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

May 31, 2010

Hatchet (Review)

Hatchet (2006) 

Director: Adam Green

Hyped excessively during its release, Hatchet came along and established instant horror cred for its young writer/director Adam Green. Full of cameos by horror alumni like Robert Englund, Tony Todd, and Kane Hodder, Hatchet feels like a love letter to gory slashers of the 1980s; unfortunately, its horror-comedy tone and pacing make for a muddled experience before hitting its stride with a frantically bloody finale.


A group of tourists take an ill-conceived haunted swamp tour into the New Orleans bayou that puts them in the path of a bloody real urban legend. Ben (Joel Moore), a college-aged guy who is still hurting after breaking up with his girlfriend, isn't having a fun time amidst the boobs and beer of Mardi Gras, so he guilts his friend Marcus (Deon Richmond) into joining him on a dinky haunted swamp tour. Joining them is a quiet brooding woman with with a secret agenda (Tamara Feldman), the sleazy filmmaker of Bayou Beavers and his two squabbling actresses (Mercedes McNab and Joleigh Fioravanti) whose main job is to drop their tops, and an overly enthusiastic married couple (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo) in sweaters and track pants. From their tour captain, they are told the legend of Victory Crowley, a deformed musclebound boy who was accidentally killed by his father's hatchet but whose murderous ghost still haunts the swamp. After the tour boat sinks in the swamp, they realize that Victor Crowley is definitely more material than myth as one by one they are slaughtered in gruesome succession.

Rating: 3 / 5 Crowleys


Hatchet's real claim to fame is the brutally over-the-top visual gore effects. Victor Crowley (Friday the 13th's Kane Hodder in makeup reminiscent of the Elephant Man) begins the film like most slashers by murdering and mutilating with a bladed tool -- in this case the titular hatchet. Eventually, however, Crowley abandons tools and dispatches his victims with his bare hands. Pulling off limbs, tearing apart torsos, and ripping open faces like he's peeling an orange. That's Crowley's style.

 AH, HATCHET! Gesundheit.

As Crowley, Kane Hodder brings more than just stunt experience to the mysterious murderer. Famous for playing Jason Voorhees exclusively from 1988 to 2001, Hodder's real skill is bringing visible personality and quirks to his characters from behind masks and layers of foam and latex. Although the true nature of Crowley is never explained, he has a definite personality that helps sell the over-the-top kill scenes.

The gore is both completely disgusting and hilarious. In its moments of violence, Hatchet reminds me of the gore-hound delights in Peter Jackson's Dead Alive (aka. Braindead). Although Jackson never produced slasher films, I would be very surprised if Adam Green didn't list Peter Jackson's early work as an influence on Hatchet. The gleeful tone and exaggerated blood sprays and splatters are meant to illicit gross-out screams but rarely dread or fear. On the horror-comedy scale, Hatchet falls squarely on the comedy side.


Perhaps to the film's detriment, Hatchet is more comedy than horror. Building from a very jokey introduction, which bogs down the pace of the film, every character save for Marybeth (Tamara Feldman) is a caricature whose exaggerated responses bring a lot of humour to the picture. It's hard to be scared, however, when you're laughing so much and the character deaths are handled in an equally funny yet preposterous style. In fact, several points of tension early in the film are deliberately undercut with humour, but this dilutes later scenes that are trying to be genuinely scary.


At times, Hatchet felt like a very gory version of Scooby-Doo while the young folks run around in circles trying to figure out how to stop Crowley. I liked the humour, but the film needed some tighter plotting and to embrace its humour fully. Look for standout comedic performances from Mercedes McNab (Harmony from Buffy and Angel fame) as the blond bimbo and Parry Shen as the inept tour captain.


Hopefully by now you've come to realize that "sexy" in the langauge of Monster Chiller Horror Theatre means simply "boobs" and "nudity." Set during Mardi Gras, Hatchet has boobs to spare.

I'm beginning to think this is more than a wardrobe malfunction

Mercedes McNab and Joleigh Fioravanti play two women who are making a career out of appearing in Bayou Beavers, a Girls Gone Wild style series. Their nudity is exploitative, but the film knows it and uses it to humourous advantage, turning these two characters into very silly caricatures of the ditsy blond and the struggling actress who feels above it all ("I went to NYU!" "Never heard of it."). So, if you're looking for some cheeky, topless cavorting, you've got a friend in Hatchet.


Hatchet's not a bad movie, but it's certainly not the masterpiece many touted it to be when it was first released. Fun, disposable, and full of nudity and over-the-top gore, it's a great party movie. As a narrative experience, it has a flawed structure, but it certainly deserves the attention it got for trying to bring back the fun of American slashers.


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The full recording of Bruce Campbell's hilarious audience Q+A panel from the 2009 Festival of Fear at the Toronto Fan Expo.

Campbell takes the stage to field audience questions with his trademark style of insult humour and snappy comebacks.


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Time to push your boundaries!

Aaron flies solo this week while Screamwave studios is being moved to a new location. Until the regular Screamwave crew can reunite, tide yourself over with our interview with MAX BROOKS, author of The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z, and Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks. Also, Aaron has a review of the French answer to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: FRONTIER(S). Then, listener feedback! Throughout the show, you will also hear fantastic music by THE SCREAMAGERS.

  [Original music composed by Nathan Fleet]

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Show Notes

May 28, 2010

The House of the Devil (Review)

The House of the Devil (2009) 

Director: Ti West

If the influence of Quentin Taraninto and Robert Rodriguez films are any indication, it's trendy to make faux-retro films and cater to the audience's nostalgia for grindhouse or 80s horror cinema. I've seen too many indie films throw on a fake film grain or digital scratch marks to pass off their films as "cool" and "old school." Although Ti West indeed designed The House of the Devil to make it look like it was filmed in the early to mid-1980s, he does something very different. He creates a retro style with sincerity that serves the story. Unlike Rob Zombie, who jacks up his movies with retro-imagery to fill in the holes left by the plot, The House of the Devil embraces its 80s style as an integral part of the horror experience. As a result, it delivers an atmospheric slow burn of suspense and dread that ignites in the third act into a full-blown hellish nightmare. Lauded for its attention to period detail, The House of the Devil is a brilliant example of horror suspense in its own right.


It's the 1980s. Samantha (Joceline Donahue ) is a college sophomore struggling to make ends meet. With little more than $87 dollars in her bank account, she's managed to secure a nice one-room apartment in a house to get away from her annoying dorm roommate. Unfortunately, Samantha can't make the first month's rent. As a result, she answers an anonymous ad for a babysitter job posted by the disquietingly awkward Mr. Ullman (Tom Noonan). It seems Ullman and his wife (genre regular Mary Woronov) have some very urgent plans that night -- the night of a lunar eclipse. They're desperate to find someone to hire and pay hundreds of dollars to stay at their large rural mansion....all alone. Something is clearly amiss, and it's not long before Samantha finds out she's stumbled into something truly and unspeakably evil.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Pentagrams


The House of the Devil is refreshingly not a nihilistic gore-fest. Relying on zooms, long shots, and long takes that immerse the audience in every detail of the environment, the film's scares come from an impending sense of doom and palpable unease that creeps into the film early on and slowly, like a covert python, encircles the lovely and completely lovable Samantha. 

 She reminds me of a younger and prettier 
Margot Kidder from her Black Christmas days

So, while there isn't a lot of gore or jump scares, when there is gore and when there are scares they are more effective due to the heightened tension that the film builds. Sometimes the long takes can slow the film down, but for the most part they are an indispensable part of the film's horror. It is so incredibly refreshing to see a horror film actually attempt to craft tension and atmosphere. In modern films we are accustomed to rapid-fire cuts and MTV style montages, but it is difficult to invest yourself in the film. We don't live in a music video. What Ti West, his DP, and his cinematographer manage to do, however, is immerse the audience in Samantha's material world. Because you become a part of that world, you feel the horror tenfold. There was one scene that literally made my jaw drop. However, I've seen the same type of scene before in  modern splatter films, yet this one shocked me because extreme violence is so rare in The House of the Devil. The House of the Devil gets back to the basics. It shocks the viewer with its more-is-less attitude.


It's not until the third act of the film that much of the overt horror takes place. When it does take place, we're not spoon fed an explanation for what is occurring. If you're at all familiar with films from this genre, however, you'll quickly understand what's about to happen, but no character stands up and, like a James Bond super villain, explains to Samantha exactly what's in store for her. Yet, even if you are not familiar with this genre, there is enough surreal abstracted imagery to make clear what horrors Samantha can look forward to.

Babysitters: Do not work for this man.

The House of the Devil has a great cast and a simple story told more tensely and effectively than many mainstream horror films. It manages to really feel like a film from the 1980s without relying on its style as a gimmick.

If this review has been lighter on details and flippancy than usual, it's because I don't want to spoil any part of this movie. I know it has been available for some time, but I went into it knowing little more than the premise. If you haven't checked out The House of the Devil and are craving suspense, check it out.

The House of the Devil may be a throwback, but it's not a throw-away film.

May 24, 2010

Human Centipede: The Game (I-Mockery.com)

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Those lovably shameless nerds at I-Mockery.com have turned one of the most talked about horror movie premises in recent time into an ass-to-mouth 8-bit arcade game --  HUMAN CENTIPEDE: THE GAME

A reworking of classic arcade game Centipede, Human Centipede: The Game puts you in the role of mad scientist Dr. Heiter. You have to shoot down your escaped anatomy test subjects while avoiding the police.

You can download it to your computer or play a flash version online.

Given that Roger Ebert hates video games and hates Human Centipede, you'd think this thing was made just to torture him

SCREAMWAVE #4: The Hills Have Eyes

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The lucky listeners die first!

DIRECT DOWNLOAD (1:09 – 31.73 MB)

Aaron and Kris strand themselves in the desert to discuss The Hills Have Eyes franchise starting with the original 1977 film and ending with the remake sequel from 2007. Then we have an interview with Chainsaw Mary and Matty O’ Shadykins about the new Hammer City Roller Girls season and a local spooky kids show project: The Hamityville Spoookies. If that weren’t enough, Aaron and Kris go to Earth and Beyond to talk about one of the smallest and deadliest creatures in the animal kingdom. Aaron also has a minnie rant about the hype over a new Ontario water " monster.” Finally, listener feedback!

[Original music by Nathan Fleet].

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

Show Notes
Hammer City Roller Girls
Punk N’ Puppets: A fundraiser for the making of The Hamityville Spookies
Tiny but deadly rare frogs bred in UK
Mystery Creature Pulled From Ontario Creek (pics)
“Monster” emerges from northern Ontario creek
The Dark Hours podcast
Double Shot Reviews

May 23, 2010

It feels so good to NEVER SLEEP AGAIN

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Unlike other horror blogs, I did not receive a promotional copy of Never Sleep Again, the new Nightmare on Elm Street retrospective documentary from 1428 Films. No, I went online and ordered my own copy of the film, which after shipping and conversion to Canadian currency turned out to be an expensive purchase. Thankfully, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is worth every single cent. Clocking in at over two hours of content for just the first disc, this documentary is the literal definition of bang for your buck.

Hands down, Never Sleep Again is the most comprehensive, heart-felt, funny, and honest look at a horror film franchise ever released. And we need more films like this. Too often we become complacent with the truncated and shallow "making of" featurettes on DVDs or the pithy retrospective documentaries that accompany some "special edition" sets of influential horror and other genre franchises. Most often, these are after-the-fact promotional pieces that recycle the same old anecdotes we've heard again and again about the making of the films in question. Never Sleep Again, however, takes a running leap over these pitfalls and delivers what is truly the definitive look back at each Nightmare on Elm Street film (barring the recent remake), the Freddy's Nightmares TV series, and Freddy Kreuger's impact on popular culture.

Told through interviews with the major players in the film franchise (such as Wes Crave, Heather Langenkamp -- who is also executive producer -- and Robert Englund), the documentary also generates much of its charm through interview segments with the bit players in the series such as Ira Heiden (the Dungeon Master Wizard from Dream Warriors) and Leslie Hoffman (the Hall monitor in A Nightmare on Elm Street).

One highlight of the documentary is the look back at Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. Several of the the writers, actors, and crew members profess to have had no intentions of making that film so full of homosexual themes, yet they are openly bemused by how every artistic decision they did make seemed engineered to take that gay subtext and make it pure text. Another highly entertaining part of the documentary is its coverage of Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master and the struggles and controversies between director Renny Harlan, his cast, and New Line producer Robert Shaye.

Most amazing of all, Never Sleep Again is not a documentary produced by New Line / Warner Bros. Entertainment. It's directed by Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch and distributed through CAV. On the one hand, this means you're not going to hear a lot of the licensed music from the Nightmare films or see an excessive number of clips from the film series. On the other hand, this gives the film freedom to be more fresh and inventive (as with its stop-motion opening and bumper sequences) and rely more on the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage and stills to tell the story of New Line cinema and its gamble on a little film called A Nightmare on Elm Street that would become a pop-culture sensation.

Finally, and most refreshing of all, this documentary's independence from New Line / Warner Bros. Entertainment means it has more freedom to offer critical or dissenting views about the franchise. While the documentary is clearly made with a love for the series, this is no puff-piece. Numerous writers, directors, and actors talk openly about the problems they had with the series or with the work of others in the series. Never Sleep Again does not shy away from the fact that many of these films began with incomplete scripts and no pretense on an executive level to make something artistic or meaningful (a beef Wes Craven has with every film in the series but his own).

Every installment in the series gets its fair share of exposure. Perfect to watch in installments or to sit down and watch all in one go, Never Sleep Again is a beautiful summary of the series's ups and downs.

If the new Nightmare on Elm Street remake (review) left a sour taste in your mouth, Never Sleep Again will clear the palate and remind you of what is so endearing and enduring about the nightmares Freddy gives us.

Buy Never Sleep Again: www.elmstreetlegacy.com

May 18, 2010

Most Memorable Muppet Monsters

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Last Sunday was the 20th anniversary of Jim Henson's death. Like many children with wild imaginations, I was inspired by Jim Henson and his Muppets. When he died, I was six years old. I was old enough to understand the concept of death, but not ready for it to befall one of my childhood heroes. Perhaps what I most loved about Henson's Muppets were the various Muppet Monsters that appeared over the years on the Muppet Show. In celebration of Jim Henson's life, I thought I'd dedicate this late post to my memories of my most memorable Muppet monster sketches!


A full-bodied Muppet monster, Doglion appeared in numerous sketches as well as several feature films, even appearing in the first shot of The Muppet Movie. I will always remember him for his impotent rage as he attempts to destroy Madeline Kahn's good mood. Recently before a showing of The Toxic Avenger Musical in Toronto, a friend and I went into a bar to grab some lunch and this very sketch was playing on the TV across from us.

Gorgon Heap

When this purple guy popped up, he actually scared me when I was little. Usually not featured with the elongated nose he sports in the following clip, he nevertheless gives Lenny the Lizard a taste of his own medicine.


This lovable orange mound with the big mouth appeared in several sketches, taking a starring role in an episode of Veterinarian's Hospital where he goes to Dr. Bob with a sore throat.

Uncle Deadly

One of the creepiest Muppets, Uncle Deadly premiered fittingly in an episode opposite Vincent Price although he'd get his own feature role in a later episode as the Phantom of the Muppet Theatre. In the following clip, Uncle Deadly's segment starts at 5:50

Vincent Price and Uncle Deadly in "House of Horror"


Beakie is a hideous bird creature made from a fright wig, but how can you not remember her for her loving duet with Alice Cooper as they sing "You and Me"


A lumpy blue monster with solemn eyes, Thog got the Godzilla treatment in a sketch featuring M*A*S*H's Loretta Swit singing "I Feel the Earth Move"

May 17, 2010

New Best-Worst Movie? BIRDEMIC @ Bloor Cinema (May 20)

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Making its Canadian premiere at The Bloor cinema in Toronto this Thursday, Birdemic may be a new contender for best-worst movie of the year.

When I first came across the trailer for James Nguyen’s BIRDEMIC on Youtube, I thought it was a joke. Its atrocious CGI birds and laughable acting seemed like a send-up of schlock films, not a genuine attempt at movie making. Apparently, I'm wrong, and a whole theater of Canadians are going to get to see it for themselves. Rue Morgue is presenting a screening of Birdemic this Thursday at the Bloor Cinema. For $10, writer/director Nguyen will be in attendance to subject schlock fans to his reportedly ham-fisted production.

If this is your thing (and I'm sorely attempted to attend this car wreck as well), you can get all the details at the Bloor Cinema's website: BIRDEMIC @ THE BLOOR 

You should also read Rob Salem's piece from The Star to learn about the ridiculous lengths Nguyen went to in order to get this movie made.

SCREAMWAVE #3: Iron Horrors


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Are you ready for a shot of iron!

DIRECT DOWNLOAD (50:11 - 23.2 MB)



This week, Jenn rejoins Aaron and  Kris for a discussion of the highly experimental and highly influential  Japanese horror film Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989). Then your  intrepid hosts make fools of themselves by giggling about “drill cocks.”  In the back-half of the show, Aaron and Kris go to Earth and Beyond to  discuss Scotland’s Vampire with the Iron teeth as well as a few other  strange stories. For example, is there an alligator in the waters of  Hamilton,  ON? Strap in and ride the wave to find out.

Participate  in the show! Email your feedback and questions to screamwavepodcast@gmail.com

[Original music by Nathan  Fleet].

Show Notes

Horror in  the Hammer
Illusion  On-Demand
Nictophobia Films
Hammityville  Spookies Fundraiser
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
Fright  Night Theatre: June 1st (Ils + Martyrs)
Fangoria  Interview: Shinya Tsukamoto and Eric Bossick
Tetsuo The Iron Man  - Drill sex scene
Child  vampire hunters sparked comic crackdown
Gorbal's Vampire
Tigerfish  Picture: "Jeremy Wade returns for a second season of 'River Monsters
The Spec: "Gator search comes up empty"

May 15, 2010

Xtro (Review)

Xtro (1983) 

Director: Harry Bromley Davenport

Read all about it!
Deadbeat father and alien rapist returns! Declares snake eggs delicious! Xtro! Xtro!
Read all about it!


Tony and his daddy are having a jolly good time at their English cottage after mummy goes out for a drive. Just Tony and dear old daddy playing fetch in the yard with the family dog. Father, son, dog: the perfect day. Then some nasty alien light comes down and breaks up all the fun by stealing away Tony's daddy for three years. Oh, poo! Tony's mommy remarries an American photographer and hires a ridiculously hot French nanny, but Tony just wants his daddy back. Well, he's in luck. Tony's daddy soon returns for his son, but now his daddy is a creepy looking alien with a very graphic and perverse method of metamorphosis. Yay! Daddy's home!

Xtro is a low-budget British horror film that is without a doubt one of the weirdest and strangest schlock sci-fi horror films I've ever seen. It doesn't make a lick of sense but has almost everything I'm looking for in cheesy and shocking VHS gems. The only downside is that it's complete garbage as a story. 

Rating: 2.5/ 5 Evil Midget Clowns


Xtro is most infamous for an early scene in which Tony's father, Sam (Philip Sayer), returns to Earth as a very changed man. In fact, we come to learn that he's now an alien prowling around in the woods.
 I bring you love!

Oh no, not that kind of alien. The Xtro-terrestrial forces that kidnapped Sam have returned him as something very far from human. Think less Close Encounters and more Naked Lunch.

Hoo-ee! That's the biggest dang-gum cricket I ever saw!

When glanced from just off-screen and in the dark, the simple backwards proportions of the alien are actually quite effective for shock value. Up close, however, the thing looks plainly silly. The alien, thankfully, is not the shocking part of this film. The real shock comes from how it transforms back into a shape that Tony will recognize as his sweet, sweet Daddy. I get that he needs to look human. You don't want to reunite with your kid when you look like a freaky mud bug from space. What I can't get behind is his method.

The alien finds a woman in her home and knocks her to the floor. Then a seam on its underbelly opens to reveal an erect, snaking appendage that forces itself into the woman's mouth.

Maybe they should have called it XXXtro?

This alien member then begins to writhe and pump something assuredly horrible down her throat while the creature rears back in an almost orgasmic display. Even if the alien were pumping ice cream into her, there's no way this scene isn't completely nasty.

 Ever wanted to see an alien's "O" face? You're welcome.

The creature then dies and becomes a rotten husk for the dogs to pick at. But we're not done yet. Oh no, you don't get to be called Xtro just for that. You need something Xtro gross and Xtro horrifying. So, the poor alien rape victim wakes up pregnant and goes into immediate labor. She falls to the floor, legs spread, and....well...


Let's recap. We just saw an alien rape a woman and force her to give birth to its human form. A FULL GROWN MAN! WHO BITES OFF THE UMBILICAL CORD. With that little scene, we're off to the races for a film that will never be as shocking as what we've just witnessed but nevertheless will turn out to amuse and totally confuse the hell out of you. When the film was released, even the ad campaign for the film made it clear that the film wasn't going to get any better than its freaky alien-on-human acts, but let's continue on and see what Xtro wonders and horrors this film has in store.


Perhaps because of the gruesome birthing scene, the filmmakers found it necessary to cast the incredibly hot Maryam d'Abo as Analise, Tony's French live-in nanny. She's shown fully nude in approximately 80% of her scenes. Her character is unnecessary. Yes, her role is exploitative. But she's very welcome eye bleach in compensation for the unremitting trauma caused by the birthing sequence.

Vive la France!

Fun fact: Maryam d'Abo would secure her place as a Bond girl in The Living Daylights (1987) opposite Timothy Dalton.


Despite its gross-out moments, Xtro is quite silly. After Tony catches Sam eating snake eggs ("I need them"), Sam confides in his son (a very annoying Simon Nash) that he wants Tony to become an alien too. Sam gives his son a weird hickey on his shoulder and confers on his son the alien ability to alter reality with his mind. Huh?

Even sillier than these unexplained plot contrivances is the film's score. What do you think of when you imagine listening to a bleak alien horror movie? Probably not the inept tones of synthetic pan flutes that Xtro offers up. Even though the film's not really scary, the music doesn't help by shoving plodding yet flowery one-note tracks that sound like they were made on an old Casio. Apparently, Xtro almost got listed as a Video Nasty in 1980s but never got slapped with the ban. I don't know why: the music is certainly offensive enough


After Tony is given the power to shape reality, we jump from an alien body horror film into a weird cross of Carrie and The Omen. Tony's a petty child, so he uses his new-found abilities to conjure up a creepy little clown to cause mischief. Among other nightmare weirdness, Tony gets revenge on his downstairs neighbor by sending her a giant action figure to kill her with a bayonet. This scene is a classic one because the actor in the "action figure" doll mask doesn't  phone it in his performance. He does such a convincing robot pantomime that I really felt he was a giant killer doll. Although he never says a word, the doll man is probably the best actor in the whole film

You don't have to be on acid to watch Xtro but it helps.

So, what more can I say about Xtro? It's Xtro weird. Xtro gross. Xtro cheesy. As a film and story, it's rubbish. As an experience into the weirdness and boundary-pushing efforts of low-budget VHS horror, especially in the very limited output of horror from the UK, Xtro is worth a curious glance.


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