamwave, and she brings with her a gruesome and bizarre Japanese film from director Takashi Miike: ICHI THE KILLER (2001). In our very NSFW and spoilerific discussion, we find out how far a film has to go before Kris and Aaron get too uncomfortable. During our review, Aaron starts up an impromptu listener contest when he trips over his own tongue and utters the word, “skump.” 

The listener who can email us the most interesting definition for “skump” will win a movie from Aaron’s collection. 

This week, we also debut Fangs on Film, a brand-new semi-regular segment about vampires on TV and in the movies hosted by Aaron and vampire fan Barbara. To kick off the segment, we look at the first season of the horror comedy/drama BEING HUMAN from BBC 3.
Put on your snorkels because we round out the show with an installment of Earth and Beyond with a look at the Russian version of the Loch Ness Monster (“Nesski”) and various odd stories about jellyfish. Then we emerge from the water on Venice Beach to talk about a very expensive two-headed bearded dragon. 

Finally, we address some very thought-provoking and challenging voicemails in our listener feedback.
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Show Notes
Song: "Vampire" by Antsy Pants
[Some original music by Nathan Fleet]

July 24, 2010

Rejected Human Centipede Designs

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 Before Dr. Heiter was inspired with mad genius to devise the elegant ass-to-mouth configuration of the Human Centipede, he experimented with several other failed designs. Although these design schematics were thought lost and destroyed, the Mad Scientist Historical Preservation Society has managed to unearth the few remaining sketches showcasing these rejected designs for constructing a conjoined organism

Inspired by the symmetrical beauty of the Rorschach inkblot test, Heiter sketched this concept for a Human Rorschach after undergoing a psychological evaluation while still employed as a surgeon. This is the first time Heiter envisioned a conjoined organism with one continuous digestive tract, but a critical design flaw made defecation impossible, so his plans were abandoned.

Leaving behind the idea of a conjoined digestive tract, Dr. Heiter began to experiment with using the human body as an extension of other organs: namely, the ears. In this rarely seen concept sketch for the Human Earphones, Heiter theorizes the possibility of stitching a living organism to each ear of a central segment. His notes indicate that the idea was scrapped because of the difficulty of using the rectum and bowels to channel soundwaves into the eardrums.

The Human Totem Pole appears to mimic both the Totem Pole's spiritual majesty and vertically-stacked structure. Heiter's last rejected design before landing upon the final concept for the Human Centipede, this design revises Heiter's fascination with a conjoined digestive tract. Unfortunately, it required the head of each bottom segment to be embedded in the ribcage of the top segment. This would necessitate a complicated and messy marathon session of surgery. There were also secondary concerns about suffocation and organ failure in all subjects.

The Mad Scientist Historical Preservation Society continues to scour Dr. Heiter's remaining records for more documentation from what has proven to be one of the most creative and promising scientific projects since the breakthroughs in two-headed constructive surgery.

July 19, 2010

The Last House on the Left (Review)

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The Last House on the Left (1972) 

Director: Wes Craven

The Last House on the Left is pure Id. According to Sigmund Freud, the Id is a dark, unorganized part of the personality and psyche that thrives on basic drives and immediate satisfaction but is repressed by the Ego and Super-Ego. On the DVD featurette "Still Standing: The Legacy of Last House on the Left," Craven talks about how he created Last House in the early seventies as an experiment in letting loose from intellectual and artistic repression -- to break every barrier. The original script was brutally violent, but although the script was toned down, Craven still let the Id out to play. As a result, the film is still truly shocking and holds  an incredibly dark power in its depiction of physical and sexual violence and degradation. Unfortunately, like the Id, the film is also very confused and unbalanced. Side by side with the violence are excruciating sequences of bumbling comedic relief and the most emotionally off-key music and score I've ever heard. It's these latter elements that have not aged well and contribute to what is, over all, an unsatisfying horror experience.


Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassell) is a sweet and lovely girl, if only a bit naive, making her way into womanhood. She lives with her mother Estelle (Cynthia Carr) and father John (Gaylord St. James) in a secluded, wooded area of town. She leaves one night with her friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) to take in a concert in the city. While accompanying Phyllis to score some recreational marijuana, she and Phyllis are abducted by a gang of criminals and rapists lead by the sadistic Krug (David Hess). They are raped, tortured, and eventually murdered, but not before Mari's parents find out what happened to her and seek violent vengeance on the killers.

Rating: 1.5 / 5 Krugs


Unfortunately, yes, this is what I take away from Last House on the Left despite its infamous listing as one of the video nasties and sadistic videos of the 70s / 80s. David Hess is menacing as Krug, the ringleader of the gang, but he also did the music and the songs that completely sap the movie of its horror. You have to excuse musical styles for the time in which they were made, but even if you forgive the fact the music reeks of the early 70s, every musical score and stinger is out of touch with the horrors on screen. Sometimes this can be used to create a disturbing sense of dissonance, but here it just sounds ridiculous. For example, Krug is joined by his illegitimate junkie son (Marc Sheffler), the animalistic Sadie (Jeramie Rain), and violent pervert Weasel (Fred J. Lincoln). They're a horrible, evil family of predators, but the music that accompanies their drive sounds like it comes out of a country bumpkin road movie comedy.

The music is really and truly horrible save for the smooth, soothing blues song that plays over the post-rape scene. Here the film achieves some sense of effective dissonance, but it's a rare success. The goofy quality of the music also finds its way into the interactions between Krug and his band and the subplot about the cops. Sadie and Junior mimic frog noises, Sadie pulls a Bill and Ted by talking about Sigmund FROOD, and two bumbling cops run out of gas and have to hitch a ride on an old chicken truck to try and save the day. In the climax of the film, Mari's dad even tries to go all Home Alone on Krug but resorts to confronting him in a lazy chainsaw fight. It's all really face-palm worthy.


We can chalk up a lot of these screwy moments to the fact that this was one of the first films for most of the cast and crew, including West Craven and producer S. S. Cunningham. Controversial at the time, I can't see today how the corn-ball scenes and music in The Last House on the Left can be tolerated.


Absolutely. While it's not shot with the same style or careful attention as shown in other more effective rape-revenge films, Craven's raw amateur style does as much as it can not to glance away from the horror and therefore lends Last House on the Left a surprisingly effective voyeuristic quality. 

Do not score weed from these people. 

The actors also deserve a lot of credit. When not delivering cornball lines or being fed some very stilted dialog, the core croup of criminals (Krug, Junior, Sadie, and Weasel) develop a surprisingly sadistic bond and natural sense of family that heightens the horror. Also, Lucy Grantham is very sincere as Phyllis although she never showed her acting chops elsewhere. Last House on the Left remains her only known commercial film.


For all the hype, Last House on the Left is not a good movie and hardly as shocking as you might expect. It has its moments that hint at the better work Craven would deliver in the future, yet it is a largely inept and amateur picture much like The Hills Have Eyes.
God help me, but I actually look forward to the remake now. I think hell just froze over.

Screamwave #12: Warning Sign

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Relax. I'm a scientist. I know what I'm doing.



Screamwave is finally broadcasting out of its brand new studio, except Aaron and Kris accidentally trigger a bio-hazard lockdown that almost costs them their lives. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the exact premise of this week’s movie: WARNING SIGN (1985). What a coincidence!

After Warning Sign, Aaron talks with Wendy Mackie, director, and Daniel X, musical director, of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, a fantastic production now playing at the Port Mansion Theatre in Port Dalhousie.

We follow with a brief tour of the gruesome attractions found at the Haw Par Villa Park of Singapore in our Earth and Beyond segment, and then Aaron is joined by Lyle Perez-Tinics to talk about his new charity anthology The Undead That Saved Christmas.

To cap off the show, we answer your voice mails and emails.

Now how’s that for a podcast?

Voicemail: 206-350-7019
Email: screamwavepodcast@gmail.com

Show Notes

July 17, 2010

HOUSE -- Cover Criticism

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House was a major disappointment as a movie (review), but let's take a look at the film's art and ask ourselves:  Will it be classic, characterless, or criminal?

Verdict: CLASSIC

There were several variations of the VHS cover art (what you see above is actually the theatrical poster, but it's not too different from the box art), but all VHS covers featuring the rotting, floating hand ringing a door bell became instantly iconic. Although the art is not very engaging -- in fact it's quite static and dull and lacking any hint of the film's attempt at humour -- it was highly memorable, nevertheless. The hand is rendered with excellent detail and reminds me of the art from an EC horror comic; the fleshy threads and the bone sticking out of the stump are a nice touch. The dead space around the hand also gives the image some sense of eerie expectation. Overall, this art isn't great, but it does a good job of hooking the reader and has just enough character to deserve its classic status.

July 14, 2010

House -- 1986 (REVIEW)

House (1986) 

Director: Steve Miner

House has all the chills and all the laughs of a stale Sunday afternoon made-for-TV movie. Cast primarily with TV actors and directed by Steve Miner, House's potentially interesting story by Fred Dekker is buried under a tone-deaf script and construction that renders both the comedy and horror elements moot.


After being granted super powers by an alien suit and cape, the Greatest American Hero, who once served in Vietnam with Bull the Night Court bailiff, moves into a haunted house next door to Norm, the lovable boozehound. Then.....

No, wait. I’m confusing the actors with their old TV characters again, aren’t I? Damn it. That's a symptom of this medical condition I have. Let me take my pills.

That’s better. Let’s try this again. *ahem*

Horror novelist Roger Cobb (William Katt) is losing a grip on his life and career. Following the mysterious disappearance of his son Jimmy, his wife (Kay Lenz) has left him, and no one is interested in his new book about Vietnam. Sometime later, Roger’s aunt commits suicide in the same house where Jimmy went missing – a house known for weird occurrences – yet Roger nevertheless moves into the house to finish his memoirs about serving in Vietnam alongside a loose canon named Big Ben (Richard Moll). Unfortunately, for Roger and the audience, Roger is soon attacked by a series of painfully cheesy and excessively rubbery special effects. Enlisting the help of his neighbor Harold (George Wendt), Roger goes in search of his son within the paranormal "horrors" of THE HOUSE!

And I soon discover that the first movie I described about The Greatest American Hero palling around with Norm from Cheers is a way better movie than the one I just watched.

Rating: 2 / 5 Norms


When the film begins, it feels like we're going be delivered a passable supernatural horror comedy with a twist of Jacob's Ladder and some yucks ala Evil Dead 2. On the creepy side of things, Roger Cobb has a nightmare about his missing son playing in the yard and being attacked by a dessicated hand that erupts from the earth and grasps at the child. Then we get a bunch of humorous moments, such as Cobb's interaction with his weirdo fans or when Cobb receives a call from his ex-wife and he turns up the music to pretend he's at a party and not home all alone, but nothing is overly funny. From this point on, nothing is overly scary either. Very quickly, shit just gets goofy.

You paid HOW MUCH for that manicure?

It's hard to even classify this movie as a horror film. It has about as many scares as an episode of Power Rangers with equally rubbery monsters. In the house, which we obliquely learn may be a gateway to another dimension, Cobb must face a wall-mounted marlin that starts flapping around, lazily floating garden tools, a vision of his wife that turns into a fat latex ghoul, and paranormal flashbacks to Nam that look like they were filmed in someone's backyard using big plastic fronds. Then there's Big Ben (Richard Moll) who doesn't play his role with anything resembling a straight face even though he's supposed to be the antagonist. Moll's got the voice for it (FUN FACT: Moll was the voice of Harvey Dent / Two Face on Batman: The Animated Series), but he's a lunk in this film. The whole movie is cornball, and as it entered into the half-way point, I lost all investment in the characters and the situation.

I knew the film had lost me when it transitioned clumsily into a painful music montage of Cobb burying the rubber corpse of the wife/demon/thing

Then, immediately after an inane scene with his neighbor, House jumps directly into ANOTHER music montage. Padding much?

Not even the inclusion of George Wendt as Cobb's neighbor brings any real comedy to this film. It feels like a stale sitcom, right down to the final shot of the film with Cobb smiling directly into the camera as the picture freeze-frames.

Director Steve Miner directed two of the Friday the 13th films and a few other horror pictures, but the bulk of his output has been on TV. And if House is any indication, that's probably where he belongs.


To its credit, House does have some surreal and nightmarish images. In a memorable sequence, Cobb gets it in his mind that his son is being held captive in another world, and the only way in is through the bathroom mirror. He smashes the mirror to reveal nothing but a big black void. After some ridiculous monster hands (i.e. rubber Halloween gloves) grab at him from the void, he fashions a rope and climbs down into the misty netherworld. The mirror scene is certainly inventive; too bad the rest of the movie feels like a cheesy haunted house attraction.

MATCH.COM, you've screwed me again!

I thought I would really like House. An fun cast, practical monster effects, and the promise of a horror comedy seemed like a recipe for WIN, yet I found the film very tedious. I never grew up with this film, so I have no nostalgia for it. From where I stand today, the horror was light and the humor never struck the right tone for me. My stay at the House was not unbearable, but I was very happy to leave when it was over.

July 12, 2010

Screamwave #11: LIFEFORCE (1985)

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In this episode of Screamwave, co-hosts Aaron and Kris welcome guest host Kristen from Punch Zombie FX to discuss the 1985 sci-fi horror film LIFEFORCE (directed by Tobe Hooper). Before you can say “SEXY SPACE DRACULA,” Aaron, Kris, and Kristen are derailed by a reoccurring discussion of boobs. Frankly, they never really recover.

Then, in Earth and Beyond, Aaron has a clucking good time with a series of fowl stories that beg the question: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Probably to get away from the unexplained mass chicken decapitations in the North Pole. All this and more on Screamwave.

We are giving away two complimentary tickets to the July 17th ROLLER DERBY DOUBLE HEADER at the Mountain Arena in Hamilton, ON. To win, email screamwavepodcast@gmail.com with YOUR NAME and THE ANSWER to the following question:

“On episode #10 of Screamwave, which Lovecraft movies did Aaron and Kris review?” (hint: go to www.horrorinthehammer.com)
Two random winners will be drawn on July 15th and notified by email. The winner’s tickets will be available for pick up at the door on game night!

Voicemail: 206-350-7019
Email: screamwavepodcast@gmail.com

Show Notes

July 8, 2010

FRIGHT NIGHT -- Cover Criticism

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Fright Night may have a lot of gay sub text (find out what I mean in my review), but its VHS art is straight up iconic. People know it, but is that enough to give it classic status?  Will it be classic, characterless, or criminal?

Verdict: CLASSIC

How can you argue with this? Although this art does not represent any of the film's camp, its iconic demonic cloud is guaranteed to hook any passerby. In the bottom-half of the frame, a lonely, isolated house is penned in by trees on both sides forcing your attention to the curious figure in the window. Who could it be? Why are they so alone? Are they watching you -- a stalker or voyeur? The painted quality of the image saturated with grainy shades evokes a dark, story-book quality that offsets the creep-factor. But then your eyes are funneled upwards into the unfurling cloud of hell. From the center of a swirling mass of frightful shapes, the unmistakable face of a horrible vampire with piercing eyes impales you from across the room. It draws you nearer to its crooked maw. The person in the window is a victim! Unaware of the horror building behind them! And if you were like me, a kid who loved to be scared, this artwork certainly got you to beg your parents to rent this. Or you grabbed it yourself. No photoshopped headshots from promo stills. No busy, digital-sheen after effects. Just classic composition with effective visuals = horror win

July 5, 2010


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"I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me" -- H.P. Lovecraft ("The Call of Cthulu")


This is it! The Screamwave horror podcast celebrates its tenth episode with a LOVECRAFT extravaganza! The fiction of H.P. Lovecraft has had a distinct influence on horror media and geek culture, so Screamwave has decided to celebrate the double-digits with two reviews of films adapted from Lovecraft's stories.

Aaron, who is familiar with Lovecraft, brings newbie Kris up to speed on the man and his work. Then, Aaron and Kris push beyond the limits of mortal senses to discuss FROM BEYOND (1986). 

Later, the earth LITERALLY shakes while Aaron and Kris review the cult-classic RE-ANIMATOR (1985). What horrors from beneath have we unleashed?  

Unspeakable horrors, mid-podcast earthquakes, and the unique music and humour of Monster Matt all conspire to make Screamwave #10 one of our favorite episodes yet.

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Email: screamwavepodcast@gmail.com 
Voicemail: 206-350-7019 

Show Notes

July 2, 2010

Fright Night (Review)

Fright Night (1985) 

Director: Tom Holland

Overall, while definitely dated and featuring one of the most ineffectual and whiny protagonists in vampire movie-dom, Fright Night remains a fun and campy twist on the vampire narrative with a hint of Rear Window suburban horror.

Plus, for those looking for it, it's punctuated with some clearly gay subtext. Hence, I have awarded Fright Night the coveted FRUIT BAT AWARD for excellence in gay horror subtext.  


No one believes whiny Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) that his new next door neighbor, Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon), is a vampire! Dandrige comes and goes at all hours of the night. The beautiful women he brings home end up reported dead on the evening news. He has an uncommon aversion to garlic. Yet no one, not even his chaste girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) or Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), the washed up schlock horror show host, are willing to believe Charley's frantic assertion that JERRY DANDRIGE DRINKS BLOOD! Charley would have more luck convincing people that Dandridge is gay. After all, Dandridge is clearly a man whose appetites and nature are at odds with the norms of society. I mean, Dandrdige is a man of fashion with a wicked manicure who lives alone with another man (his "live-in carpenter"). He reaches out to young boys in alleys by sympathizing with their feelings of otherness and social alienation. Seems pretty obvious. But, no, poor Charley Brewster has to go alienating his friends and family by crying, "Vampire!" Yet, when Dandrige finally comes calling after Brewster gets too nosy, Dandrige reveals just how much of a vamp he really is.

Rating: 4/ 5 "Confirmed Bachelors"


"You suck, Charley Brewster."

That was the common refrain when I sat down to watch Fright Night with a vampire-loving colleague who had never before seen the film. Intrigued by the rumored casting of former Doctor Who star David Tennant in Roddy McDowell's role, we delved into Fright Night. The experience was a first for her, but a nostalgic trip for me. Fright Night conjures up memories of my first unsupervised boy/girl parties, it was one of my first exposures to gross-out special effects, and it may have been my first introduction to the fantastic Roddy McDowall. I had forgotten, however, how silly the film could be (intentionally and unintentionally).

Take Brewster, for example. His whiny and ineffectual attempts to persuade people to believe Dandridge is a vampire are acted upon in some baffling ways. When Brewster goes to the police to finger Dandrige as the culprit in a series of murders, a lone detective brings Brewster to Dandridge's house to confront him. Does it make a lot of sense for one lone officer to bring the only sole witness of a murder to the house of the accused murderer?

Detective Lennox: "Hey, I've brought over this spastic kid who thinks you're a muderer. Here's the kid's name, and make sure you get a good look at him. Oh, and don't forget he lives across the street pretty much unsupervised at night. Gee, I sure hope you dont' resist arrest because I'm the only cop here and you look really in-shape. Damn, where did I leave my gun?
Now that's some fine police work.

Also, is Brewster's brain so addled that he really thinks Peter Vincent, an actor in Hammer-esque vampire films, actually believes in real vampires? By that same logic, should the United States hire Kiefer Sutherland to interrogate terrorist suspects just because he does that on 24? Oh, you're so COOL, Brewster!

 Before Professor X forced his mutants to wear
X-themed spandex suits, he used to simply brad them.

But all this silliness tends to roll off the back of the film because it's coated in a fine sheen of camp and a vibe of inexplicable weirdness. Primarily, the character of Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) is the locus of this vibe. His performance -- a nervous, spastic and hard-to-pin-down oddity -- is certainly one of the most beloved performances in this film. His speech pattern, which puts a slightly wrong emphasis on syllables, creates a very subconscious feeling that his boy is just not in sync with the world around him. When Dandridge later turns him, Evil Ed is cranked up to 11.

And he's brilliant playing off of Roddy McDowell as Peter Vincent, who manages to infuse his character with the affectations of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price -- his namesakes -- to be both charming and just campy enough to sell each moment.

*80's ALERT*

The famous club sequence in which Dandridge seduces Amy is also way too 80s to be taken seriously. That music. Those clothes! Too much! (I love it)


Despite the above clip in which the film forces a romantic plot between Dandridge and Amy, do not be fooled. This movie is full of gay subtext. Before I give some examples, know that I point these out not to make fun of them. As with all things in life, queerness can be source of humour, but it's not something to be laughed at. In fact, I think this film is BETTER for its gay subtext, intended or not. Click here for a great reading of Fright Night from Postmodern Barney that fully explains the implications of its gay themes without making the film into a joke.

  • Dandrige is very close with his live-in minion and doesn't keep women in his life for very long. Every vampire needs a beard.
  • Danridge is quite a dandy in his outfits, mannerisms, and penchant for constantly putting fruit in his mouth. (Every second scene has him eating an apple.)
  • Evil Ed on Dandridge: "Yeahh...then he'd be able to suck his way through the entire town!"
  • Dandridge throws Brewster into a closet.
  • Evil Ed expresses his latent sexual feelings toward Brewster: "Kill me. Kill me, Charley... before I turn into a vampire, and... GIVE YOU A HICKEY!" 
  • Dandridge makes a very physical connection with Evil Ed on the basis of their shared feeling of otherness: "Hello, Edward. You don't have to be afraid of me. I know what it's like being different. Only they won't pick on you anymore... or beat you up. I'll see to that. All you have to do is take my hand."
Never mind the fact that the actor behind Evil Ed, Stephen Geoffreys, went on to make a number of gay porno films. These things just fall into place like that.

For infusing the film with interesting gay subtext without turning the movie into a joke, Fright Night truly deserves the Fruit Bat.


It's 1985 and every horror film is obsessed with practical gross-out effects. The art of latex was coming to its peak, and the entire third act of this film is devoted to enough disgusting monster effects (transformations, melting bodies, and vampire creatures) to justify its R rating. While there's little on-screen or graphic violence against humans, a memorable scene involving Evil Ed's death, in which he transforms from a wolf back to his humanoid vampire form, is quite shocking.


The sequence is placed in the film, which until now had been fairly light in tone and violence (all things considered), to make it clear what Brewster will have to do to Amy if he and Peter cannot reverse her transformation. In no small part due to Roddy McDowell's uncanny ability to make the most odd situation heartfelt with only a change in his expression, the scene is shockingly sad and painful to watch. 


Mildly shocking (mostly with gross-out effects) and fully silly, with a strong under-current of gay subtext, Fright Night may not be as scary as I remember it, but it is definitely still a fun popcorn movie regardless of whether the laughs go along with the film or at its expense.


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