Lux Interior 1946 – 2009

I’ve listened to at least one song by The Cramps every day for the past decade. Nothing cheers me up faster than hearing “The Surfin’ Dead,” “Cramp Stomp,” or “Call of the Wighat.” So I’m angry at myself that I didn’t learn until this week that Lux Interior, the lead singer of The Cramps, died on February 4. But mostly, I’m just bummed out that the world has lost the uniquely talented and creative force behind some of the best horror-themed music ever recorded. With his “Elvis from hell” crooning and tireless on-stage antics, Lux helped The Cramps make a degenerate, raucous blend of rockabilly, punk, and b-movie kitsch. How could any horror fan not admire the man that sang “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns,” and “What’s Behind the Mask?” So if you’re not a fan of The Cramps, then you darn well should be. But don’t take my word for it. Honor the memory of the Mad Daddy himself and check out The Cramps videos below.

Horror DVD Releases – Week of April 14th, 2009

i don’t think i’ve seen slaughter high, so i’m looking forward to yet another ‘childhood prank leads to school reunion murder spree’ slasher from the 1980s. the plot of the band from hell sounds so ridiculous, it just might be good. the telling is another horror anthology, which usually means it will be either really good or really, really bad (i’m looking at you trapped ashes). i hope it is the former. however, my pick this week goes to the much-hyped splinter. i know next to nothing about this film except that it has won a bunch of awards, currently has a 70% freshness rating on rottentomatoes, and is the talk-of-the-town on twitter. using my psychic powers (which, oddly, only work when it comes to horror dvds), my prediction is — it will be very good.

(descriptions from netflix)

The House that Cried Murder (1973)
When spoiled daddy’s girl Barbara (Robin Strasser) discovers her brand-new husband, David (Arthur Roberts), in the embrace of his ex-flame Ellen (Iva Jean Saraceni), she comes up with a dark plan to turn their isolated woodland house into a trap for the adulterers. Using her father’s (John Beal) unlimited funds, she delights in finding cruel and unusual methods of making the lovers pay. Jean-Marie Pélissié directs this horror thriller.

My Best Friend is a Vampire (1988)
After a night of passion with a seductive customer, shy teen delivery boy Jeremy (Robert Sean Leonard) starts looking pale, hating garlic and thirsting for blood. Mentored by the mysterious Modoc (Rene Auberjonois), the budding bloodsucker slowly gets the hang of his new lifestyle. David Warner co-stars as the ruthless vampire-hunting professor Leopold McCarthy in this smartly written, underrated 1980s teen comedy.

Bled (2009)
After trying a drug given to her by a mysterious foreigner (Jonathan Oldham), young artist Sai (Sarah Farooqui) enters a dreamlike space and develops a thirst for blood. As Sai’s cravings grow, she unwittingly attracts a dimensional vampire trying to cross over into the real world. A horror film full of blood and lust, Bled co-stars Alex Petrovitch, Chris Ivan Cevic, Michele Morrow and Ivan L. Moody.

Slaughter High (1986)
A decade after a cruel prank against a fellow student went horribly awry, eight friends receive a mysterious invitation to a “private” reunion at their now-closed high school, where they come face-to-face with a frightening figure from their past (Simon Scuddamore). One by one, the once-popular former students fall victim to a twisted, bloody fate, and the only person laughing now is the one getting revenge.

The Band from Hell (2009)
Wannabe rocker Tony (Michael Frascino) returns to his college town with one goal: to reconnect with the woman of his dreams, his ex-girlfriend, Rosemary (Heidi Johanningmeier). But his life changes drastically when he winds up joining rock band Neowolf, led by Vince (Agim Kaba) and Paula (Megan Pepin). Suddenly he’s pulled into a dark world, and Rosemary soon seeks help from a mysterious woman (Veronica Cartwright) in this werewolf shocker.

The Telling (2009)
When a trio of college girls pledges a popular — but deadly — sorority, each must reveal the most horrific tale she knows in this anthology of spine-chillers. As the stories unfold, an unknown person at the sorority begins committing murder. The three distinct segments involve a homicidal doll, an undead crew directing a fading actress and a gory hunting tale ending in death. Stars include Bridget Marquardt and Holly Madison.

Forest of Death (2007)
Detective Ha (Qi Shu) investigates the rape and murder of a woman who died in the Forest of Death, a popular suicide spot considered haunted. With the help of botanist Shum (Ekin Cheng), Ha tries to identify the killer by unlocking secrets held by the forest’s plants. This horror movie also follows Shum’s girlfriend, May, a television reporter who grows increasingly popular as she chronicles the paranormal activity happening in the forest.

Pick of the Week

Splinter (2008)
Kidnapped by an escaped convict (Shea Whigham) and his young accomplice (Rachel Kerbs), Seth Belzer (Paulo Costanzo) and Polly Watt (Jill Wagner) are thrust into the fight of their lives when the four of them become the prey of a bloodthirsty splinter parasite. Trapped inside an abandoned gas station, the foursome is forced to band together to thwart the monster’s vicious attacks and make it out alive.

Jon’s First Survival Horror Game – RE5

Every month or two, Corey and I pick a new co-op game to play via xbox live. Our most recent pick ended up being Resident Evil 5 due to its focus on co-op play. Before we started playing it, I didn’t know too much about it. I knew it had zombies in it, and that it’s a kind of game called “survival horror.” I’d heard the term, but I assumed it referred to games like Left 4 Dead. I’ve never played a Silent Hill game and my only experience with Resident Evil until now was the third film in the series, and all I really remember about it was that Milla Jovovich fought zombies while wearing some funky hotpants that I heard she designed herself.

Sadly, this game does not have Milla Jovovich in pants (hot or otherwise), but it does have lots of nasty zombies. Initially, I approached Resident Evil 5 similiarly to Left 4 Dead. During the first big wave of zombies, I fought them off as best I could, but the buggers just kept coming. And then, as a crowd of zombies had me pinned in a corner and were about to commit unspeakable acts of depravity against me for the fourth or fifth time, it dawned on me: run, you idiot!. And at that moment I realized what “survival horror” meant. Surviving this game means knowing when NOT to fight, and knowing how to conserve your ammunition and resources, which are very scarce in this game. It’s actually a lot of fun because I’ve found that it’s far scarier to be forced to carefully, and methodically take your shots, even as the zombies are rushing at you, rather than simply mowing them down with nearly unlimited ammo. Another thing I like about this game is that the slower pace seems especially designed for co-op play. There are puzzles and obstacles that require teamwork to complete, but more than that, you really do have to rely on your partner to watch your back and share resources as you’re making a desperate, last-ditch stand. I suppose you could finish it with an AI controlled partner, but most of the fun comes from working with a human controlled partner to survive against the odds.

I also have to say that until this game, I’ve never liked cut-scenes. It drives me nuts to have to sit there, controller anxiously in hand, and watch a 15 minute cut-scene with cheesy dialogue or bizarre story-lines that really don’t add anything to the real action of the game. I love the latest Gears of War, but would probably have liked it even more without those pointless cut-scenes (except the one with the classic line “they’re using giant worms to destroy our cities!”). This simply isn’t true of the cut scenes in Resident Evil 5. The overall story arc is still rather esoteric to me, as I’m new to the franchise. I’m in chapter 3 at the moment, and as far as I can tell, I’m supposed to kill some blonde dude who looks like a villain from Miami Vice, and who’s making some kind of secret chemical weapon, and who’s being helped by a chic wearing a medieval bird mask who might be my long-lost ex-partner, and I think they might work for a big corporation with an Umbrella logo. I’m not sure I really need this much story. As Vasqeuz says in Aliens, “I only need to know one thing—where they are.” But the cut-scenes are still absolutely worth watching. One of them involves a gang of zombies circling you on motorcycles and sometimes doing wheelies and jumping over you like an undead horde of Evel Knievels. It’s really fun to watch, and if they ever make a movie version of that, I’m totally there.

But the best thing about this game are the bosses. Seriously, the first time I saw the chainsaw-wielding bag-head zombie, I nearly dropped my controller and ran out of the room. He’s kind of like a skinny, fast-moving cross between Jason and Leatherface. So far, I’ve found that you can’t go toe-to-toe with any of the bosses, and will have to use very different strategy to defeat each one. Corey and I tried 3 or 4 completely different strategies on a 30 foot tall bat/scorpion/zombie thing before figuring out a rather complicated strategy that required using one person as bait while the other set and manually detonated landmines to disorient the beast long enough for us to slay it. While I still like Left 4 Dead as much as before, I’ve found that Resident Evil 5 is a fun and worthwhile version of the zombie apocalypse. The fun of mowing down literally thousands of zombies is impossible to deny, but being able to only deal with two or three at a time and having to run from groups any larger causes a real sense of fear and suspense that more action-oriented games simply can’t match.

Horror DVD Releases – Week of April 7th, 2009

a few decent looking releases this week, although i’m still working my way through the after dark horrorfest films from last week. i’ll be sure to make time for shuttle this week though, because it looks really interesting. hopefully i can find some time soon for the rest — let me know if any are particularly worth checking out.

(descriptions from netflix)

Baseline Killer (2008)
Two homicidal predators target a group of women in a warehouse on Phoenix’s Baseline Avenue. Keeping their victims captive, the killers terrorize the women, then begin murdering them one by one. Horror maestro Ulli Lommel directs this film, which is loosely based on the true story of the Baseline Killer who operated along a stretch of Baseline Road in south Phoenix between 2005 and 2006.

Disturbed (2007)
After helping to convict a deranged killer and rapist, the Fontaine family rests easy. But terror soon reigns when the serial murderer escapes and returns for revenge. Now, their worst nightmare is at their door. But his attack turns one of the hunted into the hunter — with a thirst for revenge of her own. Randy Aldridge directs this independent thriller starring Melissa Deverian, Lisa Coldwell and Gary Slayton.

Swamp Devil (2008)
Upon returning to her Southern hometown, Melanie (Cindy Sampson) learns that her father, Howard (Bruce Dern), is wanted for murder and on the run. As she tries to prove Howard’s innocence, a vile creature emerges from the nearby swamp intent on murdering everyone. Also starring Nicolas Wright, Robert Higden and Allison Graham, this horror film uniquely blends grisly murders with a positive message about family values.

The Death Factory: Bloodletting (2008)
Desperate to determine who brutally murdered her daughter, Ana (Claudia Vargas) infiltrates a group of bloodthirsty psychopaths who meet in an abandoned warehouse, where they plan to witness the torture and execution of an innocent victim. But soon, the tables are turned on this gruesome group of deviants. Noah Todd and Michelle Mousel co-star in this ultragrisly horror film from director Sean Tretta.

Donkey Punch (2008)
In a coastal Mediterranean paradise, seven people take their nonstop party from a nightclub to a luxury yacht far out to sea. When one of them mysteriously dies in a freak accident, the others come to blows over how to deal with the situation. As tensions rise, betrayal and anger emerge, and the six passengers turn against one another in a desperate battle of wills.

Dark Secrets (2008)
When a celebrity couple’s daughter goes missing, everyone — including the police — believes a serial killer is the culprit. The truth, however, is not so cut-and-dried. With no clues or ransom note, detectives must look to old demons for answers. Alex Walker plays Alex Blight, a paparazzo whose knowledge and connections raise suspicions, and Steven Elliot and Ben Shockley play the detectives assigned to the case in this taught thriller.

House (2008)
Trying to recover from the nearly marriage-breaking stress following the death of their child, Jack (Reynaldo Rosales) and Stephanie (Heidi Dippold) spontaneously take off on a road trip. But when their car breaks down in a remote area, they find themselves in a horrific nightmare. Seeking shelter in a house, they soon realize that more danger lurks inside than outside in this spine-chiller based on Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti’s best-seller.

Tokyo Zombie (2005)
While training to fulfill their dreams of being jujitsu champions, Fujio (Tadanobu Asano) and Mitsuo (Shô Aikawa) work in a fire extinguisher factory. But when a mob of zombies suddenly invade Tokyo, they’ll have to employ their limited fighting skills to battle the undead. They soon join with other zombie fighters to try to reclaim the city. Directed by Sakichi Sato, this Japanese zombie-movie satire is based on the manga by Yusaku Hanakuma.

Vinyan (2008)
Paul (Rufus Sewell) and Jeanne (Emmanuelle Béart) lost their young son, Joshua, in the 2004 tsunami, and cling to the hope that one day they’ll find him. Believing she sees Josh in a brief video of orphaned children, Jeanne convinces Paul to undertake a rescue mission. The couple spends the last of their savings on a journey into the jungles of the Thai-Burmese border, where unknown threats await them. Fabrice Du Welz directs this dark odyssey.

Pick of the Week

Shuttle (2008)
Hitching a ride on the airport shuttle seems like the safest option for weary friends Mel (Peyton List) and Jules (Cameron Goodman), who find themselves stranded late at night after flying back from a girls-only vacation in Mexico. That is, until their short drive home descends into a one-way trip to hell. As captive passengers they’re now at the mercy of a terrifying driver (Tony Curran) with an unknown agenda, and no exit in sight.

Pathogen and Q&A with Emily Hagins

a few weeks ago i posted the trailer for the documentary zombie girl. this documentary follows twelve-year-old writer/director emily hagins as she shoots her first feature, the zombie film pathogen. i have yet to see zombie girl because it is currently only playing at festivals, but i have seen pathogen. and i am here to say – it is good.

let’s back up for a second though. micro-budget films are not for everyone. audiences have become accustomed to hollywood films with nine digit budgets and awe-inspiring special effects. films made for 30 million dollars are now referred to as ‘low-budget.’ at the same time, miniDV, low-cost harddrives and high quality consumer video editing programs have put the basic language of film into almost anyone’s hands. more often than not, unskilled and untalented hands. thus the average quality of truly low-budget films is decreasing at the same time as our tolerance for lower quality filmmaking. countless $100,000 budget amateur horror films made by untalented hacks have made me gun shy of micro-budget films… the second i see that miniDV film quality, warning lights go off in my head and i jump to the usually logical conclusion that this film is going to be unwatchable. however, i usually stick with it as long as i can because, every once in a while, i get surprised. such is the case with pathogen.

pathogen is still a micro-budget film from a first-time director with very limited resources and a different set of criteria needs to be employed when watching micro-budget films than with typical hollywood fare. if you order a copy of pathogen on dvd from (a steal at $8), you won’t find mind-blowingly realistic digital effects. you won’t find oscar-worthy performances or pulitzer prize winning dialogue. you won’t find a polished piece of film making from an artist at the height of her craft. you will find sound that is occasionally hard to hear, nano-science labs only identifiable by a cut-out paper sign that reads “nano-science lab,” readings on lines like ‘oh, god… why won’t he die?’ that will make you laugh out loud, and 4-year-olds in zombie make-up that can’t help but smile at the camera. however, there are two other important things you’ll find that are rare regardless of the financial resources a film has available to it — raw, unfocused directorial talent and more passion for filmmaking than could be found within a hundred miles of many big hollywood studios.

emily hagins may not have decades of experience, but it’s obvious from watching pathogen that she has an innate knowledge of how to tell a story visually. i love kevin smith’s films, but do you remember the car scene conversation in clerks between randall and dante? the camera whips between them, pulling you out of the film and leaving you with only a headache and the undeniable feeling that you are just watching a movie. emily’s chooses the right angles and camera moves to cover the action in her zombie epic. the sound may be a little hard to hear occasionally, but the scenes all flow together into a coherent whole. and, with a running time of less than 80 minutes, pathogen is just the right length, proving emily has a solid handle on objective editing and pacing.

far more important to one’s enjoyment of the film than talent, though, is the sense of joy permeating every frame of pathogen. you can tell every actor wants to be making this movie, whether the performance they turn in is perfect or not. you may not see the crew off-frame, but you can feel their presence and how much they care about what they’re doing. this is a film where the boom mic is a stick with a hand-cam taped to it (look for it occasionally dipping into frame). that sort of ingenuity, “do whatever it takes to get the shot” mentality, and utter lack of pretentiousness characterizes the entire film.

if viewed in the proper context, as a low-budget film with plenty of rough edges but even more heart and campy fun, most horror fans will find it hard not to enjoy pathogen. particularly those with an interest in what it takes to make a film, on both a technical level and in terms of personal determination and tenacity. pathogen is not going to earn millions or replace romero’s (increasingly inaccurately named) zombie trilogy. pathogen is not the future of horror. however, i wouldn’t at all be surprised if it turns out that emily hagins is.

q & a with emily hagins

i caught up with now 15-year-old emily hagins at the cannes film festival, where she had just signed her first studio deal to write and direct the 3d remake of joseph zito’s the prowler. over frappachinos at a local smoke-filled coffee bar, tom savini joined us while i asked emily a few questions about the making of pathogen. before leaving, tom gave me one of the original masks from friday the 13th part 4 and promised to stop by my house in october to make up my dogs as little schnauzer zombies to scare the neighborhood kids.

ok, yeah. that didn’t really happen. i was not at cannes. no one is remaking the prowler, which, frankly, is a damn shame. i’ve only talked to tom savini once, and i was so nervous i was only able to make a few vowel sounds. i do have two schnauzers though. oh, and i did get emily to tell me a little about making her first film. i contacted her shortly after watching pathogen, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions by email. so, without further ado, i give you the first eo2l interview, a q&a with pathogen director, emily hagins.

Corey: I know that Zombie Girl is currently playing at festivals in TX and Canada. Do you know if there are eventual plans for a wider theatrical release or DVD? [i.e., how soon and where can we see it?]

Emily: I know the documentary crew is still looking for distribution, and we’re hoping these festivals will help them reach it!

Corey: Pathogen features the classic Romero slow-moving/flesh-eating zombies. What influenced you in making that decision over the more modern 28 Days Later Speedy Gonzales/flying squirrel-type that are becoming more and more common?

Emily: I’m not a fan of running zombies (though I like 28 days later), mainly because of the logic. Even though the idea of zombies isn’t very logical, it doesn’t make sense to me to have people who were once dead to be running around. I know people would argue that it’s ‘scarier,’ but I think the fact that they’re slow yet still manage to conquer the living is more terrifying.

Corey: I read that you were heavily influenced by the quirky zombie film The Undead. What other zombie films (or other genre films) did you use as inspiration?

Emily: The original Night of the Living Dead and The Evil Dead trilogy were big inspirations. The zombies from Romero, and scare techniques from Evil Dead. Also The Faculty for their ‘group of kids banning together.’

Corey: One of the common mistakes early filmmakers usually make is blatantly stealing from their favorite films (I know I did in my student films). For example using character names, specific shots, situations, props, sound effects, etc. from other films. I noticed none of that in Pathogen. Was that a conscious decision and did you ever have to fight that urge? [as a bad example, using ‘Baggins’ as a character name since I know you were heavily influenced by the LotR trilogy]

Emily: I actually did do an homage to one of my favorite scare techniques from The Evil Dead — I called it “The Shower Curtain Effect.” It’s when a character hears a noise, and traces it down to a shower curtain. There’s no possible place left (after the character keeps going through doors), but when they reach the shower curtain the culprit isn’t there. It only appears after the suspense has been broken. I also liked how one of the last survivors in The Faculty who was presumably innocent was actually the cause of the problem, so there was an homage to that as well.

Corey: I have a question about lead actress Tiger Darrow. If that’s a nickname, does it have a cool origin story? If it’s her actual name — well, there must be a story behind that too. And why does Tiger appear to be wearing an engagement ring in the film?

Emily: I believe she chose her name when she was three, and her older sister’s name is Kitty (I think by the same process). The ring was supposed to be memorable because it’s on the hand that gets a glass of water (containing the nano) in the opening. It had a plastic eyeball on it, which would make a pretty sweet engagement ring if it was one! :P

Corey: Speaking of Tiger again – my favorite line in the film probably belongs to her. “You’re either going to die or… die.” Was that line scripted or improvised? What line or scene are you most proud of?

Emily: I’m about 95% sure that line was in the script, but (as you could probably tell) there was a lot of improvising. I think I’m most proud of the opening montage…

Corey: Water and water references play a huge part in the film, as it’s the primary way the contagion is transferred. What do you have against water?

Emily: Haha, nothing at all! I’m drinking some right now! I just thought it would be terrifying to have an infection spread through something we have to rely on.

Corey: For me, the strongest parts of the film are the opening credit sequence and the final freeze frame, both of which are accompanied by incredible music. How did you go about choosing those songs and deciding what visuals should accompany them?

Emily: Tiger showed me the first song one day on set, and I cut the sequence to it later on. I had cut the montage to another song at first, but it seemed more melodramatic than eerie. I love opening credits montages in general, they just help set the mood for the movie. The freeze frame was originally a technical glitch, but after watching it a few times I decided to keep it. The last song was by a local musician in Austin.

Corey: For a boom mic you used a paint roller with a camera taped to it and for a steady-cam, you used a chair. Were there any other MacGuyver-esque filmmaking tricks you invented due to resource limitations?

Emily: Not really, we did not have very much equipment.

Corey: Above all else, I was most impressed by your ability to visually tell a story. You consistently chose the proper camera angles and cuts to convey the scene. In particular you approached suspense scenes better than many major horror films manage to. Is that something you just had a ‘feel’ for or do you think you picked it up from studying?

Emily: It just came from all the movies I watched and the short films I made before Pathogen. At that point I hadn’t read any books or taken any classes.

Corey: I love the shot of Dannie’s reaction to first seeing a zombie in detention. Was that reaction something she came up with on her own?

Emily: I think I just told her to look scared, but that expression was very much Rose’s natural way of reacting. I told the cast to pretty much be themselves because the characters were just regular kids, so if something in the script wasn’t natural to them they should do it the way they would naturally.

Corey: Was there anything you really wanted to get into the movie that, for whatever reason, ended up being impossible or impractical?

Emily: In general, I wanted more zombies in a lot of scenes. I also wanted a location that looked more like a research center than my mom’s work, but it’s all good.

Corey: You make a Hitchcockian appearance in the film, but you chose a very interesting act to be in the middle of when shown [i.e., Hitchcock appears in most of his films, but I don’t think he was ever shown vomiting, which is a shame actually] Why did you choose to be shown this way?

Emily: For the vomiting scene — I was editing and decided the sequence needed more shots, so I asked my mom to film me throwing up (which was just chewed carrots, btw). Same thing happened with the face watching shot, which I think Tiger filmed.

Corey: The DVD menu of Pathogen displays two commentary tracks — but there is a hidden third one that can only be accessed manually. It’s a solo director’s commentary that runs only thirty minutes. What happened to the rest of it and was it intended as an Easter egg?

Emily: It is an Easter egg. I tried doing the commentary by myself, but it was difficult without anyone else. We decided to just use it as an Easter egg because we already had two commentaries.

Corey: Your second film appears to be a murder mystery/ghost story which sounds like it is still somewhat in the horror vein. Do you plan to stay within the genre and do you have any definite ideas for future projects?

Emily: It ended up being more of a mystery than a horror movie, but it’s a lot darker than Pathogen. I might do another horror movie at some point, but the next one is going to be a comedy.

Corey: And one last, very important question… Was that cream corn I saw shooting out of that zombie’s head when it was stabbed with the pointy stick?

Emily: It was actually jello mix — I love the oozy stuff that comes out of zombies. We had fun with that!

[Please visit for more information on Pathogen, Emily and her other projects. You can also follow Emily’s tweets at @cheesynuggets]

Horror DVD Releases – Week of March 29th, 2009

after two weeks of nada, we finally get some horror releases this week. and most of them look interesting (well, except maybe Ogre). timecrimes and cthulhu look particularly promising. this week also sees the release of the eight after dark horrorfest films for 2008 (aka 8films2die4). the entries in this series are always hit and miss, but i remain optimistic that at least a few will be worthwhile. you can pick up all eight of them at best buy this week only for $70, which is quite a deal. unless they all suck, in which case it’s a rip-off. i guess we’ll find out later this week.

(descriptions from netflix)

Voices (2007)
As her family and friends inexplicably turn on each other — husbands attacking wives, friends murdering friends, and even parents slaying children — a young woman begins to fear that she will be the next victim. When some of the murderers reveal that they heard strange voices commanding them to kill, the girl realizes that no one can be trusted and no one is safe, in this South Korean horror film based on the popular comic book series.

Veerana: Vengeance of the Vampire (1988)
Eager to get revenge on the village leader (Vijayendra Ghatge) who wronged her, dead witch Nakita possesses the body of the man’s gorgeous daughter, who soon trains her seductive powers on throngs of men and then sucks their blood. But the horror may multiply if Nakita achieves her goal of using the host body to reincarnate herself in this spine-tingling film from Tulsi Ramsay and Shyam Ramsay, Bollywood’s horror masters.

Timecrimes (2007)
After accidentally traveling to the past, Héctor (Karra Elejalde) meets himself and triggers a series of mysterious events that lead to a shocking crime. The gripping time-travel story — at once deeply intricate and easy to follow — also stars Candela Fernández. Oscar-nominated short-film director Nacho Vigalondo makes his feature debut with this finely crafted sci-fi thriller.

Purani Haveli: Mansion of Evil (1989)
In the dungeon of an old mansion, scheming Seema (Neelam Mehra) and her bumbling brother, Vikram (Tej Sapru), plot to murder Sunil (Deepak Parashar), the lowborn boyfriend of Seema’s niece, Anita (Amita Nangia). But these evildoings are nothing compared to the monstrous spirits lurking in the building. Will Anita and Sunil be reunited, or will a beast kill everyone first in this spine-tingling Bollywood horror comedy?

Cat in the Brain (1990)
Italian horror director Lucio Fulci’s mind is his own worst nightmare in this graphically gory fright fest that gained a cult following thanks to an initial ban in the United Kingdom and one of the highest body counts in European cinema. In the midst of completing his latest masterpiece, Fulci is gripped by horrifying specters from his other films. He looks to a therapist to clear his head, but the doctor turns out to be an evil incarnate.

The Raven (2007)
Roderick (Rick Armando) and his coterie of pretty young things throw a fabulous masquerade ball in an English mansion on the anniversary of a famed mass murder that took place there, but the festivities are cut short with the arrival of a raven-masked killer. As the psycho is eager to recreate the massacre from a half-century earlier, the guests must fight to stay alive in this gay-themed variation of the Edgar Allan Poe classic.

Cthulhu (2007)
Home is where the horror is. The death of his mother prompts a gay professor’s return to his hometown, where he encounters an ancient evil in this horror film inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Nominated for an Independent Spirit Producer’s Award, the film follows Russ (Jason Cottle), whose homecoming brings him face to face with a sinister presence — and with his dad, whose New Age cult may hold the key to the dark events.

Experiments in Terror 3 (2008)
Avant-garde filmmakers foray into the darkest depths of the human psyche to deliver genuine chills in this uncanny collection of horror shorts, the third installment in the Experiments in Terror series. The films include Carey Burtt’s portrait of real-life serial killer Richard Chase (using a cast of dolls), a bloody psychological drama about identity, a silent short in which an aging sailor is transformed into a fiend and much more.

Ogre (2008)
Time seems to stand still in a remote village where the locals haven’t aged or fallen ill since ancient times. But when a crop of teen hikers show up asking questions, they learn the truth behind the town’s remarkable secret. Trouble is, the villagers are expecting them to stay for good … just not as permanent guests. John Schneider (“The Dukes of Hazzard”) co-stars in this Sci Fi Channel original movie.

The Sinful Dwarf (1973)
Peculiarly accented dwarf Olaf (Torben Bille) lures women back to a London boarding house belonging to his washed-up singer mother (Clara Keller), where the unsuspecting lasses are drugged, bound and generally transformed into heroin-addicted prostitutes. The bizarre and deliciously sleazy grindhouse thriller also stars the voluptuous and beautiful Anne Sparrow — in her only film role — as the naïve damsel in distress Mary.

The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (2009)
When he discovers that he has the ability to travel through time, teenager Sam Reed (Chris Carmack) uses his newfound power to unravel the mystery surrounding his girlfriend’s (Rachel Miner) untimely death. Despite his noble intentions, Chris inadvertently disrupts the space-time continuum and unleashes the wrath of a psychopathic serial killer. Directed by Seth Grossman, this sci-fi thriller also stars Daniel Spink and Richard Wilkinson

The Broken (2008)
From the very first moment Gina (Lena Headey) spots a woman who looks exactly like her driving down a busy London street, reality ceases to exist as she knows it. Tailing her doppelganger, Gina finds herself immersed in a surreal landscape of mind-bending nightmares and inexplicable events. Written and directed by Sean Ellis, this disturbing tale also stars Richard Jenkins and Asier Newman.

Perkins’ 14 (2009)
Unbalanced by the brutal murder of his parents, Robert Perkins (Richard Brake) kidnaps 14 people from a nearby town and brainwashes them into serving as his band of psychotic bodyguards — who’ll stop at nothing to protect their master. When Perkins’s antics land him behind bars, the “Perkins 14” snap and unleash a horrifying reign of terror on the people of Stone Cove.

From Within (2008)
When a rash of mysterious suicides strikes the idyllic burg of Grovetown, it galvanizes the faith of the largely Christian community, which staunchly clings to its evangelical beliefs. Convinced that the deaths are the work of something far more sinister than sheer fate, teenagers Lindsay (Elizabeth Rice) and Aidan (Thomas Dekker) band together to unearth the real culprits … and uncover a shocking revelation.

Dying Breed (2008)
Eight years ago, Nina’s (Mirrah Foulkes) sister disappeared in the Australian backcountry while searching for the mythical Tasmanian tiger. With only one clue — a photograph of a mysterious paw print — in hand, Nina sets out to continue her sister’s work. But something else awaits Nina and her team: cannibalistic descendents of a 19th-century psycho known as “the Pieman.” Leigh Whannell (Saw) and Nathan Phillips co-star in this savage thriller.

Autopsy (2008)
On their way home from Mardi Gras, a group of young partygoers crashes their car in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, an ambulance mysteriously shows up to take them to Mercy Hospital — but they seem to be the only patients. What’s more, the staff — including a medic (Robert Patrick) who drinks spinal fluid fresh from the source and a delusional nurse — is giving them the creeps. Jessica Lowndes co-stars in this gory supernatural thriller.

Pick of the Week

Slaughter (2009)
On the run from an abusive ex-boyfriend, Faith (Amy Shiels) bonds with Lola (Lucy Holt) in a bar and agrees to take refuge in her new friend’s farmhouse. But the men Lola brings home every night just can’t seem to stick around. As Faith’s suspicions grow, she and Lola decide to leave — but Lola’s bizarre brother and father are none too happy about the plan. Craig Robert Young and David Sterne co-star in this horror flick based on actual events.

Let the Right One In Subtitle Cluster-F

[lastest updates at bottom of post]

over the past few days there has been quite the uproar over the american release of the stunningly beautiful vampire film let the right one in. the website first broke the story, comparing the pre-release screener subtitles of the film to the final us release subtitles. in their article, they compare the translation of several scenes, noting that in the american release, the subtitles have been shortened, dumbed down, or flat out changed from those originally screened theatrically and in pre-release versions of the dvd. as you can clearly see in the iconsoffright article, these changes could significantly alter your appreciation of the film .

what does this mean to you? well, i predict with the fuss being raised, the dvd’s distributor will eventually re-release the film with the original or comparable subtitles [edit: they are]. personally, i first saw the film with the original subtitles and am glad i did – i can’t say how much my impression of the film would be changed had i not, but i do know i prefer the subtitles i first saw to the ones on my recently purchased dvd. if you have yet to see the film and wish to have a similar experience, i know of three options.

  • watch the film dubbed (as the english voice actors use the original subtitle script, not the ‘dumbed down’ version)
  • rip your dvd and re-burn it with these subtitles (a rather complex and tedious solution, but should get the job done)
  • order a copy of the film from outside the united states

i’ve chosen to do the latter, and ordered a copy of the film from the canadian version of amazon. it is released by a different company and most sources seem to say that it features the original subtitles[edit: i’ve discovered the canadian version is the same as the american, so don’t order it]. regardless of how you see it, you need to see this film. so go do so. now. i’ll wait.

reboot baghead jason disapproves of your simplified subtitles!

update 3/24: new york magazine and mtv picked up the story

update 3/24: verified through jon (who had the film from netflix) that the netflix version has the ‘bad’ subtitles. at least the version he received. it would be strange for some netflix discs to differ, but i’ve seen several people claiming their netflix’d dvd had the theatrical subtitles, so that appears to be the case.

update 3/25: digital bits reports that magnolia has issued a statement saying from here forward they will release the dvd with the theatrical subtitles. however, they will NOT exchange them. i think this is a mistake on their part. punishing the people who ran out the moment the dvd was released to buy it (i.e., the biggest fans) is not particularly wise, especially when the number of people who would go to the trouble of sending in their dvds for an exchange would be relatively small. tex massacre at has some suggestions on how to best contact magnolia about this issue.

update 3/27: i am so jealous i didn’t think of writing this. although i’m not sure i could top the dumbed down subtitle for ‘the matrix.’

update 3/30: i received confirmation from the canadian distributor that their version is identical to the american release, at least in regards to subtitles. that sucks for me, as that means i will soon have in my possession two copies i won’t watch of a film i love. i also ran across the text below, which is magnolia’s internal response to the controversy. personally, i find their dismissal of the problem and bizarre attitude towards their biggest supporters puzzling. i agree a recall would be extreme, but it’s not unreasonable to expect a mail exchange when the fact that they’re making new dvds implies the originally purchased product is problematic.

Yes the bloggers are having a field day on this one. Normally they like to pick on the English Dub tracks, but in this case it’s the subtitles. Obviously online tend to get rowdy and bandwagon mentality without knowing all the details. The current subtitle track is not altering the context of the film at all, in fact it’s a more literal translation than any prior version of subtitles. It’s not a defective or faulty subtitle file. Just more literal and larger in size for the small screen. Both English and Spanish subtitle files were produced for this dvd release. Frankly it’s not all that uncommon to have the subs vary from prior releases, typically go unnoticed as subs are purely a translation of film dialogue. This wouldn’t have been a blip had it not been for one particular horror blog doing a side by side and claiming that they are wrong. They are not. We are not doing a recall or anything of that nature, again, these are not defective. Title came out two weeks ago and general public don’t notice and don’t care – bloggers are well known for jumping on something, making an issue of it and moving on. We have decided that based on the feedback that we will be making a running change, so that going forward (once inventories deplete), we will be making that subtitle version available. Options in set up will be; English Subtitles / English (theatrical) Subtitles / Spanish Subtitles”

update 4/03: i have not received any direct reply from magnolia pictures, despite polite requests for more information. i assume they’re going dark and hoping the whole thing blows over. i think it worth noting that the canadian distributor, mongrel media, replied to me within hours, answering every question i had in full. below is a quote from an email mongrel sent to a customer (see the original here).

I too, was pretty surprised by Magnolia’s reaction. I didn’t know that they were planning to issue a different version of subtitles on the DVD; they never disclosed that to us. In any event, we will release the new version in Canada as soon as it is available with the theatrical subtitles.

update 4/07: here’s some interesting articles i found on this topic: A ‘Let The Right One In’ Subtitle Update, Or: What Blogs Do Well Magnolia Thinks Bloggers Should Chill Out About Let The Right One In’s Subtitles Let The Right One In subtitle farce grows
The Big Picture: Distributor Gets It Wrong With ‘Let the Right One In’ Subtitles Fiasco The ‘Let The Right One In’ Subtitles Scandal

update 4/08: magnolia pictures just started a twitter account — @MagnoliaPics.

update 4/08: even the director of the film has weighed in on the american subtitles.

“It’s a pure turkey-translation. If you check out the net, people are furious about how shoddily it’s been done. It breaks my heart. But it’s out of my control. Unfortunately.”

update 4/11: netflix now has let the right one in available to watch instantly. watch it now. it even has the proper, theatrical subtitles… so you have no excuse to not go enjoy the best vampire movie evar. right now.

update 4/23: not much to report on this issue. no statements have been made. people have claimed to have called magnolia and been told they’re not sure when the new dvds will start showing up in stores. also second hand, i heard from an acquaintance that claims to know some magnolia employees that “they’re not happy about the situation either.” i’m not exactly sure what that means, but i can say that while i disagree strongly with the company’s decision to not offer exchanges, i can find little other fault with the company. they’ve released some great dvds lately (e.g., splinter and shuttle) and they give away free dvds by twitter regularly and seem to actually reply to questions and comments (except, i would guess, those related to the let the right one in subtitles). in any case, i’ll add more updates here if i hear anything else… and i’ll make a new post once the dvds with the theatrical subtitles start showing up in stores and online retailers.

update 8/04: i’ve seen dvd copies in stores with the theatrical subtitles. no blu-rays yet, but the uk version has been released and can be ordered online (it also features an english language commentary track no available elsewhere).

Harper’s Island – The first slasher film television series?

i can’t think of any precedent for harper’s island, a show that cbs will soon start airing. freddy’s nightmares and friday the 13th: the series leap to mind as possible candidates, but while those were television shows based on existing slasher franchises, i don’t think either qualifies as a “slasher television series.” which, unless i’m misinterpreting the synopsis below, is exactly what harper’s island is.

HARPER’S ISLAND is about a group of family and friends who travel to a secluded island off the coast of Seattle for a destination wedding. This island is famous for a streak of unsolved murders from seven years ago. Although they’ve come to laugh and to love, what they don’t know is they’ve also come… to die. As the wedding festivities begin, friendships are tested and secrets exposed as a murderer claims victims, one by one, transforming the wedding week of fun and celebration into a terrifying struggle for survival.

In every episode, someone is killed and every person is a suspect, from the wedding party to the island locals. By the end of the 13 episodes, all questions will be answered, the killer will be revealed and only a few will survive.

Don’t miss the broadcast premiere of HARPER’S ISLAND on Thursday, April 9 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT).

Horror DVD Releases – Week of March 24th, 2009

yet another week of slim pickin’s for dvd releases in the horror genre. while technically a better week than last (since it does not feature any films where vampires sparkle like Goldschläger in the sunlight), this is still one of the worst weeks for horror dvds in recent memory. not only are there only two dvds to mention — but both are scifi channel (syfy channel, if you’re trendy) original films. i’m making snakehead terror my pick of the week partly because it is getting surprisingly good reviews on netflix, but mostly because ‘snakehead terror’ is just a bitchin’ name for a film.

(descriptions from netflix)

Locusts: The 8th Plague (2005)
A secret scientific experiment to create a breed of locusts designed to protect farmers’ crops goes horribly awry when the genetically engineered insects escape the laboratory and launch a killing spree across the Midwest. After he loses a colleague to a swarm of locusts, pesticide developer Colt Anderson (Dan Cortese) leads a team of scientists in an effort to contain the disaster before the deaths start piling up across the entire country.

Pick of the Week

Snakehead Terror (2004)
When Snakehead’s fishing industry is hit by dire economic times due to the depleting yield, local officials decide to dump human growth hormones into the town’s lake, hoping the move will boost fish production. Unfortunately for the townspeople, the ill-fated decision leads to the creation of a species of flesh-devouring, land-traveling mutant fish with a taste for blood. Bruce Boxleitner and Carol Alt star in this Sci-Fi Channel thriller.