Preview: Night as a Catalyst by Chad Lutzke

Night as a CatalystHFM contributor and horror author Chad Lutzke has just released a new horror fiction collection. Night as a Catalyst is now available for a special launch price of $0.99 until Monday.

Synopsis:  As beautiful as the night can be, it often plays a role in something more foreboding, supplying the catalyst for things both terrifying and imaginative. Utilizing this hallowed time of the day, author Chad Lutzke has written and compiled 18 stories, with creature features, sleep deprivation, hiding the undead, revenge, cannibalism, morbid habits, and executions of karma being just a handful of the themes covered in this book. Read on and discover what the mind produces when using the night as a catalyst.

Check out this excerpt from the story, Birthday Suit:

As the evening matured, the moon guarded the neighborhood in a blanket of blue; while in the tree house, gossip was slung, pages were flipped, and appetites were gained.  Mrs. Tessal headed out back with the quart of milk and a Tupperware container full of cookies.  She pulled a rope below the fort, and the other end tipped a small, rusty bell that struggled to make an audible ring.

“Send down the bucket, boys.  I’ve got goodies for you.  Chocolate-free, Shawn.”

“Okay, thanks Mrs. Tessal.”

Both boys hurried to the bucket.  Kyler got to it first and slowly lowered it down to his mother.  She placed the goods in the bucket and tugged on the bell again.  Humoring the boys.

“Thanks Mom!”

Kyler pulled the care package up through the hole in the floor of the tree house and pulled out the contents.  The milk was freezing cold.  It would feel good going down on such a warm night.

“Oh, and Kyler.  No whizzing out the windows up there.  If you guys need to use the restroom then you come inside.  I’m leaving the slider unlocked for you.”

“Yes Ma’am.”  They both chuckled, knowing full well they’d be watering the lawn at some point.

The cookies were still warm and chewy.  While the boys carelessly ate, the open pages of Fangoria collected the small crumbs that dropped, while the bigger chunks acted as edible bookmarks.  By the end of the feast, only drops of milk remained at the bottom of the quart, bellies were full, and veins rushed with sugar.

“I’ll be right back,” said Kyler.

 

“Where you going?”

 

“I’ll be right back.”  Kyler insisted.

 

Shawn watched as Kyler hurried down the ladder and sprinted for the garage—the glow of the moon lighting the way.  Moments later, Kyler returned holding something in his hands.  He climbed the ladder and fed a pair of binoculars through the hole in the floor and pulled himself up.

“Yes!”  Shawn shouted.

“No.  We’re not watching Suzie.  This is for spying on every other house but hers.”

Shawn gave a disappointed look.  He grabbed the binoculars and brought them to his eyes.  At first everything was a blur.  He lowered them and looked for a line of perspective, then brought them to his eyes once more.  One street over he could see someone’s living room illuminated by nothing but the glow of 100 yards of green football field being cast from a large flat screen.  A man sat reclined in his chair, intermittently sipping on a beverage.  A quick sweep around with the binoculars led to an open, well-lit garage on the other side of the street.

“Woah!  Who’s that?  She’s so hot!”  said Shawn.

“Nuh uh.  Let me see.  Where?”  Kyler snatched the binoculars from Shawn and searched intently for the hot female.

“Over a little.  In the garage.  No shirt.”

Kyler searched frantically until he spotted the garage.  A shirtless, overweight man sat at the end of his weight bench covered in sweat from lifting.

“Awww..you jerk!”  Kyler punched Shawn in the leg, who was too busy laughing to feel it.

“Good night, boys!”

They hadn’t even heard Mrs. Tessal open the slider.  Kyler dropped his dad’s binoculars out of his mother’s view.

“Good night!”  The boys said in unison.

The house went dark, save for a dim kitchen light showing the way for any midnight trip to the bathroom.  After recovering from the startle, they both wiped their brow symbolizing a close call.

“Ya know, Kyler.  Does Suzie even like you back?”  Shawn asked.

“Sure she does.  Just the other day in school she asked me to stand by her in the lunch line.”

“She made you stand there to keep her place in line while she went and talked to Bill Weston.”

“You make it sound so…”

“Platonic?”

“No!  You make it sound like I’ve got no chance at all.  You don’t see the way she looks at me.”

“Why don’t you ask her out to a movie?  Make it a scary one.  She’ll be all over you.”

Kyler lit up.  “Good idea!  They have that special showing of The Shining next week.  She’ll be all kinds of freaked out.”

“There ya go!  Hey, maybe we could double date.”

Kyler laughed at the thought.  “Who are you going to take?  Your little sister?”

Shawn’s fist made contact with Kyler’s shoulder.  “Lame.  I’ll get somebody to go.  Maybe that new girl.”

Kyler rubbed his arm.  “Samantha?”

“Yeah.  Samantha.  I’ll ask her and we’ll make it a double.”

“Good luck with that.  She’ll get freaked out by your horror fanboy self.”

“Nah.  I’ll tone it down.”

“No you won’t.  You’ll be chanting ‘red rum’ an hour before we even get to the theater.”

“You challenging me, bro?”

Kyler puffed his chest out.  “I challenge thee.  If you get her to say yes, you can’t say ‘red rum’ one time all night.

“Here’s Johnny!”  Shawn gave his best Nicholson.

“That either.  You can’t do any line from the movie.”

“All work and no play makes Shawn a dull boy.”

Kyler laughed.  “You’ll never make it.”

“Hey, technically that’s not even a line in the movie.”

A light flicked on in the house next door, catching their attention.  Kyler quickly raised the binoculars and watched his neighbor, Mrs. Wilson, open her fridge and search it.

“What do old people do all day?  Kyler asked.  “I mean, Mrs. Wilson just shuffles around, feeds her cat, waters her flowers, and fills the birdfeeder.  That can only take up so much of your time. What do they do the rest of the time?”

Shawn lied down and got comfortable in his sleeping bag.  “They nap.  Nap and watch game shows, I think.”

Kyler turned around to see Shawn tucking himself in.  “You going to sleep?”

“Yeah.  Sugar rush is gone, and I’m coming down.”

“Same.  Those were some good cookies though.”  Kyler followed Shawn’s lead and situated himself for sleep.

“Yeah they were.  Your mom is like the Stephen King of baked goods.”

“What does that even mean?”

“I don’t know.”  Shawn chuckled at himself.  “I’m tired.  G’night, Kyler.”

“G’night.”

The boys lay silent for a full minute before Shawn threw in the last joke of the evening.  “Red rum!”  An explosion of laughter traveled halfway down the block.

As the crickets sang their lullaby, the boys drifted off into a satisfying sleep; safe within the four walls of their favorite place on earth.

 

***

Initially their slumber was not disturbed by the beam of light that shot down from the sky and into the backyard.  The beam of light that left behind a perfectly black, round scar in the grass and two slender humanoids with skin that resembled that of a dolphin.  The figures stood silent in the dark while a gelatinous layer of liquid formed around their feet and eventually up over their heads, as though sinking into an invisible pool of mucus.

It was the smell of the burnt grass that stirred Kyler.  Still half asleep and dreaming, his imagination got the best of him as he envisioned flames from below, threatening to lick his precious fort to death with him in it.

Kyler pushed himself up and peeked out the makeshift window facing the back of the house.  Both figures stood on the burnt ground; a blue ghostly aura around each one.  Kyler rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and squinted, fighting through the blur.  He squinted harder.  The sight of two figures glowing blue in the backyard made little sense, even for one who was still half asleep.  Once the blur had gone and he was fully alert, fear dried Kyler’s mouth and gripped his throat.  He reached down behind himself without looking and struggled to make contact with some part of Shawn.

 

 

Valley of the Sasquatch West Coast Premiere

valley of the sasquatchSeattle, WA — “Valley of the Sasquatch,” the latest thriller from the Northwest production company The October People, will have its West Coast premiere at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Written and directed by John Portanova, and produced by Brent Stiefel of Votiv Films (“Obvious Child”) and Matt Medisch (“The Device”), the movie is inspired by actual stories of a Bigfoot attack on a mining cabin near Mt. Saint Helens. “Valley” tells the story of a fractured family battling a tribe of angry Sasquatch.

The film is an encouraging example of theexcellent work being done by Seattle filmmakers, and how modestly budgeted films can succeed with the help of the region’s talented cast, crew, and production specialists. John Portanova,who previously wrote “The Invoking” and “The Device,” makes his directorial debut on this project, once again working with many long-time collaborators including cinematographer Jeremy Berg and sound mixer Jens Larsen. The three first met nearly ten years ago as production assistants on a local feature. Portanova estimates that at least 80% of the cast and crew are from Washington, including star D’Angelo Midili, composer Jon Bash, and editor David Phillips, among many others.

The incredible Sasquatch costume was created by Hollywood veteran Doug Hudson. Doug took special care to meet the needs of a demanding film set, while also making the suit scarily realistic.

The story is inspired by Portanova’s love of cryptozoology, and offers many references to past Bigfoot incidents that aficionados will appreciate. Says John, “I’ve seen a lot of Bigfoot films and have never been completely satisfied with them outside of some of the 70s classics. They usually portray the creature as a bloodthirsty monster. Within the script and shooting of “Valley” I made sure to treat Sasquatch with respect, and avoided CGI and computer effects. I hope that the film will appeal to horror fans looking for a dramatic creature feature full of old school practical effects as much as it appeals to Sasquatch enthusiasts looking for a film that understands and respects the history of the creature.”

“Valley of the Sasquatch” was filmed in Snoqualmie Pass and Roslyn, WA. It stars David Saucedo (“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones”), Bill Oberst Jr. (“Resolution”), Jason Vail (“Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies”), D’Angelo Midili (“The Invoking”), and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (“Gut”).

The film is a co-production between The October People (“Found”) and Votiv Films (“The Giant Mechanical Man”).

Gary Busey and Tom Tangen MANSION OF BLOOD Horror-Comedy Opens May 19th

MOB_Poster JPEG (1)“MANSION OF BLOOD” STARRING GARY BUSEY AND TOM TANGEN PREMIERES AT GRAUMAN’S EGYPTIAN THEATRE TUESDAY, MAY 19TH

HOLLYWOOD (April 29, 2015) — Elusive Entertainment and distributor TomCat Films announce the U.S. premiere black tie gala of the campy, controversial horror-comedy feature film “Mansion of Blood” starring Oscar nominees Gary Busey, Terry Moore, Star Trek’s Robert Picardo, Tom Tangen and members of Hollywood’s famous families including the Barrymores, Carradines, Pacinos, Laemmles, Tyrone Powers and even a Hasselhoff. Famous family Universal Studios horror cinema personalities who will attend include Sarah Karloff, the daughter of horror legend Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Jr., and Ron Chaney.

“Mansion of Blood” had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February at a special screening for the unique genre of American horror comedy films. The film stars Carla Laemmle (Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera), the niece of the founder of Universal Pictures Carl Laemmle, known as the father of the horror motion picture genre including films such as Dracula, Werewolf, Frankenstein and Creature From the Black Lagoon, and a remarkable cast of hundreds that answers the burning question, how many ways will guests at a haunted mansion be murdered in order for someone to steal an inheritance?

The celebrity red carpet gala will bring out the principal cast including Oscar-nominee Gary Busey (The Buddy Holly Story), Terry Moore (Mighty Joe Young), Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate Atlantis), Cissy Wellman (Made Men), Jennifer Tapiero (8-Ball), Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff (Baywatch), Said Faraj (The Green Zone), Tom Tangen (The Visitor From Planet Omicron, Donnie Darko), Sara Alami (VH-1’s Scream Queens 2), Sam Stone (Halloween Night), John Blyth Barrymore (Hitchhiker Massacre, Mata Hari), Tyrone Power, Jr. (Cocoon, The Bold and The Beautiful), Calista Carradine (Kung Fu: The Movie), Mindy Robinson (Iron Man 3), Kyle Clarke (On The Rocks), Tia Barr (Hollywood Sex Wars), Lorraine Ziff (Among Friends), Eddy Salazar (The Insomniac), Matthew Ziff (Searching For Bobby D), Andre Agazaryan (Cotton, The Extra), Alexandra Cramer (The Bold and The Beautiful), Dustin Quick (The Lords of Salem), Katherin Kovin-Pacino (Holy Hollywood), Inge Jaclyn, (In Like Flint) and Nathaniel Lee (My Dog Skip).

Special guests at the event include famed little people actors from the film including Terra Jole (Jackass 3D, Little Women: LA), Little Person Tonya Renee Banks (Little Women: LA, Death to Smoochy, Bad Santa), special little people guest Nic Novicki (Boardwalk Empire) and others.

Made for TV Horror

 

When I was a kid and there were only a few television stations, it was always a thrill when a made for TV horror movie or mini-series was announced. I was a horror junkie before I hit the age of ten. But there were many movies I was not allowed to go see at the drive-in.

So when a made for TV horror flick hit the airwaves, I was allowed to watch it without question. At this period in time, there were no television age ratings and very seldom would you see a viewer advisory.

But make no mistake: some of these TV terrors made me plead for a nightlight after viewing them. They may have been relatively clean of foul language, sexual  situations and gore, but those have never been the ingredients required to make something frightening. These spooky television adaptations were scary as hell. Many left a deep impression and have become favorites of mine.

Here are my five top Made for TV Horror films:

Gargoyles
5. Gargoyles: 
This was released in 1972. I was seven years old. The story:  an anthropologist and his daughter who, while traveling through Arizona, stumble upon a settlement of evil gargoyles. Though the plot and writing were barely above mediocre standards, the award-winning effects provided by Stan Winston (his earliest professional effort, I believe) allowed this flick to rise above its cheesiness.

It

4. IT: Definitely Stephen King’s most terrifying creation, Pennywise the clown was brought to manic life by Tim Curry. This mini-series was aired in late 1990 and boasted a cast including the late John Ritter, Annette O’Toole and Richard Thomas. This was a highly enjoyable viewing experience, but even with the great Curry personifying IT, this adaptation felt like a diluted version of its source. Still, it provided enough chills to make my #4 spot.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

3. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Kim Darby plays a housewife stalked by little demons living in the hellish bowels of her mansion. This 1973 TV gem was remade not long ago by Guillermo del Toro. And while I adore his work, his version isn’t even half as creepy as the source.

Salem's Lot TV

2. Salem‘s Lot: It was a coin toss between this one and the number one on my list. Tobe Hooper’s 1979 mini-series which was based on Stephen King’s bestseller was an event in my house. It was looked forward to as feverishly as the Oscars or Superbowl. My family was hooked on the work of Stephen King, and everyone talked about this one for weeks afterwards. The casting was fantastic and standouts were David Soul as Ben Mears, a writer returning to his childhood home to bury his fears and James Mason as Straker, the (somewhat) human harbinger of Barlow the vampire.

The Night Stalker

1. The Night Stalker: The year was 1972 and this made for TV movie introduced us to a protagonist that would influence horror creators and fans for decades. Played by character actor Darren McGavin, Carl Kolchak is a tackily dressed but tenacious investigative reporter in Las Vegas. Hot on the heels of a serial killer claiming young beautiful women on the strip,  Carl discovers that the suspect, a 70 year-old Rumanian millionaire, may actually be a bloodthirsty creature of legend. A huge inspiration to the X-FilesNight Stalker would spawn a made for TV sequel and an often maligned and short-lived television series that is still more enjoyable than most modern horror fair. This is due to the dry wit, subtle genius of McGavin and Kolchak’s ability to embrace a situation (no matter how unlikely) when left with only the dark facts that can’t be dispelled. This is my favorite Dan Curtis production ever. The Night Stalker became ABC’s highest rated original TV movie, earning a 33.2 rating and 54 share.

Frightpix Sponsors the 10th Annual Texas Frightmare Weekend

Frightmare-Header1DALLAS, TX, April 28, 2015 – FrightpixTM, one of the most popular streaming services for horror movies, is proud to be an Associate Sponsor of the 10th Annual Texas Frightmare Weekend, arguably the nation’s largest horror convention. A must-attend event for fright fans in the Southwest region and beyond, Texas Frightmare Weekend will be held on May 1-3 at the Hyatt Regency DFW. The event attracts thousands of horror enthusiasts, who will get to watch a preview of the horror movies available for free streaming at Frightpix prior to convention’s film screenings.

“Frightpix is a long-time supporter of independent horror film productions, so sponsoring the Texas Frightmare Weekend is a natural fit for us,” says David Fannon, Executive Vice President at Screen Media Ventures LLC, parent company to Frightpix. “For 10 years, the convention has given horror fans a great place to come together and celebrate the genre, enjoying classic films while discovering new favorites, which is very much in the spirit of Frightpix.”

As an Associate Sponsor of this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend, Frightpix has given away 10 pairs of convention tickets to lucky horror fans. Amongst the more than fifty horror icons attending the convention are Josh Stewart from The Collector and The Puppet Master’s Charles Band, both of which can be found on Frightpix. Other free titles available on Frightpix include The Attic starring Elisabeth Moss, as well as Dead Time Stories, Coffin Joe, The Toxic Avenger and many more independent horror titles.

Frightpix is an ad-supported platform. Each film includes pre-roll, spot ads and banner ads, offering content and advertising partners a great opportunity to connect with a next-generation audience that prefers to stream their content wherever and whenever they choose. Frightpix is available on Roku, Xbox 360, Android, iOS and the web. FrightpixTM is a trademark of Screen Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.

Article: A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF MAGIC

Magic act 1900Stone Age man painted handprints and varied images on the walls of sacred caves in southern Europe. Anthropologists believe these were attempts to strengthen the clan’s relationship with spirits who would help them achieve good health, fertility, or a successful hunt.

Magic was an integral thread in the fabric of ancient Egypt. Egyptian texts contain spells to be used against serpents and other pests. People wore amulets or placed them outside their homes for protection. An ankh was worn to bring knowledge and power. The nefer was worn to attract success, happiness, and friends. The Egyptian god, Thoth (also known as Hermes Trismegistus) was credited with bringing medicine, astrology, and magic to mankind.

The greatest Greek philosophers – including Plato and Aristotle – believed in the reality of magic. Magical rings could extend your life or make you invisible. Sorcerers flew through the sky at night, and could turn men into plants or animals with their rituals and ointments!

The Druids (Celtic priests of Europe and Great Britain)had profound knowledge of divination, crystals, spells and potions. The Celts also wore amulets, including the continuous Celtic knot symbolizing the process of spiritual growth, and the triskel, a solar symbol representing endurance and courage.

Most of the Roman emperors opposed magic. Tiberius (42 B.C.E. – 37 C.E.) banished magicians and astrologers. In 529 C.E., Justinian ordered the official suppression of all ancient learning, science and philosophy.

But pagan knowledge did not disappear, and for a time, there was little distinction between magic, philosophy, and science. The ‘black’ magician sold his soul to the devil for the control of evil spirits, performing spells he found in black books called grimoires. Hermetists – those who followed the teachings of Hermes – studied ‘white’ magic, ancient languages, astrology, and the Cabala (a doctrine of Jewish mysticism). They believed disease could be prevented or cured by amulets, incantations, herbs, prayer, and practical medicine such as bleeding and purging.

MagicianOne of the earliest philosopher/scientists was Albertus Magnus (1193 – 1280). He conducted scientific experiments and described the virtues of stones, such as amethysts to foster the acquisition of knowledge and intelligence, and emeralds to determine if a girl was a virgin. (If after drinking a potion containing emerald fragments she retained the potion, she was a virgin. If she vomited, she was not!)

The growing Christian church crusaded against pagans and heretics. The old pagan rituals were labelled witchcraft and heresy. All magic was seen as the work of Satan. Witches were blamed for everything from illness to poor weather. In 1484, a papal bull condemned “incantations, spells, conjurations and other accursed charms and crafts”. By the end of the 18th century, at least 50,000 people had been put to death for heresy or witchcraft in Europe and Great Britain.

The witch hunt frenzy eventually came to the New World, where the Salem witch trials of 1692 – 1693 ended with 20 people being hung or crushed to death for witchcraft.

No longer forbidden, magic in the 21st century is associated with the Cabala, some branches of New Age spirituality, and Wicca (a movement founded in Great Britain in the 1950’s, and now a recognized religion in several countries). It even has its place in popular culture, as witnessed by the immense success of novels and films featuring a boy wizard named Harry Potter.

Movie Review: Saw II (2005)

Saw II saw 2 poster(2005) Director:  Darren Lynn Bousman Writers:  Leigh Whannell, Darren Lynn Bousman Starring:  Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Beverly Mitchell, Glenn Plummer

Disclaimer (sort of):  If I find out ahead of time that a movie has a twist then I’ll be looking for it the entire time.  It can ruin the experience for me if I allow it.  I’d rather not read within the synopsis of a book or film that there’s anything that’ll take me for a ride.  Just let me get there on my own.  My family can testify to this.  Using the word “twist” in any description is spoiler enough for me.  That being said, if you’re as sensitive to spoilers as I am I may have already ruined it for you, so just know that I sympathize with you and I’m sorry.  However, the rest of you who are not so hypersensitive, not to worry, I will not reveal any true spoilers.  And because there’s so much to spoil in the movie, this will make for a rather quick review with a very minimalistic approach to any synopsis.

Marky Mark’s brother, and a SWAT team, are forced to play a serial killer’s twisted game while desperately trying to save eight people who are also forced to “play,” all the while being viewed through monitors by the investigating team.  Saw II answers a lot of questions we had after the first film and gives us insight into the “Jigsaw killer,” the man responsible for “blessing” his victims with forcing them to look at life from a different perspective and come out valuing it more than they had.  The problem is that if they actually made it through his psychotic tests, they’re forever warped themselves.

Saw 2 groupAfter seeing the first Saw when it first came out on DVD, like most everyone, I was blown away by the shocker ending.  I love movies that can trick me the way Saw did.  I had absolutely no idea the movie would end the way it did, and the writers gained my respect as a result.  But I knew they’d never get me a second time.  So when viewing the sequel, Saw II, I paid very close attention this time around.  I know I gave the screen a huge grin, and perhaps even clapped, when all was revealed at the endThey’d gotten me again.

Hand trap Saw 2Yes, I haven’t told you much about the movie itself.  You’ll either love me or hate me for it.  You choose.  So let me summarize my review in one last paragraph.  I’ve only seen the first four Saw movies, and I’ve really no desire to watch the rest.  I guess as I’ve grown older I left the senseless gore for something more cerebral, and as the Saw franchise rises in number, the traps become much more elaborate and gore-filled; however, the story suffers and lacks creativity.  The franchise is indeed a dead horse being flogged time and time again, even if the flogging uses a different weapon each time.  However, Saw I and II are a nice little package of cerebral entertainment that will leave you satisfied and thankful you’ve been had by the creators.  It’s not often that a sequel can stand up just as straight as its predecessor, but Saw II did it exceptionally well.
Check out the Saw II trailer:

Movie Review: Housebound (2014)

HouseboundHousebound poster. Director: Gerard Johnstone. Writer: Gerard Johnstone. Stars: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru |

How do you solve a problem like Kylie? That is the first question posed by the new and fantastic Kiwi ‘ghost’ chiller, HOUSEBOUND. Sure, Kylie’s not as musical-sounding as “Maria”, but then Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) isn’t much of a perky, happy-go-lucky kind of gal. In fact, she’s actually more the kind of teen who stays in juvenile detention. A lot. So much so, she’s in trouble from the opening frames, when she and a bumbling partner make a really failed attempt at robbing a local ATM.

Kylie’s been in the system so long at this point, and in so many ‘rehab programs’ for wayward girls, that it fazes her not one bit to find herself standing before a judge. Again. The judge’s ruling this time, however, manages to effectively penetrate her wall of sullenness. He sentences her…to eight months’ home detention. With her mother.

For Kylie, that is absolutely the last thing she wants to hear. We soon understand why when we see the creepy old manse she’s about to be confined to, and we meet her mum, Miriam, (the hysterical Rima Te Wiata – a delightful New Zealand cross between Melissa McCarthy and ALL IN THE FAMILY’S Jean Stapleton, as the loveable Edith Bunker). Miriam’s a kind-hearted sort, but a bit scattered, and her constant prattling on about anything and everything is enough to pretty much make anyone want to leave. Which her first husband, Kylie’s father actually did, well before his daughter followed suit. Now Miriam lives in the house with Kylie’s estranged stepdad, Graeme (Ross Harper).

But facing a situation where she has to get reacquainted with her parents is hardly the most of Kylie’s worries, when she finds out accidentally that Miriam has taken to calling into a local paranormal radio show…about her haunted house. Kylie hardly has the time or patience to deal with the living, and she’s certainly not about to invest in nonsense from ‘the great beyond’.

Not until evidence starts to present itself…that all in the house is not what it seems.

With a mystery afoot for solving, Amos, Kylie’s ‘parole officer’ (Glen-Paul Waru in a great performance that matches Te Wiata’s comic timing step-for-step) springs into action and begins checking out the house, plying his other stock in trade: as a “paranormal investigator.” The three of them become a kind of stalwart “Scooby Gang” as they try to put the pieces of the house’s puzzle together, and soon discover that it’s not the house that holds the deadliest secrets…

Housebound Image
Housebound

The feature debut of NZ TV writer/director Gerard Johnstone, HOUSEBOUND wears his obvious love for scary movies, and especially the films of his fellow countryman, Peter Jackson, on its dusty sleeve. However, the difference between HOUSEBOUND and, say, DEAD-ALIVE is that Johnstone has a deft touch for when to incorporate the ‘crazy’ and when to rein it in. He wisely makes it more about the story and the relationships, using some particularly funny/gory ‘splatstick’ moments more as the ‘seasoning’ for the proceedings, and not the entire meal.

There are also a few nice twists to the tried-and-true scenarios you’d usually find in this genre, including the added wrinkle that some primary characters’ pasts not only play an important part in the house’s own distant history, but also in the present as well…and that’s about all I want to say about that. But it is a smart script choice from Johnstone’s writing that I really appreciated.

As another semi-spoiler for those in-the-know, Johnstone may also be displaying a love for vintage American ‘70’s thrillers here, as there are more than a few nods to a very old but popular made-for-TV movie from that era, called BAD RONALD. If you’re someone who is deeply familiar with the genre, my apologies for having dropped such a huge hint. For everyone else, ignore that last sentence and just keep ‘going with the flow.’

Housebound image twoOverall, I really enjoyed HOUSEBOUND, and particularly the chemistry between all of the lead actors. I have no idea if a sequel is planned, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this group together again for an encore, or in some other Gerard Johnstone project. They could even become for him, the same kind of dependable ensemble of players used by filmmakers like Richard Curtis, Edgar Wright or Sam Raimi.

 

 

Check out the Housebound Trailer;

Movie Review: Avenged (2013)

AvengedAvenged Poster. Director: Michael S. Ojeda. Writers: Michael S. Ojeda, Deon van Rooyen (additional dialogue). Stars: Amanda Adrienne, Tom Ardavany, Ronnie Gene Blevins. production Companies: Cart Before The Horse Productions, Green Dog Films, Raven Banner Entertainment.

Just when you’re starting to think the horror films you’re coming across are all going to be just ‘okay’ and ‘so-so’, along comes one that really shakes things up! AVENGED is definitely that movie – one that squarely fits into the ‘vengeance is mine’ category, but in a new way that you probably haven’t seen before.

Relative newcomer Amanda Adrienne plays Zoe, a gorgeous, deaf-mute free-spirit who is determined to take a solo trek across the Southwest, in her late father’s ‘68 GTO coupe. She’s pretty fearless, but the trip certainly worries her sister, Hannah, (Sara J. Stuckey) and her hunky fiancee, Dane, (Marc Anthony Samuel), the person she’s taking the trip to get to.

Her loved ones’ worst fears are realized all too soon, when Zoe interrupts the brutal assault and murder of two young Native Americans, by a group of the nastiest good-ole-cowboy rednecks this side of Central Casting (and even worse than the crew in that other great supernatural revenge-thriller, THE CROW, if that’s possible), lead by the especially rabid Trey West. Played to the fare-thee-well hilt by Rodney Rowland, with a panache that all his villainous screen predecessors will be beaming with pride for, Rowland does more than just make Trey hissable; you know you are going to enjoy seeing him and his cronies get theirs.

And you don’t have to wait too long. After the brutal assault, rape and near-murder of Zoe, she’s found by a nearby shaman, Grey Wolf, (RAVENOUS’ Joseph Runningfox), who tries to help bring her back. He does indeed succeed, but in the best tradition of this thriller sub-genre, she doesn’t come back alone….

Avenged still threeWriter, director and editor Michael S. Ojeda is known mostly for documentary and behind-the-camera work, but in the surefootedness he displays with this freshman feature film, you wouldn’t know it. The photography of the landscape (good old California standing in for New Mexico) is as harsh and bleak as the horrific events that unfold within it; age-old hatreds, prejudices and feuds still wreaking havoc and destruction with both the innocent and the wicked, as it always has and always will, so long as it’s allowed to proliferate…and to escalate. That might be the most important message that the movie imparts, but you won’t have time to reflect on it until afterward, as you’ll probably be too busy drinking in the well-choreographed fight scenes, and the practical effects beautifully handled on a limited budget by Hugo Villasenor and his crew. You certainly get a lot of bang for your buck out of this tale of violence begetting violence.

Avenged still oneTrey’s noxious crew and the ways in which they meet their fates will stick with you for some time, as will the performances of the actors portraying them, but besides that of Rowland’s, a couple of others definitely stand out. Tom Ardavany definitely makes a bold impression as Trey’s “red right hand”, deadly brother West, who could be a formidable force if he used his powers for good, (which he definitely doesn’t here,) making him an even more menacing bad guy. Not to be outdone in the rabid redneck department is Ronnie Gene Blevins as Jed, the dyed-in-the-wool bigot who isn’t blood kin to Trey, West or their other brothers Cody (Brionne Morris) or Skeeter (Kyle Morris), but is an integral part of the close-knit crew of cretins nevertheless. He’s one of the first to realize, way too late (as is traditional), that karma is about to deal them all a nasty taste of their own medicine…and THEN some.

Comparisons are going to be made – and aptly so – to movies like THE CROW, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and even in some respects, (but not in the more campy sense), THE MANITOU. I just can’t say that I’ve ever seen the disparate elements from those kinds of films ever combined in quite this way before.

Avenged still twoAlso, not nearly enough good things can be said about the balance of CG visuals with Villasenor’s wonderfully gooey, gory effects work. This reviewer is appreciating how filmmakers like Ojeda are striking this great balance of these visual and practical tools more and more, which only enhances the performances of the actors; rather than sticking them in front of a blue or green screen, wrapping them in fabric of the same color and asking them to ‘imagine’ scenery and physical effects. Not that this group of actors couldn’t have been talented enough to handle the task, but it’s certainly nice to surmise from the performances they gave, that they didn’t have to.

Best of all is how the doomed interracial romance between Adrienne’s Zoe and Samuel’s Dane adds a poignant note to what could have simply been a free-for-all of comic-book quality violence bordering on the cartoonish. And just as tragic in its own way is the ugly legacy of virulent racism passed down to the West brothers, save the near-catatonic Skeeter. They lived what they knew, and that was a hundred-plus years of choking on the xenophobic bile running deep in their veins, which galvanized them to assault, rape and murder those different from them, until one day the universe decided it had gone far enough…

Not to over-analyze it, however, just on the face of watching it as filmed entertainment, this reviewer is pleased to give AVENGED four out of five stars; as a lover of supernatural revengers, I’m just happy to recommend it as a damn fine satisfying ninety-plus minutes you’ll be more than happy to spend.

 

Check out the Avenged trailer:

Movie Review: Digging up the Marrow (2015)

Digging up the Marrow. Director: Adam Green. Writer: Adam Green. Stars: Ray Wise, Adam Green, Will Barratt. ArieScope Pictures

Digging up the Marrow posterLike his contemporaries, Adam Green is very much a fan of old-school, classic horror. Much of his work tends to reflect this, to the delight of more than a few of his fans. For this reviewer, however, his finished products are erratic in the effort to evoke the same kind of spooky, truly unnerving quality, as some of the iconic touchstones he tends to refer back to. Now, he’s put his hand to the found-footage genre, in an attempt to bring some freshness and maybe some of the same kind of hip irreverence reflected in his HOLLISTON TV series to the mix. With his latest effort, DIGGING UP THE MARROW. the result is a mixed bag, at best. While very entertaining, this film leaves you curiously as unsatisfied as the Big Mac meal you settled for, when what you wanted – and maybe expected – was a New York Strip steak with all the trimmings.

This horror mockumentary features Green, his DP, Will Barratt, genre fave Kane Hodder, and several other associates, friends and colleagues all playing themselves more or less, as he takes on the task of investigating the story of one William Dekker – superbly played by another genre vet and TWIN PEAKS alum, Ray Wise. Dekker claims to have found evidence of an underground city of ‘monsters’, who move between our world and theirs, which he calls “the marrow”, via a series of entrances located in different parts of the country. They are usually found in graveyards and other isolated locations. Dekker wants the world to know his story, but is understandably reluctant to completely trust Green and his friends for his own not-quite-divulged reasons.

Since found-footage has been done to death, back from the days when BLAIR WITCH caused the entire field to ‘blow up’, savvy audiences know how to spot all the tricks and tropes from a mile off. So Green is wise to cannily overstock his film with faces and places familiar to even the more casual fans; bringing in leading lights Mick Garris and Tom Holland to augment Kane’s appearance, and using locales like famous horror mecca Dark Delicacies, and the irreplaceable Porto’s restaurant a block down from it.

The two particular attributes of MARROW that keep the entertainment factor high, are Wise’s beautifully modulated performance as the possibly psychotic Dekker, and some quick glimpses at the effects work, based on the artistic renderings of fan favorite Alex Pardee, who also appears at the film’s beginning.

Ray WiseAn imaginative and fascinating scenario, filled with possibilities, the ‘what-if?’ of whether humans can co-exist with creatures inhabiting the darker realms of our world – and psyches – couldn’t have been mined more effectively than was done by Clive Barker in his own peerless ‘monster movie’, NIGHTBREED, and MARROW’S shortcomings reflect this.

Though we see much of Pardee’s/”Dekker’s” artistic renderings of the creatures he claims to have encountered over the years, not enough backstory of his relationship with the “marrow’s” denizens is provided to make the audience even give a damn about what’s going on.

Everything is fuzzily implied for the most part – does his wife live in the “marrow”? Does his son? Are they actually living down there as humans, or are they monsters as well? And how did that come to pass? What WAS it that Dekker was keeping in chains, in the locked room of a house that everyone else in the neighborhood assumed had been unoccupied for over a year?

I get it – not every single detail of a particular story has to be spoon-fed to you while you’re watching, and sometimes a film is all the better for leaving certain details ambiguous. Unfortunately, aside from the marvelous Wise, Green, Barratt and their friends and family are not skilled enough as ‘actors’ to help us suspend our own sense of disbelief, bring us further into the mingling of these two disparate worlds and help drive the story forward, the way that Barker’s wholly fictional construct was able to.
digging-up-the-marrowAnd also, the film’s main asset – Wise’s own presence – manages to take the viewer way out of the ability to suspend disbelief as well. Where BLAIR WITCH’s now-basic found-footage trope of using completely unknown actors added to the jittery ambivalence that first surrounded that movie (“Is this for real or not?”), even the most casual of horror fans would’ve had to have been living in a cave in Afghanistan for a few decades, in order to be unaware of Wise’s stature as a fan favorite – from his role as Leland Palmer in the iconic TWIN PEAKS, if for nothing else.

So my final verdict for DIGGING UP THE MARROW is to hold onto your ‘shovel’, and look for other prime excavation opportunities elsewhere…unless you are a staunch fan of Green’s, who needs to see everything he puts out, regardless, or if you are a Ray Wise fan, for pretty much the same reason.

 

 

Check out the trailer for Digging up the Marrow: