With 13 Days of Sequels I’ll be reviewing horror sequels every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.
Sequels are historically hard to pull off – especially when it’s that first one out of the gate (meaning Part 2), and especially if the first film was an incredible success. (I clarify this, because at one time films actually had to be successful in order to warrant a sequel.)
Following the original film, that first sequel is under major scrutiny: the pressure to not only replicate the success of the first film but exceed it in every way possible isn’t just expected, it’s really expected. Part 2 has to be bigger, faster, and smarter, upping the ante in every conceivable way. Continue reading 13 Days of Sequels: HALLOWEEN II→
The musty smell of bibles, the bland and antiquated interiors, the old people, the chanting, the fear, the guilt, the penance, the seriousness of it all. The murder, the immolation. Well, at least I thought those last two were regular happenings at church. Continue reading STUFF THAT SCARED ME: ALICE, SWEET ALICE→
It was the late-’80s, and we were smack dab in the middle of The Great VHS Boom. I believe it was Herbert Hoover who once promised, “a VCR in every home, and a membership to every mom & pop video store” – and that’s exactly what every family (including ours) had. And with the proliferation of VCRs came a wave of home recordings. No rental was safe from being recorded to a blank Kodak tape (or Polaroid, Sony, RCA, Fuji, et al.) You just had to make sure your recording speed was set to LP, and to put a little piece o’tape over that broken tab on the back, and you were in business. Sure, it was illegal. But it was the ’80s, and everyone was doing it. Continue reading STUFF THAT SCARED ME: A Home Recording of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3→
ARTISTS BEHIND THE IMAGE is intended to put a name (and sometimes face) to the talented men and women who created the most iconic images to adorn horror VHS boxes and posters from ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Their art is vital; it’s the reason I (and many of you, certainly) fell in love with horror movies in the first place. This is not only intended as a tribute, but also a minor compendium, meant to collect their works in one single spot. Corrections, additions, or other info? Email me.
Prior to college, Robert Tanenbaum had no formal art training – but that didn’t stop him from winning first place in the portrait competition while only a freshman at Washington University. His innate talent for portraiture took off from there, and he hasn’t stopped to look back since.
Adept at watercolors, oils, and acrylics – and with a distinct style reminiscent of Norman Rockwell – Tanenbaum has been in constant demand since his career began. He’s been commissioned over 200 times to paint the portraits of various movie stars, sports figures, and even heads of corporations. He’s painted many several collections of Franklin Mint collector’s plates. He is a Signature Member of the National Watercolor Society; one of 22 members out of 1300 members to be nationally certified by The American Portrait Society; one of only 350 that has been elected as an Artist member of the California Art Club and an artist member of National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic. His work has been featured in numerous magazines and art shows. Continue reading ARTISTS BEHIND THE IMAGE: Robert Tanenbaum→
Miles Chapin’s “Richie”, from Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse, is the perfect embodiment of the troped-out ’80s horror that was happening at the time: he’s a high schooler who looks to be in his late-20s (possibly early-30s); he’s an insufferable WASPy geek, yet has a gorgeous girlfriend; and, despite being a bespectacled lame-o, his best friend is the high school football team’s all-star quarterback, Buzz Dawson. It was the ’80s, baby. It didn’t have to make sense as long as everyone was so obnoxious that you rooted for the bad guy.
Richie is also a wannabe preppy, which makes him even more detestable. Imagine a combination of Tim Matheson’s snarky shit-eating expressions mixed with Harry Anderson’s general punchability, and you’ve got your basic Richie. Every time he opens his mouth, you just know some dumb shit is gonna come out of it. And that’s something that people often fail to realize about geeks: not all of them are smart. Continue reading HORROR NERD OF THE MONTH: Richie!→
And last but not least – the final entry in this year’s SUMMERTIME SCARES! is from my buddy Barry. Like me, he too is a lifelong horror nut and appreciator of all things nostalgic and trashy (and those precious gems that meet somewhere in the middle). So who better to wrap this thing up than him? Barry shows his love for a couple of perfect summertime flicks: a Drew Barrymore one-two punch of Motorama and Far From Home. Without further ado…take it away, Barry!
Growing up, summer vacation always signified freedom and adventure. Those precious few months of sunshine were what every kid dreamed about. I would fantasize all semester about the kinds of crazy adventures I would have during summer break. Of course, those hot and sunny days were normally spent sleeping in late, mowing the lawn, eating junkfood and watching way too much daytime tv, but I was convinced that I would have one of those life changing summers that would define my existence. Everyday I had the feeling that today was going to be THE day that something REALLY exciting was going to happen and that I would have the best “how I spent my summer vacation” essay. Summer is supposed to be magic for kids but like everything else, summer vacation loses its luster and boredom quickly sets in. This isn’t any type of boredom, but the type of boredom that pushes you to seek out danger instead of harmless adventure. The type of summertime boredom that forces you to experiment with drugs, alcohol, and sex. The type of summertime boredom that turns you into a jaded adult. The type of boredom that forces you to see behind the curtain that separates childhood from adulthood.
The two movies that I chose to write about each feature a discontent youngster that finds themselves caught in that harsh and unforgiving landscape of an adolescent summer. Both of these movies defy genre conventions and mix comedy, drama, and horror and like an awkward teen, these movies don’t really fit in anywhere.
In the late 80’s/early 90’s, Drew Barrymore found herself in a slump that closely mirrored the career path of Linda Blair. Both were successful child actresses that had a string of popular performances but both quickly fell into drug addiction and B-grade movies. It is hard to imagine that Drew Barrymore, the romantic comedy star that audiences love today, used to be an underage bad girl with a substance abuse problem. Because of these issues, Drew was forced to accept roles that exploited her developing body and Lolita-esque sexuality. Drew would appear in these types of roles (Poison Ivy, Gun Crazy, The Amy Fisher Story) until she became a hot mainstream property again thanks to The Wedding Singer, Never Been Kissed and Ever After. The first of Drew’s jailbait movies was 1989’s Far From Home (not to be confused with Far From Home The Adventures of Yellow Dog). Written by Tommy Lee Wallace (director of Halloween 3, Fright Night 2, and Stephen King’s It) Far From Home is part horror movie, part black comedy, part coming of age story, and part independent drama. The plot is centered around father and daughter Charlie and Joleen Cox (Matt Frewer and Drew Barrymore) who are on their way home from a tedious road trip. 13-year-old Joleen is eager to end the trip with her boring father and get back to the excitement of her friends in L.A. She is angsty, naïve, and unaware of the power that her female body possesses.
She channels her frustrations into her journal which is used as voiceover narration to show how lonely and desperate she is for affection. The movie starts to get tense when Charlie and Joleen stop for gas in the desert town of Banco, Nevada. They find a dead body in the gas station and begin to meet a variety of strange characters. With no gas available for a couple of days, Charlie and Joleen rent a trailer in the Palomino Ranch Trailer Park. Joleen unknowingly ignites the passions of two local boys who both become dangerously possessive of her. More dead bodies surface as the father and daughter anxiously wait for gas in the deserted town. The movie is full of great scene stealing actors that make the most of their limited screen time. Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood, Gremlins) plays the suspicious sheriff, Andras Jones (A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl A Rama) is the creepy teenage predator, Susan Tyrrell (Andy Warhol’s Bad, Cry-Baby) is outstanding as the bitchy trailer park landlord, Richard Masur (The Thing, Stephen King’s It) is great as the rough and tumble gas station owner, Karen Austin (Summer Rental) and Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky) play a pair of sexy females that are also stranded, and Anthony Rapp (Adventures in Babysitting) plays the red headed boy next door.
I am not sure what it is about Far From Home that I love so much. Despite a predictable plot, I think the movie captures the feeling of that summer boredom and apathy that can lead to danger. The movie is tense and creates a strange atmosphere that is slightly surreal. For me, you can really feel the heat and the desolation of this small town. Drew is basically playing herself but manages to create a character that is believable and unaware of her cherubic beauty. She looks effortless in her early 90’s fashions and I love that she is wearing 3 swatches throughout the entire movie. Joleen unknowingly stumbles into her summer adventure but the main character in our next film doesn’t wait for adventure to find him, he goes out and finds it for himself.
Gus (Jordan Christopher Michael) is a 10 year-old kid whose only crime is that he’s underage. Gus steals a vintage cherry red mustang and takes off across the country. With no destination in mind, Gus aimlessly drives through the desert landscape of abandon and freedom. When passing a sign the reads “MOTORAMA” he is inspired to make his roadtrip a quest to collect all 8 MOTORAMA cards. The purpose it to collect all the letter cards that spell out MOTORAMA from participating Chimera gas stations. Once you collect all 8 cards you are eligible to win $500 million. With Gus’ new purpose in life, he sets off to find the cards. One would think that the premise is a little hokey and juvenile but what makes Motorama so great is that it is rated R and not really a kid’s movie. Despite the fact that Gus is 10 years old, he seems to get himself into one dangerous adult situation after another. Most of the characters don’t even realize that he is a child. Gus starts off as a sassy Bart Simposn type but by the end of the movie he has more in common with Escape from New York’s Snake Plissken.
Motorama is part Odyssey part Alice in Wonderland, part Pete & Pete, part Willy Wonka and part David Lynch. Written by Joseph Minion, the man who wrote Martin Scorsese’s underappreciated After Hours, Motorama features a bevy of hilarious and over the top situations. The cameos are endless and feature some of the same actors from Far From Home like Drew Barrymore, Susan Tyrrell, and Dick Miller. Some of the other notable cameos include Martha Quinn (MTV VJ), Jack Nance (Eraserhead, Twin Peaks), Mary Woronov (Eating Raou, Rock N Roll High School), Meatloaf (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Fight Club), Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde, House of 1000 Corpses), Garrett Morris (Saturday Night Live, The Stuff) , Robert Picardo (Gremlins 2, The Burbs), John Diehl (Jurrasic Park 3, Stargate), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) , and Irwin Keyes (House of 1000 Corpses, Friday the 13th).
Motorama is essentially a story of lost innocence. What I love about the movie is that the whole plot seems like one of those daydreams that a kid would have about what they are gonna do during summer vacation. The movie is a kid’s fantasy that is anything but whimisical and childish. Gus longs to be an adult and throughout the course of the movie learns what it is like to be jaded and disenfranchised. While his ultimate adventure ends in disappointment he realizes that it was the journey not the destination that was most important.