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Criterion Horror Films!


When I think of The Criterion Collection, I think of high art. I think of pristine celluloid and perfectly framed shots sandwiched between thick, black widescreen bars. I think historic, I think epic, I think intelligence. Nose-in-the-air type stuff.

What I don’t think of is ooze, satan-worshipping, hyper-violence or James Woods sticking his hand inside of his own stomach. But believe it or not, all of those things (and more) can be found under the Criterion umbrella! It’s like going over to the class valedictorian’s house and seeing that they have a Basket Case poster on their bedroom wall.

David Lynch, Brian De Palma, Guillermo del Toro, David Fincher, Danny Boyle, and Paul Verhoeven all have Criterion films to their name (and David Cronenberg has four, wow!)

Here’s a short list of some of my favorite Criterion horror flicks. The list is actually much, much longer – and you can find all the titles on the Criterion site as well as their Wikipedia page – but I thought this little list would be a good place to start.


I often preach the greatness of this 1973 Nicolas Roeg shocker. Though not outright labeled as one, it feels like a giallo film – due mainly to the mysterious, raincoat-shrouded character Donald Sutherland hunts around the canals of Italy. Solid flick with plenty of twists and freaky revelations.


The first time I saw this film was in a theater packed full of horror fans, and I’m pretty sure I was half in the bag. The main thing I took away from the viewing was how funny the film was – not only by my own drunken interpretation, but also the uproarious laughter from the crowd. The bizarre imagery, the bits of dialogue lost in translation, the goofy score – what a funny, weird film! However, it wasn’t until last year, when I saw the Criterion analysis of the film, that I came to realize how truly horrifying it is. I suggest watching the film without any insight, and then rewatching it after viewing the analysis.


Pecker-tucking, cannibalism, airborne semen, the c-word, fat jokes, and Tom Petty’s “American Girl”. All in a Criterion movie! This is definitely one of the more understandable entries on this list – after all, Silence of the Lambs did win five Oscars the year it came out. But that just brings up another great milestone: a horror movie sweeping the Academy Awards!


As mentioned above, Cronenberg has a staggering four films on the Criterion list. That’s more than Bernardo Bertolucci, Miloš Forman, or Stanley Kubrick! Cronenberg’s other films on the list include Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, and the amazingly gory Scanners. It’s nice to see body horror, exploding heads, and utter mindfuckery get the kudos it deserves from such a distinguished company.


This film was so controversial when it was released in 1960 that it effectively ruined director Michael Powell’s career. If that’s not enough to get you to watch this movie, I don’t know what to tell you. I love this flick! It is often compared to Psycho, despite beating that film to the theaters by two months. With wide vocal support from both Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese, this movie is one of the great proto-slashers. At one point, zomfather George A. Romero was rumored to be remaking it, but so far nothing has come of that. Watch it!


This is another film that I totally understand its place in the Criterion Collection. It’s beautifully shot in stark black and white, casting ominous shadows over dark secrets like a flawless film noir should. And Robert Mitchum is perfectly terrifying as the murderous con-man trying to swindle a pair of farm kids out of their dead dad’s hidden loot.


I can understand why waifish middle-class debutante Mia Farrow would be so appalled at discovering she had been incubating Satan in her womb for the past 9 months (spoiler!), but can you imagine if Rosemary had been played by one of those Old Milwaukee-fueled dudines from Heavy Metal Parking Lot? She’d be stoked! As previously mentioned, it’s nice to see devil-worshipping be presented in such a highfalutin way.

saloBased on the synonymous book by the Maquis de Sade, this movie features all sorts of stuff your grandma would probably frown at: sadism, graphic violence, sexual depravity, and forcing little kids to eat platefuls of boom-boom. So naturally it should wind up in the Criterion Collection, a list self-described as “important classic and contemporary films for film aficionados”. Just what I love: artful smut!

Sure, this list loses some of its oomph when you realize both Kevin Smith and Michael Bay both have films on the Criterion list. Kinda makes you wonder who was behind the wheel when those decisions were made. But look: any collection that features The Blob (1958), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and Fiend Without a Face, and is intended for only the most discerning of film snobs — that’s a pretty dang alright list in my book.

Dr. Jose’s Top 10 on Halloween Love

your-choice-dr-jose-horror-top-tenHalloween Love was gracious enough to ask me for a Top 10 list of horror movies I love – but to provide ones I wouldn’t instantly spit out when asked for a list. Maybe the tertiary ones, the ones that are sitting under a thick layer of dust in my cobweb-filled cranium. The ones that still blow me away even if I don’t immediately think of them.

So go, read! And follow Halloween Love on Twitter and Facebook! Don’t be a dummy, all the cool kids are doing it!


The ‘Virtual Reality’ Look of the 90s


Full disclosure: This article is in no way meant to be a comprehensive cover of the virtual reality boom of the early-90s, nor is it even meant to describe the mechanics of virtual reality. In fact, this blurb has very little to do with virtual reality itself; it mainly just discusses a few specific animation techniques — ones that, because of their creation in the archaic days of computer animation — have a virtual reality look that permeated so many mediums from about 1992 to 1995 (with a little spill over into the late-90s). My apologies to any nerds I may have misled with the headline.

Movies, TV shows, music videos. At some point, a few contenders from each of these outlets dabbled in the look I’m talking about. And when creating whatever it was they were creating, animators loved overusing one of three things: flying through space and/or getting closer to Earth until it was zoomed in on a city street; flying through the innerworkings of a computer or ‘the internet’; or people made from liquid metal.

Let’s take a look at some of the offenders. And when I say ‘offenders’, I actually mean “awesome things that I loved enough to remember 13 years later.” Presented in no particular order.

First up is a show whose intro almost completes the trifecta of animations I mentioned above. Hardcore TV was a short-lived half hour sketch program that was like a mix between The Twilight Zone, Saturday Night Live and Real Sex. No, seriously. I don’t remember much of the show, but that opening animation is beautiful.

This music video definitely adheres to the trifecta and THEN SOME. Peter Gabriel has always been known for his cutting edge videos, and they always seemed to display techniques that weren’t widely being used at the time. The animators for this video pulled out all the stops. I can only imagine what editing it was like. And what a jam!

Another HBO show, this one was actually a spin-off of Tales From the Crypt. Perversions of Science (if the title didn’t give it away) was meant to be more science fiction themed. It bombed and didn’t survive more than one season. The only episode I remember starred Kevin Pollack trapped on a space ship with a beautiful blonde android. It was directed by William Shatner. Who knows, man.

Another HBO production; last one I promise. Hosted by George Clinton, this was yet another space-aged anthology, but packaged in a three-segment 90 minute movie. The intro shows trash floating through space in a wonderful mid 90s computer animation.

Two other music videos I remember using these animations quite heavily while also featuring an emphasis on “yes, this is supposed to be virtual reality” were Def Leppard’s “Let’s Get Rocked” from ’92 and Aerosmith’s “Amazing” from ’94.

Looking back at these videos is so funny and surreal. Not only were computers a foreign concept to me at the time (hey, I was 10), but the idea that I would ever actually use a computer, let alone on a daily basis, LET ALONE on a daily basis for work, LET ALONE on a daily basis for work and for hobby was probably the craziest, most unbelievable concept ever. And yet here I am, just a shade over a decade later, and I cannot – for the life of me – pull myself away from the computer. Moving on.

Liquid Television. I cannot say enough good things about this show. I loved this show. It came back a few years ago much to the delight of all us nostalgiasts. But I never got back on that train, so I’m not sure if any of the new stuff was any good. But the original show – and those original credits (with music by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh) – is fucking perfect.

I’ll end with a few films that used virtual reality and its hilariously dated animations to great effect.

Brainscan is, in my opinion, criminally underrated. A classic, even. Or at the very least a guilty pleasure. The movie centers around a virtual reality game, so it’s rife with beautiful computer animations like this:


Then there’s Lawnmower Man. It’s not great.

However, it has what I’d consider some of the most memorable ‘virtual reality’ animations from this article/era thus far. Who wasn’t amped when they saw these images from the trailer? I know I was!


And finally, Virtuosity.

Not that it matters, but I feel like this was one of the – if not the – last films to use this style of animation. I think virtual reality was dying out at this point, and using it post-’95 would’ve seemed completely dated.


However, I really dug the movie as a kid. He’s a computer-created villain; a composite of 83 famous serial killers. That’s as solid of a concept as I need for a film! Plus, you get to a computer animated Adolf Hitler. And really, isn’t that what we’re all looking for in a movie?

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“Francis”, the Name that Defined the 80s.


There are a handful of names that come to mind when pressed for unforgettable 80′s film characters. Marty from Back to the Future. Daniel from Karate Kid. Perhaps Lewis and Gilbert from Revenge of the Nerds. Maybe Brand, Chunk, Data, or Mouth – all from The Goonies. And of course: Jason, Freddy, and Michael.

But there is one, singular name — not necessarily an odd name, but definitely not that common (none of my 500+ Facebook friends have it; I checked two other acquaintance’s “friend lists”, 700+ and 800+ respectively, and nope – no one on their lists had this name, either) — that was used throughout the 80′s to define some of the most memorable characters, from comedy to straight up horror. A name, that for some reason, seemed to suit the fringe characters best. And that name was “Francis”.

Despite being the most angelic of names, “Francis” was attached to the best maniacs, jerks, flunkies, and a-holes that 1980′s film had to offer – and maybe that’s why it worked so well. But let’s not waste anymore time and get right to it. Here now is a chronological list of characters named Francis from our favorite decade: the 80′s.

Pvt. Francis “Psycho” Soyer, Stripes (1981)


“The name’s Francis Soyer, but everybody calls me Psycho. Any of you guys call me Francis, and I’ll kill you.”

That’s our introduction to the scowling, bug-eyed, fidgety weirdo that is Francis “Psycho” Soyer. Of course, none of his army comrades are at all intimidated by him, nor do they take his threats seriously. This scene ends with their unamused drill sergeant uttering the memorable line, “Lighten up, Francis.”

So right off the bat, this list starts with a character who not only points out his odd name, but rejects it. Very interesting. Dude kinda reminds me of Travis Bickle. Thoughts?

Francis Fratelli, The Goonies (1985)


This Francis comes from a big family of crooks. There’s Mama Fratelli, and his two brothers Jake and Lotney “Sloth” Fratelli. Francis is the preferred son, and Mama makes no secret of that. He might be a pyromaniac. He also threatens to break a little kid’s legs. And he wears a toupee, so he might be a little self-conscious about his bald head. So far, this list has begat two sociopathic loons. Let us see who’s next.

Francis Buxton, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)


Another scowling thief with no responsibility and an overprotective parent!

Franics Buxton is well-known as the dude who stole Pee-Wee Herman’s bike. Stealing the bike proved pointless, however, as Francis – suspecting that Pee-Wee was on to him – panicked and had a co-conspirator get rid of it. And no, he didn’t have it stowed away in the basement of the Alamo.

How about some gum, Francis?

Francis Dollarhyde, Manhunter (1986)


Where the prior Francises have been off-kilter just enough to be charming, this one – Francis Dollarhyde – is just a flat-out terrifying monster.

Being born with a cleft lip and a fascination with metamorphosis wasn’t really a great combo for this dude. And I’m sure being named “Francis” probably just put him over the edge. When he’s not working in a lab as a photo assistant, he’s killing people and putting shards of mirrors in their eyes. Oh, and courting blind women.

We’ve had nothing but maniacs and baddies on this list. Time to lighten things up.

Francis “Chainsaw” Gremp, Summer School (1987)


“Don’t ever call me that, the name’s ‘Chainsaw’…as in Texas Massacre.”

Finally! A lovable Francis! Er, I mean “Chainsaw”. Sure, he may hate his name. And yeah, he’s obsessed with the 1974 Toe-bay Hoo-pare classic, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”. And sure, he’s super preoccupied with blood and gore. But at least he’s a fun dude! He gets two thumbs up.

If ever I had an idol growing up – and even now, still – Francis “Chainsaw” Gremp is it.

Francis Xavier “Frank” Cross, Scrooged (1988)


Well, back to the egotistical, mean-spirited, borderline-criminal jerks. Although, to be fair, by the end of Scrooged, Frank has a change of heart – hell, a change of being – and comes to realize that you can feel as good as you do on Christmas all year round, just so long as you…put a little love in your heart. Feed me, Seymour, feed me!

Francis Smith, Christmas Vacation (1989)


Yes, not even women were safe from being branded by this quirky designation. Doris Roberts, probably most notable for loving Raymond, plays Beverly D’Angelo’s drunken mother who loves to criticize Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold through her hiccups, while trying not to spill her martini. She’s about 3/10 on the Problematic Francises scale. 

And last but not least, an honorable mention:

Billy “Francis” Kopecki, Big, (1988)


Sure, it’s not his first name. But Tom Hanks does feel the need to shout Billy’s full name to make him realize the grown-up he sees before him is actually his 12-year-old buddy, Josh. Plus, Billy is just one of the good ones. I mean, he wears horror movie t-shirts everyday. What’s not to like? Billy Francis Kopecki, we salute you.

So there you have it. All those Francises, almost one for every year of the 80′s! What made that name so special then? Especially, it seems, among the more beloved films of the 80′s? Is there an explanation? Has this trend been repeated in the 90′s with a different name?

Here’s to all you Francises of the 80′s: you turned an ordinary name into lovable, hateble, fashionable, scene-stealing, quotable beast.

The Case of the Confusing Mask


Any horror fan worth their salt will recognize the perplexing American poster/box cover art from the 1985 bomb Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning:


What makes this such a head-scratcher — and should be obvious from the above image — is that the mask used on the cover is not the mask Jason wears in the film, or any Friday the 13th film. This has always stuck with me but I never cared to do much digging. Until now.

So where to start? Cracking the code required a perfectly worded Google search. Here’s how I started my exploration:

“Friday the 13th V mask”. “Friday the 13th V mask box cover”. “Friday the 13th V alternate mask”. “Friday the 13th V plastic mask”. “What’s up with Jason’s mask on the cover of the Friday the 13th V box?” No luck.

Checked Ebay. Checked the official Friday the 13th franchise site. Nothing, nada. What I did find was everyone was confused about why this mask graced the cover of Friday the 13th part V and confounded as to where it came from.

Googling “plastic hockey mask” brought me to an actual hockey equipment site where I discovered a few interesting things. First, the mask used in ‘Garden Tool Massacre’ from The Blob (1988). Turns out it’s a junior-sized goalie mask and also incredibly inexpensive:


Also found the mask from Alone in the Dark. This same mask can be found in other movies like Waxwork II: Lost in Time and Halloween H2O, and was the same mask used by the wrestler Lord Humongous (not to be confused with Lord Humungus, the Mad Max character – more on that in a sec):


tumblr_inline_njq4ydeGAr1qg31yktumblr_inline_njq4ygupIO1qg31ykBut back to the mask I was on the hunt for.

In 1981, one year after Friday the 13th was released, the sequel to Mad Max — Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior — was released. The film introduced us to a memorable post-apocalyptic villain, Lord Humungus. While not the first time a hockey masked maniac would appear on film (I believe that honor goes to Act of Vengeance; see my other article), as far as I know, this is the first time that this specific cheapo Jason knock-off mask makes an appearance in film history. Remember: Friday the 13th not only didn’t feature Jason Voorhees as the killer, it didn’t feature the famous hockey mask until its second sequel.


The character of Lord Humungus (with a little altered spelling) would directly inspire the wrestler “Lord Humongous” (see B&W pic above). Speaking of wrestling: despite Lord Humongous using a different mask than Lord Humungus, the cheapo knock-off mask in question would be used by another wrestler. In 1983, the Friday the 13th-inspired Canadian wrestler “Jason the Terrible” (seen with a young Owen Hart) used the mask as part of his ensemble. Note the hole placement: same mask.


Two years later, in 1985, the mask graces the cover of the poster/box for Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning and causes a lot of  horror fans to say, “Huh?”


In 1987, the mask makes another appearance on film, this time in Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. They painted it red for some reason, despite being a total homage to Jason Voorhees (the character of Tackleberry is seen chainsawing his way out of a body bag while wearing the mask.)


In 1989, Christmas Vacation was released, and in a classic scene involving bickering neighbors we see the cheapo hockey mask being used (alongside a chainsaw) once again to recall the Jason Voorhees imagery:


1991: the video game Pit-Fighter is released. It was one of the first to use live-action footage to animate the game, something that would reach the heigh of its popularity with Mortal Kombat. But what does this have to do with the mask? The game makes a direct reference to Lord Humungus. While the mask design is too pixelated to know for sure (it was the 90’s, give it a break), the character design is clearly modeled after the Mad Max baddie – so we’ll count it.


In 1993, PCU came out. In the final scene of the film, the lead character “Droz” (played by Jeremy Piven) slaps on a hockey mask. And as far as I know, this is one of – if not the – last time this specific cheapo hockey mask makes an appearance on film.


So that brings us up to speed. My search for this elusive mask continued. Searching “plastic hockey mask” brought up a result I almost overlooked. Mixed in with all the pictures of hockey masks was a singular airsoft paintball mask -that’s right paintball – not hockey. When compared to the aforementioned mask style, it’s a pretty damn close match:


The eye holes are a bit bigger and the airholes may not be completely punched out, but note the ridges that cross the mask as well as the hole placement. Spot on!

Even dragging pics of the mask into Google image search doesn’t bring up any revealing results. The last and closest thing I could find to the actual mask was on a film memorabilia site. It was listed among other horror stuff, all from the same user but none of it seemed to be for sale.

tumblr_inline_njq53mMUwT1qg31ykI left the website link on the pic so you can search his stuff if you’re interested. I wanna point out that this was listed as an actual prop from the movie, and also labeled “vintage”, but I question the veracity of both those claims.

And that’s where my search dead ends, folks. I have followed every trail until it went ice cold. I Googled every possible combination of words, hoping to nail the magic amalgamation that would unlock the mysterious mask door and finally set me free. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. And so, for now, the answer remains hidden, the riddle unsolved. But the search continues…

UPDATE: After posting this article on Twitter, it was pointed out to me that the mask in question is vintage Cooper goalie mask. And sure enough, it is:

tumblr_inline_njq544dJDz1qg31ykGod bless the internet. Now if only I could get the 16 hours I spent writing this article back. You win again, Jason!

No Sleeves, No Problem


With winter in full MF-in’ swing, and with the East Coast and Midwest getting buried under a foot of snow, I figured now was probably a good time to post a summer-related piece in hopes that it might give you something to look forward to and help melt away those February blues (or ‘whites’, seems a bit more fitting.)

After writing about the popularity of quirky tees in 80s movies, and having posted a picture of a sleeveless Steve Gutenberg in Police Academy, I realized the shirt-sans-sleeves look was a really popular one during the heyday of 80s cinema. It defined jocks, cool guys, tough guys, losers, and weirdos – making it easily one of the most versatile 80s fashion statements. Who wore it best? Let’s take a look.


Snake Plissken from Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. Gotta start the list off right, and the only way to do that is with Snake. Doesn’t get any cooler than him. This sleeveless look would definitely fall under the ‘tough guy’ category. Toss in an eyepatch and giant gun, and it’s elevated into the ‘total badass’ stratosphere.


The list went from bad-ass to sad-ass quick. Although, Ricky  – Corey Feldman’s character from The ‘Burbs – gets creativity points for slapping what appears to be the Batman logo on what looks like a mesh football jersey.


It only makes sense to follow a Feldman post with a shot from The Lost Boys. Above is Alan Frog – brother to Feldman’s Edgar Frog – and Alan is rocking a pretty proper sleeveless look. Combining the US Army 82 Airborne Division shirt with the dogtags definitely says ’15-year-old trying to look like grizzled war vet’. I give it a thumbs up.


Another great sleeveless look is worn by Freddy from Return of the Living Dead. The shirt reads “Domo arigato”, which is for Japanese for, “Thanks a lot”. I’ve searched and searched for this shirt online to no avail, so as far as I know it was created just for the movie. Is it a reference to the soft synth-pop 80s band Visage? Who knows! Complimented by a pair of skinny suspenders, this outfit says, “It’s 1985 and I love all that UK new-wave and punk shit.” When it comes to this shirt, u-needa it!



Rocking a look that defines “sleazeball”, we have Buddy from Just One of the Guys (1985) on top, and David fromFriday the 13th Part VII (1988) on the bottom, both rocking the sleeveless flannel look. This is good for late summer, when the leaves are beginning to change, and the afternoons are warm but the nights are chilly. Good for layering. Also good for teaching your sister how to act more like a dude, or when being stabbed by a maniac in a hockey mask.


I always thought Brand from The Goonies was an interesting character, because he’s so clearly a jock – yet the other jocky rich kids hate him. I wonder if any real life jocks who were unpopular with their peers saw this film and had a secret breakdown. We’ll never know, because a jock – unpopular or not – would never admit to such a thing. Bonus points for it being a sleeveless sweatshirt.



Speaking of sleeveless sweatshirts, here’s John Heard from C.H.U.D. Actually, C.H.U.D. delivers a twofer, with a young Daniel Stern popping up to show off his spaghetti strands. Do these two look like the biggest creeps ever, or what? Nice camera, John!


Easily the most creative fashion statement of the whole bunch, only Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds would be able to rock a sleeveless letter jacket and have it still make sense somehow. Plus, who would be brave enough to say otherwise? I bet that thing smells like sweat, stale Coors Light, and Brut.


Steve, Ponyboy, Two-Bit. Almost half of The Outsiders gang prefers a little sun on their shoulders. And a sleeveless Mickey Mouse tee? Truly one of the least threatening-looking groups I’ve ever seen.

And last, but certainly not least:


The entire Cobra Kai. Obviously inspired by their sensei’s fashion choices, the karate squad followed suit by nixing their sleeves as well. This is noticeable because they’re the only team participating in the final tournament without sleeves. It’s a tough look, one that racist ex-Vietnam Vet sensei John Kreese knows will intimidate opponents. But seeing what a lunatic nutbag Kreese is throughout the film – flying off the handle at every little thing – I don’t think it’s the outfit people find intimidating.

Well, that’s all for now friends. Hopefully this read has made the sun seem a little brighter and the air a little bit warmer. But remember: it doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside; when you’re indoors, everyday can be a sleeveless summer.