Send a Card to Bill ‘Chilly Billy’ Cardille

Chilly BillyWilliam Robert Cardille, better known as Chilly Billy, host of “Chiller Theatre,” spent years in Pennsylvania broadcasting. He began his career in Erie, PA, in 1952, and his was the first voice broadcast on 1 September, 1957 on WIIC Channel 11 (Now known as WPXI). He also lent his talents to “Studio Wrestling,” “Dance Party,” and “The Annual Jerry Lewis MS Telethon” as well as other shows.
For his iconic role with Saturday evening’s “Chiller Theatre,” Chilly Billy and his staff of costumed ghouls performed skits during commercial breaks and between the two featured films. Characters portrayed by Cardille included Captain Bad, Maurice the Matchmaker, and Mr. Magnificent. In addition to skits, he told corny jokes to an appreciative animated skull, read horror-scopes, shared trivia, and entertained guest stars including Vincent Price. He and WIIC publicist Robert Willis wrote the skits, and Henry Mancini and Al Caiola performed the show’s theme song, “Experiment in Terror.” The show ended 1 January, 1984, but the official website, http://www.chillertheatermemories.com/index.html, remains online. Bill Cardille continued his broadcasting career until his August, 2014 retirement.
Cardille played a reporter (himself) in George Romero’s 1968 landmark horror classic “Night of the Living Dead” and his daughter starred in the sequel “Day of the Dead.”
Cardille was awarded “The Heart Award” in 1976 for his volunteerism and named AFTRA’s Television Personality of the Year and inducted into the AFTRA’s Hall of Fame in 1979. The Pennsylvania Broadcasters Hall of Fame inducted him in 1997. Pittsburgh City Council declared 28 September, 2010 “Bill Cardille Day.”

He fathered three children, including his actress daughter, Lori, who recently posted the following plea to social media:

“My dear father, Chilly Billy, Bill Cardille, received a cancer diagnosis that will be quite challenging to say the least. His spirits are tremendous which is not a surprise. I thought it would be nice for dad to know how you enjoyed him during your childhood years or any years for that matter. I want him to feel the love that he so freely gave during his lifetime. Even just a card. You can send it to:

Chilly Billy, c/o Century Communications 313 East Carson Street , Pgh. Pa, 15219

Thank you friends. It will mean so much to dad. Please send this along to anyone you know that loved my dad. With a grateful heart, Lori Cardille.”

Movie Review: The Abandoned (2016)

Director: Eytan Rockaway, Writers: Ido Fluk (story), Ido Fluk, Stars: Jason Patric, Louisa Krause, Mark Margolis

The AbandonedDescription from the official film site: Take a terrifying plunge into the warped mind of a disturbed young woman. Desperate to get her life back on track, the unstable Streak takes a job as a security guard, working the graveyard shift at a once upscale, now abandoned apartment complex. But on her first night on duty, she discovers a horrifying presence lurking deep within the bowels of the decaying building. With her nerves already on edge, Streak must confront demons both real and imagined as she struggles to keep a grip on her sanity.

abandonedframe1I enjoyed The Abandoned. It was entertaining. Krause and Patric carry the film, and they are drawn especially well.  The location is beyond fantastic and the atmosphere is rich. But it isn’t scary. Not even a little. It feels like a mild Hammer made for TV chiller with a M. Night Shyamalan-style twist ending tacked on that, while not expected, wasn’t very surprising. I think had the film been a bit more ambiguous, it would have played better.

Again, I liked the film. It is worth a view. It’s on Netflix streaming. And while I can’t say I am crazy about The Abandoned, I do encourage you to see it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

TV Review: PREACHER

Preacher posterSo, after having spent the last few months threatening to “give it to us but GOOD”, AMC finally fulfilled that threat a couple of weeks ago by debuting PREACHER, the launch of a freshman series from two minds known more for subversive comedies, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on the graphic novel series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. Now before I go any further, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit to having never read the series. This may be a good OR a bad thing, depending on how much of a ‘purist’ you are when it comes to these kinds of adaptations. I know there are certain properties I feel pretty strongly about, but this was not one of them. I went in armed only with the intel I have gleaned from some wiki pages, and from my longtime best buddy, who happens to be my comic and graphic novel ‘guru.’

Just based on first impressions alone, AMC hasn’t served us up anything this “batshit-crazynuts” since Sheriff Rick Grimes had to off a not-so-cute little zombie pre-schooler, in the first season of THE WALKING DEAD. And folks, you know that in terms of TV time, that happened EONS ago.

I’m pretty sure Seth and Evan knew that they had to come HARD with some wild shit right out of the gate, and it seems they had no problem doing THAT whatsoever. The opener treats us to a ball of extraterrestrial force hurtling through the Milky Way, towards Earth, where it proceeds to find itself a suitable living host, in the form of several random holy men. Emphasis here on the word “SUITABLE”, because the unlucky ones who aren’t? Well, the resulting rejections are pretty explosive…as in more explosive than you would be after a 12-taco-5-bean-burrito-binge at T-Bell.

preacherframe1Meanwhile, in what seems like completely random fashion, we are introduced to three vividly unique characters, starting with our titular lead, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper, who plays Tony Stark’s dad in the MCU). Jesse is not very good at this religion business and he knows it, barely hanging on to his congregation, spending more time rearranging the letters that some sterling wit chooses to change up each Sunday, to display some pretty raunchy messages. But with his church being in a place like ‘Annville’, Texas, something like that is pretty much par for the course.

Next up is Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), with the smile of a viper and an Irish brogue thicker than an entire bottle of Jagermeister. He appears to be the hosting bartender and life-o’-the-party aboard a private jet seemingly, filled with rich Wall-Street-asshole types, but a marked-up Bible in the men’s room indicates to him that his clients are a lot more than that. Here, we get introduced to one of several intense action sequences that seem to explode out of left field (lots of things exploding in this pilot), and oh, by the way…did I happen to mention that Cassidy is a vampire?

preacherframe2But wait…before you even get a chance to catch your breath, here comes Priscilla Jean Henrietta O’Hare, aka “Tulip” (Ruth Negga), and her introduction is every bit as badass as Michonne’s was on THE WALKING DEAD, if not moreso. Fighting for her life against two men in a speeding muscle car, smack in the middle of a Kansas cornfield, (and the way this sequence is put together is nothing less than amazing), she enlists the help of a couple of local kids to further hamper the efforts of more ‘bad guys’ who try to come for her. The results are not good for THEM, of course, but for Tulip, they are – to quote the two tykes – “AWESOME!”

And that sets the tone and the stage for the rest of this eye-popping pilot, as the dynamics between Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy are established, and not to mention that strange force, which reappears to change the game completely.

And you know me…I love my character actors, and I didn’t think I could get anymore excited about this series, until I spied W. Earl Brown (DEADWOOD, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY) in the cast, as the Sheriff of Annville, Hugo Root, whose son, Eugene (Ian Colletti) is a friend of Jesse’s. Eugene’s nickname is “Arseface” in the books, from what I understand, and when you see him…well, you’ll understand why. He’s another of the many colorful characters that will have an important part to play in this majorly messed-up story.

If you are more than familiar with Ennis and Dillon’s series, none of this will be new to you. But if, like myself, you haven’t seen panel one of the graphic novels, it will definitely occur to you that PREACHER is not your grandad’s style of storytelling. In fact, we’ve been waiting for some time to see what the next level looks like after GAME OF THRONES and THE WALKING DEAD. This, folks, is just one series that is bringing it. Yes, more questions than answers are provided, as with any good show that you’ll want to follow, to obtain those answers.

preacherframe3From what I understand, PREACHER has been on the boards for a couple of decades, and had been turned down by several major cable outlets before AMC snapped it up. Well, the enthusiasm and love that Rogen and Goldberg have for this property shows in every frame, from casting to visuals, and pulling in BREAKING BAD scribe Sam Catlin ensures that even though they can’t just rip the stories off of the book’s pages, and splatter them all over the screen verbatim, there won’t be the kind of sugarcoating or watering-down that most of the books’ fans feared it would be. Looks like AMC invested wisely.

I know that these guys can count ME as being on-board to see where Jesse and his pals are going with this.

Movie Review: Hush (2016)

Director: Mike Flanagan, Writers: Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel, Stars: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Trucco |

Hush posterI have scrolled past Hush several times on my Netflix streaming menu. It just did not jump out at me. But after hearing several friends praise the shocker, I decided to give it a try. I was more than pleasantly surprised. Expecting a twist on The Strangers and Hostel, I got something that vaguely resembled that mash-up but was much more.

Maddie (played by Kate Siegel) is a deaf writer who lives in a very secluded spot in the woods. After her close friends and only neighbors are viciously slaughtered by a masked maniac (John Gallagher Jr., in a very surprising performance) Maddie becomes the killer’s target and a senses-deprived game of cat and mouse develops.

hush2frameNow, full disclosure… I am not a huge fan of director Mike Flanagan’s previous work. I expected a very by the numbers slasher flick but when the enigmatic killer removes his mask, things get very different and deep. The whole dynamic of the picture changes, and you get to know the killer in a way that makes the premise much more frightening.

This movie is very stylish, does some very out of the box things, plot wise, and Siegel and Gallagher turn in marvelous performances. There are no clichés, no formulas, no moments of disbelief. Nothing for you to scoff at or roll your eyes. It’s tense, well-written, well-shot and well-acted.

Hush is a winner. I can’t wait to see more from everyone involved.

Movie Review: The Conjuring 2

conjuringpostersmall

In 2013 James Wan scared the hell out of millions of people and turned the horror genre on its head by delivering The Conjuring, a superb, terrifying film chronicling a purportedly real life case of haunting and possession investigated by the husband and wife team of Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Now we have The Conjuring 2, which picks up several months after the Warrens concluded their involvement in the Perron case (the basis for the original film).  As the new film opens, Ed and Lorraine (again portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who still share an electric chemistry which provides the film with its emotional core) are investigating the Amityville haunting, the case that catapulted them into the spotlight. During this sequence (which, unlike the original film, actually earns this sequel its R rating), Lorraine has an encounter with something evil, leaving her afraid for the safety of her husband.

While this is going on, we’re introduced to Peggy Hodgson and her four children, who live in a run down council house in Enfield, North London.  A series of terrifying paranormal occurrences (centered around daughter Janet) besieges the family, increasing in frequency and ferocity. These events are witnessed by multiple people and when even the police realize they are unable to provide any substantial help, Peggy turns to the church. News travels across the ocean to America, where the Catholic church again turns to the Warrens for assistance.

conj2frame2Despite Lorraine’s objections, Ed and Lorraine make the trip to London and investigate the events, which would go on to achieve global fame as the Enfield Poltergeist case – one of the most documented paranormal incidents in history.

The cast is superb, with Frances O’ Connor as Peggy Hodges and Madison Wolfe as young Janet being the two newcomers ably holding their own with Wilson and Farmiga. Simon McBurney is also on hand in an effective turn as psychical investigator Maurice Gross, who was one of the first to believe the Hodgsons claims.

Writers Cary and Chad Hayes (along with David Leslie Johnson) deliver a screenplay equal parts smart, scary and involving, taking time to develop these characters as human beings, establishing a connection between them and the audience before unleashing all manner of horrors on both families.

And there is indeed horror. James Wan returns behind the camera to deliver a knockout sequel, a film every bit as terrifying as its predecessor. If some of the scares in The Conjuring 2 seem familiar at times, the execution is anything but. Wan understands better than anyone working today how to use darkness, sound and our instinctive fear of the unknown to weave sequences that will have audiences jumping out of their skin or gripping their armrest with white knuckles.  Moreover, there are entirely original moments of legitimate genius throughout, evoking the best moments of Carpenter and Craven, such as a skin crawling, hair raising conversation Ed is forced to have with the ghastly specter harassing the family with his back turned.

However, that isn’t where the film succeeds. All of those attributes would be meaningless if we didn’t care about the characters. On that score, The Conjuring 2 isn’t just a terrific sequel and a great horror film, it’s one of the best genre entries I have ever seen.

conj1frameAs was the case in the original, these characters are fleshed out. They have substance and flaws, fears and hopes and are not mere horror movie cliches.  The scorn and derision Ed and Lorraine were frequently subjected to at the hands of skeptics isn’t glossed over here (Ed loses his temper on live television at one point), neither is the fact that certain reports emerged from the Enfield case indicating young Janet Hodgson was in fact faking at least some of the phenomena.  These are real people and, as such, their fate matters. I’ve seen a lot of films that put everything into scaring the audience only to have the human quality suffer, but few as diligent about demonstrating the behind the scenes drama inherent in an experience like this as the Conjuring films. Some of the best moments in the sequel are the quieter ones, such as a truly moving and gentle scene where Ed entertains the Hodgson family by strumming a guitar and crooning a respectable rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.” It’s a warm, generous moment, representative of this film’s soul.

conj2frame3Going into this movie, I was aware that many liberties had been taken with the case records and that, for the most part, this is a fictionalized Hollywood representation of the real story. That doesn’t matter. This could be made up whole cloth (and there are certainly a number of people who think that’s exactly what this story is) and it doesn’t make a difference. Whether its complete fiction or based on a true story as the titles claim, The Conjuring 2 is a surprisingly effective human drama wrapped inside of an absolutely frightening horror thriller.  The Hodgsons are sympathetic and the Warrens continue to be a likable couple you’ll end up cheering for.

Like the first film, this is one the few movies determined to convey the ideal that love, courage and faith are still the most powerful tools we possess for combating evil in any form. At a time when the news is filled with hideous stories capable of draining people of hope, that’s a message we need to hear. It just so happens it’s been delivered in the form of one of the best horror sequels I’ve ever seen.

***** out of ***** stars. This is the rare sequel that’s every bit as good as the original.

Blu-ray Review: Bride of Re-Animator

Director: Brian Yuzna. Stars: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Claude Earl Jones. Theatrical release: 1989. Company: Wild Street. Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD release through Arrow Video

borframe1If you have read my Night Things books, you’ll see that I have a particular fondness for Herbert West. A character from a throw away episodic series that Lovecraft hobbled together (influenced mainly by Shelley’s Frankenstein), Dr. West has become an iconic horror figure. The first Re-Animator film is easily in my top three 80’s splatter fests. I have seen Bride of Re-Animator a few times over the years, but it never really found a spot in my video library. But when the new Arrow Video edition of Bride hit my player, it became evident to me that I had not really given the film a chance.

In this outing, Herbert (Jeffrey Combs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) continue their mad experiments. Herbert uses a piece of Dan’s departed love (Megan’s heart) to build the perfect woman. Using various dead parts, he uses Dan’s misery over losing Megan to keep his assistant and experiments alive.

You simply cannot envision Herbert West without seeing Jeffrey Combs in the role. He embodies the part perfectly. If you think people threw a fit when Freddy and Jason were cast without Englund and Hodder, just imagine a reboot without Combs. Villages would burn.

Bride-Reanimator-Blu-rayWith this installment, West begins to show how mad he truly is. He takes more of a perverse pleasure in his experiments. You start to see that mean streak exhibited in Lovecraft’s original stories. Abbott works well as Herbert’s straight man, Dan Cain. But a few scenes of Herbert convincing Dan to continue with the work feel very flat. That is really my only complaint about the movie itself. Dan is convinced, fairly easily, to see Herbert’s creation through and I always felt Dan had a bit more backbone. The highlight of the film, of course, is the final act gorefest. The team of Screaming Mad George, Richard Kilroy, Robert Kurtzman and Greg Nicotero (you’ve heard of them, right?) hand in some great, gruesome practical effects.

The disc itself is packed with bonuses. The highlight is Brian Yuzna discussing what Bride would have been, given more time and money. The behind the scenes footage of David Gale as dead head Dr. Hill is a lot of fun as well. Arrow Video did a hell of a job with this one, folks. I highly recommend adding this to your collection, based on the extensive added bonuses. The film looks great. The 2K restoration makes this the best viewing you can possibly imagine. This might be one of the best horror film packages I have ever seen.

Check out this video from Arrow video regarding their special edition of Bride of Re-Animator: