Friday, March 20, 2009


What synchronicity. I read a novel by Mick Garris, and coincidentally (I swear) watch one of his first movies, Sleepwalkers. This could be a joyous confluence of events if the novel and movie were great ones. It falls a bit short.

The movie was scripted by Stephen King, based on one of his unpublished stories. To paraphrase Stephen Jones, unpublished with good reason. It’s one of his weakest efforts, without a doubt.

Mary (Alice Krige) and Charles (Brian Krause) are a mother and son pair of …..something. I suppose their supposed to be the titular Sleepwalkers of the film, although they are never described as such except in the opening titles, and there is no reason they would referred to as such. The opening states they are the origin of the vampire myth, but they seem closer to werewolves, since they turn into cat-like creatures at will, which seems to be their natural state. (Their true form is also revealed by mirrors, which makes me wonder why they keep mirrors all over their house. Their human appearance is an illusion, so they don’t need them. Dumb sleepwalkers.) Apparently, they live only by sucking out the soul/life force of a virgin girl. Only the son can do this, and he has to then feed Mom. (How did she get by before procreation?) The sleepwalkers can also make themselves and other things invisible, and can instantly change the make, model, and color of automobiles.

There is a slight overtone of incest in Mary and Charles’ relationship. By “slight overtone” I mean they graphically bang each others brains out every chance they get. I suppose that may go beyond “slight overtone.” This is a little out-there. Alice Krige is a definite babe, but I don’t think I’d go for her if she was my Mom.

The sleepwalkers have one Achilles’ Heel. Cats hate their guts, and the scratch of a cat burns them like acid and kills them. Cats are also attracted to them, as is evidenced by a lot of scenes of cats sitting around looking at their house. The cats actually look bored, but hell, they’re cats. Despite setting multiple traps, eventually there’s too much painful cat buildup, and the pair have to relocate.

Charles is going to high school and he focuses in on Tanya (Madchen Amick), a suitable virgin for eating. Unfortunately for him, she is Final Girl, and will be his undoing. Well, Final Girl and some cats. Charles does in a predatory gay schoolteacher (perpetuating a painful and inaccurate stereotype) and a cop. The cop, who acts at least slightly retarded, travels with a cat named Clovis who proves to be Charles’ undoing.

There are a number of cameos, but unfortunately the appearances of Stephen King, John Landis, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper and Joe Dante are crammed into the same scene. If they were spread out, it would give the viewer something to watch for. There is also a brief appearance by Ron Perlman, always welcome.

The biggest flaw of the movie, other than the terribly stupid plot, is the (non)acting of Brian Krause. He’s the kind of actor that, when the director says “act naturally” stiffens like a board. Good looking guy, I suppose.

Garris would get better, and everything Stephen King ever wrote was better, so the future was rosier. Still, this is a movie only for Stephen King fanatics. And incest lovers.

Development Hell

Mick Garris is a pretty well known name in horror circles. He has directed a number of horror movies, and since 1992 (Sleepwalkers) has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Stephen King, directing mini-series adaptations of The Stand, Desperation, The Shining, and others. He was also the creative force behind Showtime’s Masters of Horror series and its network TV successor, Fear Itself. He has done some of his own writing, and in 2006, Cemetery Dance published his first novel, Development Hell.

Since this is a horror(-ish) story set in Hollywood, featuring movie legends past and present, it was right up my movie buff alley. The results however, are a little mixed.
Development Hell is the story of an unnamed young Hollywood director, someone who sees himself as Ernst Lubitsch but is more of a Michael Bay-wannabe. The director has a number of chances to achieve his dream of becoming a major Hollywood player, but his personal flaws stop him short every time. This continues even after the point of his own death.

The first section of the book is fairly obviously two short stories integrated into the narrative, one about the director’s discovery of a deformed baby and building a movie around it, the other about his obsessive love for the reanimated corpse of Jean Harlow. The rest is more of a seamless narrative.

A number of real movie people make appearances in the book, often to their detriment. (I’m tempted to refer to this as a roman à clef, but I’m not sure if that applies if you name names.) Suffice it to say that James Cameron, Jerry Bruckheimer and Halle Berry wouldn’t be pleased to read this, although I imagine their depictions are accurate.

The book’s message could be summed up as “In Hollywood, Art is sacrificed to Commerce”, which is true, but rather obvious. The slowest parts of the book were where this point is hammered home repeatedly.

All in all, a fun book if you are an avid movie-goer, but I’m afraid Garris’ best work is still on the screen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baby Blood

Some movies are very hard to categorize. I the case of the 1989 French film Baby Blood, it is because we have no category such as “alien creature lives in woman’s vagina and commands her to kill.” Stupid us.

Yanka (the voluptuous Emmanuelle Escourrou) works at a circus, alongside her jealous and abusive husband. One day, the circus gets a new leopard, which all the other animals seem afraid of. I sense foreshadowing! Sure enough, that night the leopard explodes, as leopards are wont to do. Apparently, there was a snake-like parasite living in the leopard, and now it is on the loose. In the middle of the turmoil, it finds a sleeping Yanka, who unfortunately for her, does not sleep with her legs crossed. The parasite crawls into her, er, um, nether regions, and the suddenly pregnant Yanka runs away from the circus, which is at least a change of pace.

Living in the city, the frequently nude Yanka finds the parasite can talk to her, and a struggle ensues between the creature and Yanka over who is running the show. The little bundle of joy needs Yanka to kill people and find it blood so it can grow. This indicates that all those who say pregnancy is a beautiful thing are lying. Yanka more or less goes along with this out of maternal instinct, and a number of victims gorily meet their end. (interestingly enough, at least to me, at no point during the long mental conversations Yanka has with her passenger does she ask it if she’s going to explode like the leopard. That’s information I’d want to have.)

Eventually, it’s spawnin’ time, and Yanka is compelled toward the sea, where junior will live once he’s on his own. What are his plans for the future, Mom asks. To evolve, says the little nipper. Why, asks Mom. To replace man, says the growth. Oh, bummer, when is that going to happen? About 5,000 years. Well, screw it, then.

Overall, I would say the movie isn’t a complete waste. The conversations with fetus part gets a little old, but you can’t fault the film for lack of originality, and Escourrou is easy on the eyes. Supposedly, they are finally getting around to making a sequel, this time written by Escourrou as well as starring her. I guess junior will come back.

If you are a fan of gore, abundant female nudity, and exploding leopards, this is the movie for you.

Pod of Horror #52

A long time (for me) between posts. No shocking excuse, just a death in the family.

Horror’s best podcast, the aptly named Pod of Horror, has episode #52 available for download here. In addition to the usual features, this episode has interviews with two horror greats: Clive Barker and Ronald Kelly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Thing On The Fourble Board

In the distant past before television, our remote ancestors used to take breaks from fighting T-Rexes and Pterodactyls to listen to dramatic programs on a crude device called a radio. Radio plays were great vehicles for horror, since they could conjure frightening images using your own imagination (It was also cheaper than special effects). I came along well after the heyday of radio drama, but as a child I used to listen to these programs, recorded onto another archaic device called a cassette. Nowadays, the great programs are easily available for download on the internet, and their typical 25 minute runtime makes them perfect to listen to on the way to and from work.

They are not perfect. The product of a different sensibility, they can be corny and overly melodramatic, and limitations of the medium call for way to much description through dialogue (“Look, Jim! How it pulses and grows! Now it moves toward us.” Unless Jim is blind, you don’t know why he needs the description.). There are still gems to be found there, however.

There were a number of great horror-oriented programs. Lights Out, Everybody, Inner Sanctum, some of Suspense, and many others. One of the better ones was a program which aired on the Mutual Network from 1947 to 1949 called Quiet, Please.

Quiet, Please was the creation of Wyllis Cooper, a writer who had been the original scripter for Lights Out, Everybody, as well as many other classic radio shows. He also wrote the screenplay for Son of Frankenstein. I thought it might be amusing to look at some of his stories.

“The Thing on the Fourble Board*”, which originally aired on August 9, 1948, is one of Quiet, Please’ better known (and better preserved stories. It is told in the form of an interview with a retired oil field roughneck named Porky about some events that happened twenty years previously. It seems the well was digging core samples when it brought up an engraved gold ring – from a mile beneath the surface. The ring was around an invisible (!) rocklike severed finger.

This is a pretty startling discovery, but there is more to come. It seems the rest of the creature was somehow brought to the surface with the sample. Soon men are dead, and the well is permanently abandoned. Not before Porky confronts the invisible creature, however. He uncovers it by splashing it with paint, revealing it a creature with the face of a beautiful girl – and the body of a large spider.

This is an incredible story, but the interviewer is in for an even bigger shock. Wait until Porky’s mysterious “wife” comes out of the kitchen…

The crazy scientific errors and a bit of hokeyness aside, this episode works pretty well. The foley effects of the sounds coming from the creature (something like the shriek of a cat) are especially effective.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, it is easy to find downloads of this episode, and virtually every other old radio program, at multiple places on the internet. They are commonly assumed to be in the public domain, although from time to time there is some controversy about that.

*According to the program, a fourble board is the platform located part way up an oil derrick.

I'm Not All Mean

I recently received an e-mail from someone who worked on one of the low budget movies I posted on unfavorably. I understand her being upset at some nimrod with a keyboard ripping her work, but I did want to comment on one thing she said. She asked why I bothered doing this, since I hate everything. I don’t think that’s true, but I have reviewed a lot of movies I didn’t like.

I want to assure you that when it comes to movies, I am the Great Optimist. Every time I pop a disc in the DVD player, I have the hope that it will be a good one. Even something as obviously a clunker like The Howling 3: The Marsupials, which I bought as part of a bulk lot and which has sat on my shelf so long I think the house was built around it, I look forward to in the sunny hope that it will entertaining. I mean, come on. Who else do you know who has said nice things about Uwe Boll?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Midnight Grinding & Other Twilight Terrors

Midnight Grinding & Other Twilight Terrors is horror author Ronald Kelly’s first collection of short stories, and it is a frustrating book. Frustrating because you are torn between wanting to save these stories to read one at a time and make them last, and wanting to read it all at one sitting. I read it fairly quickly, then regretted I didn’t draw them out to make them last a little longer.

Up front, let me tell you I have a strong affinity for Kelly’s work. Ron and I are of the same approximate generation, I guess. While he was growing up in rural Tennessee, I was doing so in rural west Alabama, in a similar Southern community of Scot-Irish Protestants. I imagine if we’d known each other as boys, we’d have traded copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland. I’m sure there are things we would disagree on, but Ron’s South is the same as my South, so the characters that inhabit his stories seem familiar and real to me. I also believe the Southern story-telling tradition is hard to beat.

I’ve already talked about the circumstances of Ron’s return to writing, so I won’t belabor that again, but I will say this represents the first of his return in 2009 to the field, and I think he will be making a big splash. This, as I said, is his first big collection, and Cemetery Dance has done a great job, from the Alex McVey cover art to Kathleen Freeman’s very pleasing interior design. For those who see page count as an indication of value, it clocks in at over 400 pages, and contains (unless I miscounted) 32 stories, originally published between 1988 and 1992. Each story is approximately 20 pages in length, so if you can refrain from reading the whole thing at once, it would be nice for lunch and other breaks.

The stories are of consistently high quality. Being an audience for well-spun tales goes way back into our makeup, and Ron has a gift for this. Most collections are tremendously uneven, for obvious reason, but there wasn’t a story here that I didn’t like, a rare thing for me, since I’ve been accused of hating everything by a devoted reader.

It’s hard to pick out a favorite, but here are some highlights: A traveler makes a mistake when he gets off at “Exit 85”…a swamp version of Creature From the Black Lagoon in “Beneath Black Bayou”…the Universal Monsters win out in “Thinning The Herd”…the O. Henryish “Breakfast Serial”…antebellum lycanthropy in “Oh, Sordid Shame!”…John Steinbeck does vampires in “The Boxcar”…and assorted other ghoulies, ghosties, long-legged beasties, and monsters in human form. A number of them were familiar to me once I started them, having read them in their original published venue. This is definitely the book to beat for best collection of 2009.

Ron’s one of the nicest guys in the business, but he pulls no punches when he’s writing. These tales would chill your blood told around a campfire, and are long past due in being collected. Few people today are writing this kind of straight ahead old-school horror. There is also a good bit of wry humor, which has long been an integral part of horror fiction. Consider this a retrospective of the first part of Ronald Kelly’s career, and a teaser for what is to come. But for whatever reason, hie thee to Cemetery Dance and purchase this book now.

As a purely irrelevant, but nostalgic note: I’m the kind of person who reads the publishing history at the front of a book (and the liner notes on albums/CDs), and it is sobering how many of the publications that first hosted these stories no longer exist.

Midnight Movie

Midnight Movie is an unpretentious little supernatural slasher flick, made for roughly Prom Night’s catering budget. It doesn’t re-invent the genre, but I found it pretty enjoyable.

The MacGuffin of the film is a black & white horror film called The Dark Beneath, which drove its creator mad, and leads to horrifying death every time it is shown. Sort of the slasher version of Cigarette Burns. A small town theater has obtained a print of the film, and shows it at a special midnight screening. The theater is less than filled: there’s a biker, complete with biker chick, four students, and three employees, the retarded kid brother of the manager, a psychologist and the police detective who investigated a previous massacre involving the film. Hopefully, they’ll make some money on concessions.

Once the film begins, the patrons discover the killer from the movie, a limping creep with a half-skull mask and a killing implement that looks like a giant sharpened corkscrew, can leave the screen and kill them in the theater. When this happens, the others can watch it happen as part of the movie. Pretty soon, the body count is rising, and the dwindling number of survivors finds they are trapped in the theater, and must figure out how to kill a character in a movie to survive.

The movie clocks in at an economical 79 minutes, so the killing sequences don’t have enough time to become repetitious. The black & white sequences from the movie-within-the-movie look very good, better than the rest of the movie, actually, and I was sometimes disappointed when they cut away from it. Looks like it would have been an interesting popcorn film.

The one real weakness here is the kid brother. In the grand tradition of such things, he is as annoying as hell. I generally hate kids in horror movies, because it is so very rare that a kid gets killed, since that’s considered a taboo. It isn’t that I want to see kids killed (I am getting close with the neighbor kid with the skateboard), but it saps the scenes where the child is being chased of all the dramatic tension when you know the kid won’t buy it. I mean, really, if Jason couldn’t kill Corey Feldman, you’ve got to conclude that kids are safe. Even Final Girls have a higher mortality rate.

Despite this, the movie is pretty cool, a good example of how to tackle a familiar genre on a minimal budget.

Prom Night (2008)

I’ve been a little behind on posting – family issues. I’m sure not having daily posts from me has ruined your life.

I watched the 2008 remake of Prom Night the night after the original, and all I can say is – OMG they totally destroyed my childhood by desecrating the memory of a great film! Ugh, no, that won’t fly. The only thing the two movies have in common is the title, and the fact that teenagers die at the prom in each, so if you think the original Prom Night is the bestest movie ever, don’t get so worked up. Oh, and one other common attribute: they both pretty much suck.

Donna Kreppel (Brittany Snow) is an unlucky kid. Her science teacher Richard Fenton (Johnathon Schaech, The Forsaken) likes her a little too well, and to prove his love, he breaks into her house and knifes her mother, father, and brother to death. That’s one way of getting attention. Fenton is caught, and is committed to a mental institution, since he is obviously nuts (this never goes well), while Donna goes to live with her aunt and uncle, continuing to be bummed out by the whole family massacre thing. She perseveres, and eventually reaches the absolute peak of her life: The Prom.

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but the prom just wasn’t the be-all and end-all when I was in school. The kids in this movie spend more on the prom than I spent on my car.

Anyway, Donna has plans for the big night with her boyfriend Bobby (Scott Porter, who plays Street on Friday Night Lights. He can walk here, leading me to believe he’s faking it on FNL.) and some friends. The party is to be held at a downtown hotel, and the bad disco music of the first flick has been replaced with bad hip-hop, although there are thankfully fewer dance sequences.

On the day of the festivities, Fenton escapes from the asylum (we should have seen that coming), much to the consternation of Detective Winn (Idris Elba, from Ultraviolet and The Wire). Despite the cops being on the lookout, he manages to make his way into the party hotel (he wears a baseball cap to disguise himself) and spends the rest of the movie picking off party-goers and policemen in a series of fairly by-the-numbers stabbings.

I believe Johnathon Schaech (whose first name sets off my spellchecker but not his less common last name) is a good actor, but physically, he’s not quite right for the part. Schaech is of average size and build, yet he pretty easily overpowers and kills a number of fit teenagers and trained policemen. Idris Elba is criminally underused. One of the better actors working today, he mostly gets to dash around being useless.

The plot of the movie is just as simple as it possibly could be. Slasher attacks, kills the cast one by one, until the Final Girl gets him. There isn’t even any possible doubt as to who the Final Girl will be. Maybe the movie is slightly better than the 1980 version, due to less ridiculous hairstyles and less disco, but that is damning with truly faint praise.

Oh, and this was another oone of those attempts to make a slasher film fit into a PG-13 format, which means even in the "Unrated" version there's little sex and the violence is quite muted. Since violence is the raison d'etre of this type of movie, that makes it seem neutered.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Free Story Downloads

Weston Ochse, author of the fantastic novel Scarecrow Gods, has posted podcasts of two of his stories on his site, for free download. Ochse is a great writer, so if stories on audio is your thing, please download them. They can be found at

Follow Me, Follow You

No, not the Genesis song. We Southerners are known for our politeness. We’re even mindful of our manners when we’re stabbing you in the book. Being a low down double crossing cheat is one thing but rude? Heaven forbid. To that end, if you have placed a link to this blog on your website, please let me know if I have not reciprocated, and I will correct it immediately. I was either not paying attention, or, in one case, thought I had done so when I hadn’t. You can leave a message in the comments, or e-mail me with your info at Thanks much, and bless yore pea-pickin’ hearts.

Google Analytics

One of the coolest of the on-line time-wasters is Google Analytics. It lets you see how many visitors you have, where they are from, and how they got here. Loads of fun as you try to fill in the map of the United States to get a visitor from every state (Wyoming has always been the last to turn green for me on my various blogs. They hate me in Wyoming.), or to get one from every country on Earth (I’ll never get there due to my general unpopularity in central Africa). Maybe the most amusing is to check which search key words brought people to read your ravings. I happy to report that since I did the Friday the 13th films, every day at least one visitor has arrived here after searching for “Corey Feldman bald” or some variation thereof. This amuses me. On a less amusing note, I have found if you use the phrase “pre-teen” in any context, it drives traffic up, but not the kind you would want.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Prom Night (1980)

Despite watching almost every horror film good, bad, and indifferent made, I somehow missed the 1980 slasher flick Prom Night. Since I’m about to get around to last year’s remake, I thought I’d give it a look. That way, if I can’t think of anything else to say about the new version, I can spend the entire review bitching about how the remake has ruined a beloved film of my childhood that I never actually saw.

Prom Night was the fourth of five horror movies Jamie Leigh Curtis made over a two year period*, cementing her status as the first of the modern Scream Queens.** It was a Canadian production at a time when that wasn’t as common as it is today, and was shot back-to-back with the other Curtis slasher film Terror Train.

The film opens with four children playing in an abandoned building. A fifth little girl wants to join them, so they terrorize her by pretending to be killers and chasing her. Despite her pleas to stop, they keep after her until she falls to her death through a window. Instead of trying to help her, the little rat bastards kids decide to make a pact to keep their part in it a secret. This is gonna have consequences, I bet. Although it is confusingly not told until much later in a flashback, an innocent man is accused of the crime, badly burned during his arrest and incarcerated. All this seems important, but at best, it is a red herring.

We move forward a few years, and the sister of the dead girl has grown up to be Jamie Leigh Curtis. She and her brother haven’t gotten over the death of their sister, but they are going to the prom anyway. In a dose of irony, Jamie’s boyfriend is one of the kids responsible for her sister’s death. For some reason, the people behind the movie cast two very similar looking actors, with the same hairstyle, to play Jamie’s boyfriend and her brother, which introduces a feeling of incest into the film. Then again, since Jamie and bro kiss twice in the flick and have one scene in which they playfully discuss bro leering at her body, maybe it was on purpose.

On the day of the prom, the four conspirators get phone calls from a mystery voice that tells them things like “It’s your turn” “You like to play games, don’t you?” and “save money on your car insurance”. Sumpin’s gonna happen, I betcha. There is a subplot of the ringleader of the four evil kids, Wendy, being jilted by Jamie’s now-boyfriend, and swearing revenge on our star. She teams up with high school thug Unibrow, who has been expelled from school for assaulting Curtis in the lunchroom while he was wearing a ski mask. He didn’t win Most Likely to Succeed. Wendy and Unibrow plan to have bloody revenge on Jamie and her boyfriend at the moment the two are crowned king and queen, an idea they got while watching Carrie. They probably left before the last reel.

Comes the prom, and we see true horror: a lengthy disco scene where Curtis dances on a lighted floor a la Saturday Night Fever. This goes one forever, since the producers paid through the nose for the floor and the mirror ball, and by God, they are going to get their money’s worth. The scene is either unintentionally funny or sickening, if you actually remember disco. Also, a slasher starts killing the kids involved in the original death, and occasionally their dates. Can Jamie stop this? Why should she?

The director of the film seems completely unable to stage an action sequence. He has a real problem of establishing spatial relationships and then ignoring them, most obvious in the scene with the killer and a van, where the killer seems to be teleporting all over the place. He also can’t develop any real amount of suspense. Even when the killer is stalking a victim, you don’t feel anything, you just keep checking the time counter to see how much longer you’ve got.

This is the wimpiest slasher killer in the history of the genre. Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and the like seem powerful and unstoppable. Despite having the element of surprise and an axe, it’s all the killer can do to keep his ass from being kicked by one small-framed girl after another. Not exactly the type you build a franchise around, although there were three sequels.

A usual complaint is the supposed teenagers in a movie set in high school are really in their twenties. That’s not much of a problem, since half the kids look more in their thirties. They make up for it with uniformly bad acting.

I don’t usually bitch about technical details of the DVDs I watch, but the transfer here is terrible, public domain quality. Everything is hazy, grainy, and slightly out of focus, and whenever anyone walks in front of a window, the sunlight blows out the entire scene.

Somehow, I don’t think the remake will have a lot to live up to.

* Five of six if you count Road Games

** We try not to do too much in the way of Brushes with Celebrity here, but I feel it is only fair to warn you if you happen to meet the lovely and talented Ms. Curtis, do not mention anything about horror movies. Ms. Curtis has a reputation in general as being one of the less pleasant celebrities to meet in person anyway, and any mention that she was in Halloween or the like will make her ballistic. She’ll even deny she appeared in The Fog. You’ve been warned.


New Hope for Public Schools

If you have children, want children, or sacrifice children to the Elder Gods, you’ll get a kick out of this article entitled “Lovecraftian School Board Member Wants Madness Added To Curriculum”. I think I’ve finally found a politician I can fully support.

R.I.P. Robert Quarry

Veteran actor Robert Quarry has died. Quarry played the vampire Count Yorga in two low-budget but entertaining films in the 1970s, and was the antagonist for Vincent Price in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Fangoria has a very extensive write-up of his life at, which will tell you anything you would want to know about Mr. Quarry. Rest in peace.

Monday, March 2, 2009


One of the rising stars of Leisure Book’s horror line is Canadian author Gord Rollo. His second book from them, Crimson, has just been released (It was previously published in the small press). It is a kick-ass story that begins in the classic coming-of-age format.

The book starts off with a bang. In the prologue, a farmer in a small Canadian town is just finishing a bloody rampage in grisly fashion. This section is short, but it will grab you, and I predict very few will read it and be able to put the book down.

Twelve years later, the farmhouse where the murders occurred is once again occupied. A young boy named Johnny lives there, with three friends named Tom, Peter, and David. They unknowingly awakened a creature that has been sleeping deep in the well near the house. In their struggle against the creature, one of them dies, and the creature vanishes, not before warning the boys that he is not done with them.

Nine more years pass before the creature returns. This time, he forces the surviving three to participate in a series of gruesome knife-murders, culminating with the death of another, and sending David to prison for life, framed for the murders. David believes he is at last safe from the creature, but it is not done with him…

The novel is amazing in its abilities to shift gears. The first section is a coming of age story as mentioned above, the second is a supernatural serial killer tale, and the third act is a prison story, in which David has his final showdown. Some of the setups are familiar, but the novel is never predictable, and it has a chilling epilogue that hints of things to come.

Gord Rollo is a horror writer who is worth the hype. If you haven’t already, pick up Crimson, an intriguing blend of old school and new wave horror.


One of the things parents have to struggle with is keeping objectionable and upsetting material away from their young children. As you might guess, my parents were way too busy. If you have a pre-teen who wants to watch a horror movie, might I suggest Solstice. Other than some drinking, there’s nearly nothing to object to in the movie (it’s the most violence-free horror movie I’ve ever seen), and there wouldn’t be anything to disturb your little darlings. Although they’ll be so bored future addiction to crack will be almost inevitable, there’s a price to everything.

Megan and her friends go to her parents’ lakehouse for a week away from school (I think it’s supposed to be high school, although they look like college upper-classmen at best. This is Megan’s first outing since her twin sister killed herself, and she is trying to get over it, hence the outing with her friends, two nondescript girls and two completely obnoxious guys. The leader of the group, Mark, is that character I’ve discussed before, The Person Too Irritating To Exist In Real Life. Usually, this character is justified by being the one who owns the house/island/jet, but here, there’s no reason for the other four to not strangle him and throw his body in the bayou. They don’t, which is the biggest mystery of the movie.

Once there, Megan begins to believe she is haunted by her dead sister Sophie. With the aid of Nick, the studly Cajun who works at the gas station (and who is about to leave for Loyola on an academic scholarship, satisfying the rule in movies that no young character can appear ordinary), the group performs a séance or something to communicate with dead Sophie. You’d think this would be the beginning of the film, but it doesn’t happen until the one hour mark. The séance goes wrong, as evidenced by bubbles in the lake. Nothing much else happens, although the not terribly interesting mystery in the movie is revealed, and it eventually ends.

The cast is good, and the movie is professionally made, but it is a snoozefest. This is a remake of the Danish movie Midsommer, which may or may not have been better.


It’s very trendy in the horror-movie world to trash German director Uwe Boll. The hyperbole gets pretty deep, as he is routinely described as the worst director in the world, his movies as the worst ever, etc. My response to these claims is usually “If you believe that, you’ve never seen anything by Uli Lommel.” Boll is nowhere near the worst and I’ll confess to a little affection for his films. He’s never made a great movie and some real clunkers, but the majority of his work I find entertaining on some level. Also, he seems like a fairly interesting guy.

Movies like Seed make it harder to defend him.

Boll says he made it to lash out at his critics, and if they saw this movie, he certainly hit them.

Max Seed is a serial killer, already in custody when the movie starts, although his capture is shown in flashbacks. Seed is a badass guy, who has killed a boatload of people, including most of the cops sent after him. He is also something of an experimenter, and we watch long scenes of the cops watching tapes he made where he locked up a bug, a rat, a dog, a baby (!), and a young woman until they starved to death. The tape follows each of the victims from when they are locked up to the end of their post-mortem decay. The cops, and by extension us, watch all of these, although I would have just passed. Anyway, point made, Max Seed is a sick fuck.

It’s execution time, and the unknown state we are in still uses electrocution as a means of disposing of prisoners. The technician keeps telling the warden there’s something wrong with the machine. Foreboding alert! (As an aside, an electric chair is not that complex a device – part of its appeal – and the electrician who blew all your fuses when he rewired your lamp could probably fix it with ease. It’s easy to kill someone with electricity, hard not to.) The foreboding makes us harken back to a card at the beginning of the movie which informed us that it is the law that, if the state attempts to execute an inmate three times and fails, he must be turned free. (To anyone who might be reading this on death row, I hate to tell you but that’s an urban legend. They will do you till they get it right.) Anyway, they electrocute Seed three times, but due to an unexplained problem with the chair, it doesn’t quite kill him, although it is enough to fry his brain, cause his eyeballs to explode, and set his head on fire. I would think that would be sufficient power to be lethal, but no. To cover up the problem, the observers, including surviving detective Michael Pare, bury him alive. You would think that would do it.

It doesn’t. Seed digs himself out, and goes on a new murderous rampage, getting even with all those who had a hand in his near-death experience. None of this is very remarkable or coherent. It goes on like this right to the downbeat ending. I’ll try not to use hyperbole in my judgment of this, but if someone offers you the choice of watching Alone In the Dark five times or this once, pick Alone In The Dark.

I need to mention that the movie opens with a video from Peta showing real animal cruelty. Mr. Boll is himself very pro-animal rights, and it was added to prove a point, but if I knew about it in advance, I wouldn’t have watched it.