Director: Ben Wagner. Writers: Matthew Bradford, Dean Chekvala, Amy Cale Peterson, Ben Wagner. Stars: Amy Cale Peterson, Dean Chekvala, J. Claude Deering, Rick Federman. Produced by 3:41am and This is Just a Test Productions.
Zombie films have been running (or shambling, depending on your take) rampant these last few years. Apocalyptic fears and societal woes have been harvested from the zombie film genre since 1968 when Romero changed all of the rules with Night of the Living Dead. And though Romero’s latter entries in his dead series lacks the craftsmanship of his original dead trilogy, the director’s fingerprints can be traced to many modern zombie works, especially AMC’s The Walking Dead.
There have been many films that focused strictly on the gory bloodbath of the zombie takeover, with little regard to characterization. Several Italian films inspired by Romero’s Dawn of the Dead were produced in the 70’s and 80’s, and they went for the gore and kept very little of the heart.
So, I guess what I am trying to say here is that in the most effective zombies films, the zombies are incidental. The Walking Dead could be about any type of epidemic, supernatural or otherwise, and it would still function well as an ensemble drama.
Dead Within is the most interesting and well-acted zombie film I have seen in a decade or more and the actual zombies of the film have less than a minute of screen time and are seen in quick snatches. A couple played by Amy Cale Peterson (who gives a powerhouse performance) and Dean Chekvala (who convincingly conveys a man trying to protect all he has left) play a happily married couple who arrive for a weekend stay at a friend’s cabin. After the credits, we flash forward six months and the couple struggle to keep safe in the barricaded home while an epidemic similar to the one witnessed in 28 Days Later and REC decimates humanity.
Mike and Kim exist on the supplies that Mike is able to round up every few days. And while Mike hunts and gathers, Kim has not left their safe haven in six months, and cabin fever is taking its toll on her. Adding to her misery is the occasional visit from their infected dog who scratches at their door and the fate of their infected infant.
Dead Within has the quiet subtleties of I Am Legend (the novel, not the crappy movie adaptations). About 98% of the film takes place in the darkened cabin and Kim’s descent into madness seems a natural procession that never feels forced. If I have one complaint about the film: you will see exactly where this movie is going and you will sense how it ends. I do wish the film had thrown me more of a curve, but I still admire the hell out of it. It is a powerful zombie film with a lot of heart and reality to it. Of course, it may bore gore-hounds. But I hold this film up high in an overwrought genre. It has the dark precision of Romero at his finest. It may be a bit more minimalist than the original dead trilogy, but Dead Within knows that the secret to a successful zombie story lies more in the story of survivors clinging to the shadows and praying for another day of life. Highly recommended.
[Editor’s Note: Arianna, an almost 13 year-old horror fan, was asked to give her opinion on classic horror films. Her first review, Night of the Living Dead, can be found here. For this installment, Arianna reviews the 1962 cult classic, Carnival of Souls. Before you grab your torches and pitchforks, please remember that there is a vast difference in the horror of today as opposed to the films we more mature fans consider “classics”. The Walking Dead has gore comparable to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (which was Rated X when it was first released). We are all products of our time. Nightmare Castle was in theaters when I was born. The hot horror movie when Arianna was born? Jeepers Creepers.-TMW]
Carnival of Souls was suggested to me as a classic, though I’d never heard of it. Personally, this was creepy of all things, not the kind of horror where I feel the need to cover myself in a blanket because something is bound to grab my foot. I was confused a lot; about the whole duration of the film.
I’ve noticed interaction with sound in horror movies, and usually in most the sound adds to the story-line right off the bat. But in this, it did not. They have you try and figure it out I suppose. I found myself restless and pretty bored ,waiting for to just snap into it and understand what was happening, but I never did. When the guy just stares at you through the screen , or there were multiple people , dark circles surrounding the eyes; that was the scariest it really got. This lady is running around, I literally have no idea what her objective is;what she’s trying to do, where shes going. Trying to escape? Most likely, yes. But then why was she there in the first place?
My dad suggested that perhaps this indicates that the film is too advanced for me. NO, that is not why I could not contemplate much less fathom what was happening. This could be someone’s favorite movie, and that’s respectable; everyone views things differently. I, on the other hand, was not impressed. Maybe adults will understand the story better, but I would not recommend this for the younger audience or my age group simply because of the confusion.
My purpose with Halloween Forevermore was to create a watering hole for different horror animals. Whatever your dark passion, I want you to be able to find it here. One demographic I am definitely interested in appeasing: lovers of the paranormal. I am a fan and a student of documented hauntings (if you have seen my Whaley House Ghost photo video or read my tale, The Giving of Things Cold & Cursed, you can see my love for ghost stories).
So I was extremely excited to see that AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places by Theresa Argie & Eric Olsen will be hitting the shelves on 9-30! It is being published by Berkley and it will be available in Kindle and paperback versions!
Here is the info I was sent by this wonderful organization:
There are some places in America you simply shouldn’t visit alone. At Waverly Hills Sanatorium, thousands of patients died at the height of the tuberculosis epidemic in the early 1900’s and their spirits never left. In the halls of Mackey’s Music World, demonic possessions were more common than musical performances. Aboard the decks of the Queen Mary in California, echoes of the cries of hundreds of lost sailors ring clear night and day. These are places that no sane person would ever truly explore – until now.
In AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; September 30, 2014; $16.00), “Haunted Housewife” investigator Theresa Argie and journalist Eric Olsen combine spine-tingling stories, documented evidence and interviews with some of the top names in paranormal investigation, including the stars of television’s Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and others to take readers on a terrifying tour of our nation’s most haunted houses, hospitals and historic places.
Experience the crawl through the death tunnel, also known as the body chute, where visitors have reported sightings of an inhuman creature that creeps along the walls and ceilings. Get to know the spirits, ghosts and other demons that wait in jails, lounge in mansions, fester in lunatic asylums, and even stay in the stately old hotel that served as inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.
The evidence provided with these first-hand accounts, stories and personal testimonies will have readers sleeping with the lights on. Are you brave enough to take a look?
And here is some info about the authors:
Theresa Argie is an experienced paranormal investigator who has worked with some of the field’s most respected experts. Eric Olsen is a leading journalist in the field of paranormal investigation. Together, the two host the internet radio show, America’s Most Haunted. They both live in Ohio.
I am happy to announce that I will be receiving a copy of AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places for review! I can’t wait to get my hands on this one! You can pre-order AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places right here!
[NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Arianna is the daughter of some friends of mine. She is almost 13 and a huge horror fan. She is also an aspiring author. I thought it might be interesting to get some input from the younger crowd, so I proposed a review series to Arianna. I asked her to watch a list of classic horror films, because I was really curious how older films would play to a younger crowd. Her first assignment was the 1968 zombie opus, Night of the Living Dead. I have said countless times that NOTLD is my very favorite horror film. I present to you her thoughts. This review has been edited only for spelling and grammar. Any hilarious factual errors regarding the film belong to Arianna. -TMW]
I’ve recently watched an older film, by the name of Night of the Living Dead. Now, this film was produced in the thirties, at the dawn of all entertainment in the form of television. When all of the zombie apocalypse things started, this movie was introduced to the public, and was considered terrifying.
However, present day, if I must say so myself, we’ve seen worse. Much, much worse. They say that the AMC series, The Walking Dead, was inspired by this particular picture, but clearly The Walking Dead was most definitely updated. Some prefer the black and white, silent, pick your poison, all relevant and ancient. I am very much so into various types of horror, including paranormal, possession, witches, psychopaths with knives, but deep in my obsession lies a special place for apocalyptic pleasures.
On a scale of 1-10, I enjoyed Night of the Living Dead at about a 2, if even. What gets me scared, grossed out, dizzy etc… is the cherry red color of fresh blood , or the rotting aging shade of old. Also guts, but the only way you could tell someone was a zombie in this movie was by the tears in their clothes.
Going deeper, there was a single woman who looked slightly gory, yet not enough to duel against more updated favorite films of mine. This amused me, but did not scare me in any way, shape, or form. I’m sure if I had never seen something like this before, I would have better things to say about it. But I have, and this was a huge letdown. I found this on a top 25 scariest movies list at number 7. And I was like what? But others have different opinions, and I am sure I disliked this highly due to my youth.
A co-production between Mastropiece Productions and Southpaw Pictures
Directed by Bart Mastronardi & Alan Rowe Kelly
Starring Debbie Rochon, Amy Steel, Bette Cassatt, Adrienne King, Caroline Williams, Randy Jones, Alan Rowe Kelly, Brewster McCall, Lesleh Donaldson, Desiree Gould, Cartier Williams, Joe Quick, Michael Varrati, Andrew Glaszek, David Marancik, Susan Adriensen.
I was fortunate to attend the Tales of Poe Hollywood world premiere on August 20th. Anyone who is familiar with me knows that I am a fan of Alan Rowe Kelly and Bart Mastronardi. I have appeared in two of Alan’s films and Bart worked on those films as well. And while there is a fair number of work in my past that I would like to deny, I wear my Alan Rowe Kelly day player T-shirt with pride. Having appeared in The Blood Shed and Gallery of Fear, I am very familiar with how both directors operate.
So when I heard they were going to collaborate on an anthology of Edgar Allan Poe tales, I knew immediately that something special was going to come from it. And I was 100% correct. Tales of Poe stands as the highest achievement for both Kelly and Mastronardi. The anthology film boasts quite a few familiar names to horror fans. Debbie Rochon, Caroline Williams, Amy Steel, Adrienne King and the Village People’s Randy Jones headline the film.
Alan Rowe Kelly also appears as two different characters. I was very pleasantly surprised to see three of Alan’s regular players: Zoe Daelman Chlanda, Susanna Adriansen and Jerry Murdock. I was a little disappointed that they had relatively minor roles (except for Zoe; she has a pretty meaty presence in The Cask).
So I’m going to start where the anthology starts: with Mastronardi’s TheTell Tale Heart. Now when I first heard this was going to be one of the stories adapted, I was hesitant. Adapting the Tell Tale Heart is akin to making another wheel, in my opinion. But Bart turns it on its ear fairly quickly with the story of a night nurse (Debbie Rochon) who cares for an ailing silent screen legend, Miss Lamarr (Alan Rowe Kelly in a perfectly cast performance). The night nurse is driven to madness and murder by the fading starlet’s sickly gaze. I love the interplay between Rochon and Lesleh Donaldson’s character of Evelyn Dyck in the sanatorium in the prologue of this tale. It is a cat and cat game between two psychopaths and you can feel the waves of malevolence coming off of it.
One thing that I will declare right now: Debbie Rochon does the best job I have ever seen her do in the role of the night nurse. I have worked with Debbie, and she is a very dedicated actress. She has a strong self- awareness of what works for her. She is a student of the game. An observation I have made about Debbie in the past, and this is by no means a slight: I never saw her entirely as the characters that she played. I always saw Debbie as Debbie. I have the same sort of perception with actors like Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro. She has a very strong presence that is difficult to subdue.
But I am happy to report that Debbie totally disappeared into this role. She proved to me unequivocally that she is the brightest and most talented actress in the indie horror film field.
Mastronardi’s take on The Tell Tale Heart goes exactly where Poe fans know it will go. But it is stylish as hell and the acting is top notch across the board. The tale has never felt fresher.
The next segment in the movie is Alan Rowe Kelly’s adaptation of The Cask. In this tale, Alan plays Gogo Montresor, the conniving and murderous wife of a well to do vintner, Fortunato Montresor (Randy Jones). This segment also featured cameos by Amy Lynn Best and Mike Watt and it was good to see some old friends in there. And the always reliable Susan Adriensen brought her quirky weirdness to housekeeper, Morella. When Marco Lechresi (Brewster McCall) shows up at the wedding party, you realize the short honeymoon is over for Fortunato and Gogo. This segment was absolutely breathtaking in its design, and composition of the shots. The spooky nighttime interiors put me in the mind of a dreamy Euro-horror film from the 70’s. And the effects were fan-effin-tastic. The reanimated corpse make-up was very retro and it was the same type of presentation and look that you would see in really well done horror films of the early 70’s. You know, the ones that actually scared the crap out of you. Watching this segment definitely made me feel like a kid. I enjoyed the hell out of the acting in this one (especially Randy Jones. He was great!).
My only complaints are two tiny ones, and they both concern the opening of the tale. I felt The Cask could have been trimmed down just a hair (it felt a little top heavy), and it had a little too much scenery chewing between the characters during the wedding celebration. Trust me, though: these are minor criticisms. The Cask is a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable adaptation delivered as only Alan Rowe Kelly could deliver.
The last segment of Tales of Poe is Mastronardi’s very artistically composed Dreams. Bette Cassatt (who you can’t take your eyes off of) stars as a young woman who seems to be languishing between life and death in a hospital bed. Her mother, played by Friday the 13th Part 2 star Amy Steel, lingers near as her daughter wanders the dream land found between life and death.
There are two other really huge horror actresses in this segment that a lot of fans of 80’s horror will recognize. There is Caroline Williams of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 fame. Caroline plays the Angel of Dreams. This character seems to be a benevolent, silent guide. Caroline does so much with just a look. She is stunning to behold here. And Adrienne King (the star of the original Friday the 13th) appears as the Queen of Dreams; a dark personification of death. Both actresses perform and express extremely well in this mostly dialog-free piece. There is a very cool Tarantino vibe here, especially if you were raised on 80’s horror. The actors in this piece feel painted into the scenery. Their commitment to the director’s vision here is highly evident.
There is a very cool feast scene that comes off as a combination of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick and it is beautiful. Mastronardi went for an abstract piece of art here, and he succeeded. The last segment of this anthology is probably the best put-together piece. Ending the film with a strikingly diverse piece like Dreams was a good decision, because at that point the viewer will have come so far down the rabbit hole that they will be committed to finishing the maze. In case you think there was any negativity in my last statement, allow me to clarify: I am not putting down the average horror fan and I am not trying to diminish the raw horror or beauty of Dreams (there is gore and the piece is deeply disturbing). I am simply saying that Dreams veers down a conceptual path that the more by the number horror fan might not want to follow.
But screw those guys. Bart Mastronardi knocked me for an unexpected loop with this one.
And so my final verdict? Tales of Poe is one of the best indie horror anthology films that I have ever seen. It is breathtaking in its beauty. It’s technically sound; there wasn’t one technical blemish on it that I noticed. It is the best work (so far) of two of the hardest working and talented mofos in independent horror cinema. Tales of Poe takes the work of a master and puts it into the hands of two of the finest modern craftsmen in the field. You must see this film when it comes out.
There are very few things in this life that are considered critic proof. Troma, Three’s Company and the Police Academy movies come to mind as products that succeed even when they are pretty much universally panned by the press.
If you were a child in the sixties through the nineties, you know of one other franchise which wears a bulletproof vest against serious analysis.
Kaiju is a Japanese word that means strange creature, but is interpreted by most Americans to mean giant monster. And there is no Kaiju monster bigger in popularity than Godzilla!
When vintage Godzilla films are viewed through a child’s eyes, all that can be seen is the King of the Monsters, doing battle against a flamboyant array of Kaiju enemies. And even when we watch these Godzilla films with more mature eyes, our nostalgia for them overcomes any glaring faults with the films.
Of all the Godzilla films, the one that created the most buzz was King Kong vs Godzilla. Imagine it if you will as the Freddy vs Jason of Kaiju films.
Universal recently re-released King Kong vs Godzilla on Blu-Ray & DVD. I watched it with my six year-old, and he absolutely loved it. Originally released in 1962, the story starts with Godzilla who is freed from an iceberg. Meanwhile, the owner of a pharmaceutical company travels to a tropical island to capture and return King Kong to Japan for publicity. As both monsters converge on Japan, a showdown is inevitable.
If you are a Kong purist, you simply must put all of your arguments away. It is assumed that Kong, though much smaller than Godzilla in the original RKO film, has grown larger because of his berry diet on the island. Kong can also harness electricity and wield it as a weapon.
In their first encounter, Godzilla gives Kong a shot of radioactive breath and Kong stumbles away, confused. He scratches his head as he leaves as if to convey, “Shoot, no one told me he could do that.”
Kong is later drugged by his island berry wine and airlifted into a final battle against Godzilla. One thing that is worth pointing out: Kong spends a fair amount of time getting drunk and passing out (like many other leading men of his day, I would imagine).
Kong wakes up long enough to realize that he has been tied to a giant raft heading for Japan or floating in the sky via giant balloons while a raging Godzilla bellows beneath him. You almost feel sorry for the big guy, but he manages to pull up his boot straps in the final act and say, “Okay, let’s do this!”
King Kong vs Godzilla is notable for a couple of milestones. It is the first time either monster has appeared in color or widescreen. It is also the most popular Godzilla film of its day.
I recommend this movie, especially if you have little ones.
You have heard of fantasy football; picking players from NFL teams to forge a strong team of your own to compete on paper. Well, I want to do the same type of thing but in a way horror fiction fans would appreciate. I don’t know if this has ever been attempted, but if it has, it was surely by a horror nerd with too much weed and time on his/her hands.
Compose your own table of contents for what would be your ultimate horror anthology. There are no limits. Choose from any author you want, at any time you want. So here is my fantasy horror anthology, and though the names may be as familiar to you as your own family, you will notice a mix of obscure tales, that I think should be reexamined (I am an admitted B-side lover), and you will also notice selections that are considered staples of the genre by many fans. For time and space constraints, I will pick ten here as my choices. Just remember, it’s my party…
The very first story would be one by a man better known for his science fiction, but a home run hitter in whichever genre he chose to flex his creative muscles. BRIGHT SEGMENT by Theodore Sturgeon would by the first title affixed to this ultimate anthology of mine. Written in 1953, BRIGHT SEGMENT concerns a lonely old man who finds a near-dead prostitute on the streets. He brings her in and nurses her back to health. As she strengthens and threatens to leave his care and this bright segment of his draws to a close, the old man takes measures to extend his newfound happiness. This is an absolutely brilliant tale that inspires revulsion and sympathy with the same tug.
So next we look at the work of Stephen King for inclusion. I am a child of King, in so many ways. But my favorite works of his go back to his older tales. And my first King tale for inclusion would have to be NONA. First published in an anthology in 1978 called Shadows, Nona is either a figment of the narrator’s imagination or a seductive and evil siren of murder who asks repeatedly at the end, “Do you love?”, before she turns into a hideous creature and leaves the narrator alone in a graveyard for the police to find. NONA is Lovecraft-inspired gem and it elicits creepiness from any of us who have ever loved, and maybe found a little madness in our devotion.
We are not done with King, yet. NIGHT SURF was printed in Ubris magazine in 1969. It was the seed from which THE STAND would sprout. It is a post-apocalyptic tale about a group of teens gathered one night at Anson Beach in New Hampshire. They glow and warm near a bonfire, but the fire that lights their night burns with depraved, solemn and desperate purpose. The group burns a man at a pyre to appease the Gods and protect themselves from a disease called A6 (or Captain Trips).
We come now to the works of Clive Barker and his inclusions will not be the expected standouts. There will be two tales selected, half-filling my collection.
IN THE HILLS, IN THE CITIES is my first of the Barker tales. Two gay men try to rekindle their love on a vacation to Yugoslavia. Mick and Judd bear witness to the macabre war between two villages, Popolac and Podujevo. Each town is represented by a mass of thousands joined in uniform and violent purpose. A battle between two giants occurs, and this is one of the most inspired Barker tales you could ever endure. It is breathtaking.
My second Barker contribution would be HELL’S EVENT. It concerns a contest where Hell is given the opportunity to take and rule the Earth. There is a race in London, and a shape-shifting representative of Hell participates. Joel, a human competitor in the race, realizes the stakes he is running for. This is a bloody and humorous piece of Barker fiction.
My next selection would be the classic YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER from the great Robert Bloch. It was printed in Weird Tales in 1943. It is a very famous tale, and many horror fans have heard the title in relation to highly regarded pieces of horror literature. But let me ask you a question… have you ever actually read it? It is an intense and well-researched imaging of the infamous serial killer as an immortal who must make human sacrifices to continue his bloody existence. It is masterfully crafted by Bloch, whose creative intensity never dulled. The man was a talented craftsman, indeed. He is largely considered a writer’s writer. And he was a member of Lovecraft’s circle.
Poised to terrify at the seventh spot would be I SCREAM MAN by Robert McCammon. In this tale, McCammon takes something as innocuous as a family game of Scrabble and turns it into a triumph of absolute dread. McCammon is a master at taking familiar and safe boundaries and wrapping them around your throat. He is a powerhouse.
SHATTERDAY is the eighth selection, and it is a story by one of the most enduring voices of speculative fiction, Harlan Ellison. Peter Jay Novins calls his own phone by mistake, and he answers it. Soon, it is revealed that an alter ego is planning to take Peter’s miserable life away and replace him. Peter sickens and slowly fades as his former shadow gains substance and lives a more happy and successful version of Peter’s life. Yes, this was an episode of the revival Twilight Zone series, but the story from Ellison’s collection (itself called Shatterday) is an absolutely chilling tale of losing your identity and purpose. It straddles the genre fence, but inspires enough dread to land here on my list.
The next to last of this fun little excursion would find Charles Beaumont’s THE HOWLING MAN. Beaumont would adapt his 1960 short story into a famous episode of Twilight Zone. The Howling Man concerned David Ellington, a man on a walking trip through Europe who shows up, lost and ill, on the doorstep of a hidden castle. There, he discovers that a man is held prisoner by a group of monks. The monks claim their prisoner is the devil himself, and he can only be released by removing the staff of truth from his prison door. Beaumont was one of the most influential authors of the strange and dark, and his work has inspired several in the genre. And he is a name I would proudly include in this make-believe collection.
My tenth spot would feature THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in January 1892 in The New England Magazine. It chronicles a woman’s journey into madness, as she is locked away by her physician husband. The woman is stored away quietly to recuperate from a slight hysterical tendency. The woman slowly begins to have visions in the patterns of the wallpaper in the room that imprisons her. An important and classic tale, which you should seek out if you have not read it, that is also an incredible piece of feminist literature.
So, there would be my top ten. And were this list to continue, you would see tales from Poe, Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Hugh B. Cave, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Rex Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Rod Serling… trust me, the list could easily run into triple digits. The ten I have listed are stories that I hold a particular fondness for. They are stories that have touched me, and left a mark.
If you are inspired to seek any of these tales out, then I have served a purpose here today.