Tag Archives: 90s

ARTISTS BEHIND THE IMAGE: Barry E. Jackson

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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.

Last week I made my iHorror debut with a piece that focused on the proliferation of ’80s horror movies centered around bedroom closets. One such example, I noted, was Making Contact, a decent but largely forgotten (or ignored) German-cum-US telekinetic kid flick that plays like Spielberg-lite. After the article went up, I saw a lot of people making specific comments about the poster art for Making Contact, which I’d included in the piece. Their long dormant memories of the film had been awoken by the recognizable imagery. Continue reading ARTISTS BEHIND THE IMAGE: Barry E. Jackson

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Killer Silhouettes!

Perhaps the most basic — and yet somehow, most effective — approach to the VHS/poster art: the killer silhouette! When all else fails, just drape your figure in some shadow, and boom: instant scariness. There’s no denying it — it works!

This is a far from comprehensive collection, so please, if you have any suggestions, feel free to email me. Lastly, I won’t be updating this page with any new additions, but I will be updating the Camera Viscera FB page every time I add a new one – so be sure to check back there occasionally. And now, without further ado… “kill-houettes”! Continue reading Killer Silhouettes!

BRUTAL FUTURISTIC POSTERS!

Welcome to the future. It’s 1990. Or maybe it’s 1998. Or maybe it’s 2010. Or maybe it’s even later.

The landscape is a vast desert wasteland where madmen roam the scorched earth on sputtering motorcycles culled from spare parts and outfitted with human skulls. Or – maybe – the landscape is a trash-filled, neon-soaked city overrun with crime and violence, where drugged-out maniacs in leather gear terrorize innocent, law-abiding citizens. Continue reading BRUTAL FUTURISTIC POSTERS!

“Turbo Kid” (2015) REVIEW

I’m just gonna say it: I didn’t love Turbo Kid.

I know I risk the wrath of many with that bold proclamation, but what can I do? I liked it. It was fine. Some of it was really fun. But overall I was left with a very indifferent, blasé feeling. It’s a feeling I’ve experienced with many of these ‘modern homages’, but more on that later.

For those unaware, Turbo Kid is based on a fan-made 5 minute short that was submitted to be included in the original ABC’s of Death anthology, entitled T is for Turbo. It didn’t end up winning the coveted position (that went to the equally awesome claymation T is for Toilet), but its online presence did garner enough buzz for the makers of Turbo to consider perhaps adapted it into a full length feature.

Enter Jason Eisener, director of Hobo with a Shotgun. Eisener was himself in a similar situation in 2007: he entered a short 2 minute trailer into Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse trailer competition. The trailer won the competition, became a huge hit on Youtube, and eventually Eisener was given $3M to flesh out a full length idea. The resultant film (also titled Hobo with a Shotgun), was a brilliant homage to late-70s and mid-80s exploitation sleaze. And when I say homage, I mean it in the purest sense: the film felt like it was from that era; it didn’t just blatantly lift imagery and ideas from those movies and repurpose them.

So it only makes sense that Eisener is a producer (plus a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo) of Turbo Kid. In a way, Tubro Kid feels like a spiritual successor to Hobo. Like, Hobo with a Shotgun 2099, or Teenager with a Powerglove.

But there are problems with Turbo Kid, problems Hobo didn’t suffer from. And these problems are what most of these modern homages are suffering from.

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First: a consideration has to be made. Can we turn a 5 minute idea into a 90 minute movie? Better yet, do we need to? The original short is incredible. I know when I saw it, and then heard they were making a full length movie, I was giddy. Imagine the awesomeness of that 5 minutes, only 90 minutes worth. How cool would that be! But that’s not how it works; rarely does it work like that. (Hobo was pretty much a fluke, an anomaly. It shouldn’t have worked.) You can’t have an hour and a half of go!go!go! Full length films have character arcs to develop, peaks and valleys. And sometimes what works in a short format won’t work any other way. This is the exact reason Kung Fury worked so well for me. They debuted a 2 minute trailer, raised some money, and released a 30 minute short film. It’s packed to the brim with insanity. It says all it needs to say, doesn’t drag its feet, and leaves before it becomes tiresome.

Then there’s the ‘star power’ aspect. Eisener was lucky with Hobo: he had Rutger F-in’ Hauer as his lead. We’re talkin’ the most revered badass dude from iconic 80s cinema (Blade RunnerThe Hitcher, and sure what the hell, Blind Fury.) I would watch Rutger Hauer read his email for 2 minutes or 2 hours. Turbo Kid is lucky to have genre legend Michael Ironside as its villain, but he’s not the star. And while the two young leads are just fine, I’m not compelled the way I would be if I were watching some titanic 80s character actor lead the movie.

Next: making a movie inspired by bad cinema doesn’t give you a pass to make a bad film. I get that you’re taking straight-to-video trash, taking the best parts of it, and Frankensteining it into a new movie. But that doesn’t mean anything if the end product is just as shoulder-shrugging as its source material. The z-grade action movies of the 80s were desperate beasts. Your homage should elevate the source material. If they couldn’t do it right the first time around, here’s your chance.

maxresdefaultAnd lastly: misappropriating pop culture. Look, I’m over it. No one should look at a hilariously ironic button or t-shirt and think “this same concept would work as a 90 minute movie!” This is why the Internet exists. Because we can ingest it in small doses, move on to something else for a palate cleanse, and then come back if we want more. Incremental bursts of nostalgia, 30-second clicks to remind us of the past. The endless sea of blogs with 500 word blurbs on childhood memories get the job done. I don’t want to sit down to watch a movie and just have it be 90 minutes of “hey, look, we remember the 80s and 90s, too!” The Nintendo mania, the Power Glove idolization, the View-Master, the dayglow clothing, the comic book obsession. It’s taking the place of the actual story. It’s fashion over function. Look, I get it. I have an Ecto-Cooler scented candle sitting on my living room table right now. But I don’t sit there and worship it. I light the sumbitch every now and then, make the apartment smell like a tangerine, and then blow it out.

Maybe I’m just put off because I don’t know who Turbo Kid is meant for. It’s a movie where 30-year-old actors play 14-year-old kids who dress in thrift store chic and obsess over outdated technology in a modern wasteland. Maybe it makes me feel icky because it hits a little too close to home. Look, watch Turbo Kid. But also watch the low-budget — but original — movies that inspired it, like BMX Bandits, Motorama, and Dead-End Drive In. It’s only fair.

Eisener’s tribute to underground bygone cinema was the first. And slowly but surely, other imitators began trickling in. And while it’s not a full blown flood at this point, I’d say our shoes are still ruined.

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The Horror of the Internet!

The internet has been scary ever since America’s sweetheart Sandy Bullock was thrust into danger and forced to fight for her identity and – more importantly – life in 1995’s The Net. In fact, and don’t quote me on this (unless I end up being right, of course) but, I think that may even be the first “The internet! It’s scary!” movie to be released.

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Since then, as the popularity of internet-usage and Angelfire domains has grown, so has the inclusion of the internet or internet-themes in horror and suspense films. It’s a natural and understandable progression: horror has to tap into current and relevant topics and issues in order to be effective. I mean, a movie about killer polyester pants maybe wouldn’t be as effective today as it would’ve been 40 years ago. And if Lloyd Kaufman is reading this: back off – that idea is all mine.

The ‘internet is scary’ as a horror theme is still going strong today, with the soon to be released Unfriended, a film that is being proudly promoted as the first movie to take place solely through webcams – a concept which was originally used in 2012’s V/H/S, confusingly enough. That’s right: a movie named for the obsolete act of analog recording onto magnetic tape has an entire segment dedicated to live computer chat. Try to figure that one out.

Unfriended is also being deceptively promoted as ‘shot in one take’. I mean, gimme a break. For one, it just isn’t true. But also, you’re way late to the game, baby – this ain’t anything new to the genre: the Spanish horror film La Casa Muda (The Silent House) did the ‘one take’ thing in 2010, and Secuestrados (Kidnapped) (also from 2010) is composed of just 12 shots. And it ain’t anything Gaspar Noe hasn’t explored at length in his films – and effectively, I might add. But I reluctantly digress. But also, watch those movies I just mentioned.

So with this overextended FaceTime flick soon to be released, I thought I’d dust of some old classics – much in the way one would dust off an old AOL subscription disc. Sit back, sign in, and listen for the dial-up as I look back on a few films that tried to warn us how scary the internet is.

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The same year The Net was released, Copycat came out. And while not technically an internet horror flick–

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Alright, I take that back. It’s kind of an internet crime thriller. Sigourney Weaver plays a criminal psychologist who is left so emotionally broken after she’s attacked by a serial killer that she holes up in her hi-tech apartment and communicates with the outside world solely through her computer. Eventually, a different killer (hence the title of the film) starts harassing her via her computer and wreaking all sorts of havoc in her life. I saw this in the theater with my folks when I was 11 because I thought Harry Connick Jr. was a terrifying character in the preview. It was an early lesson in “movie previews are only there to get you in the theater, no matter how deceptive they may be.” Also: love that line from the above picture.

strange

Long before Rob Zombie realized hard rock dudes could make super referential horror movies, Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister fame) wrote and produced Strangeland, which I think is the first chatroom-based horror film. For one of the first films based around the subject, this movie really came out guns ablazin’: a young girl and her friend are lured via chatroom to a sadistic murderer’s house, where – surprise – he tortures and kills teen girls. Although the movie was generally pretty panned, I think it took a lot of chances – or at least tried some new things, and dipped into some often unexplored themes when it comes to your standard horror flicks.

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I have, admittedly (and proudly), not seen the universally hated shitfest that is Feardotcom. From the terrible title to the Stephen Dorff kiss of death, the movie seemed doomed from the start. From what I can piece together, it sounds like a mix between The Ring and Videodrome, with tons of extreme violence sprinkled in for good measure. You’d expect more from the dude who designed Michael Myers’s mask. One final thing about the atrocious title before we move on: when the movie was in pre-production, the title of the website used in the film was “fear.com”, despite the producers not owning the rights to that name. They later had to change the name to “feardotcom.com”, which is so laughably awful you wonder why they just didn’t come up with an entirely different name for the website altogether.

2002 saw the release of another terrible internet-based flick with a similarly appalling name (and another I’ve happily avoided), Swimf@n. It seems like Fatal Attraction for the web age. All I know is: 2002 was not a good year for web-based horror. Thankfully, 2005 saw two good ‘net flicks be released.

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First was Hard Candy, starring a then unknown-to-American-audiences Ellen Page. This is another chat-based revenge flick which sees a creepy pedophilic photographer being lured into a trap via online chat by a tough as nails, vengeance-fueled teen. Not an outright horror flick by any means, but definitely some very unsettling scenes.

2005 also saw the release of Cry_Wolf.

cry-wolf

Much like both Feardotcom and Swimf@n before it, Cry_Wolf used a title choice that made it abundantly clear you were watching a movie centered around the internet. It even had an AOL tie-in promotion when it was released – And it still has an impressive and still-active website!

This film kind of capped off the “young ensemble cast being picked off by masked mystery killer” trend that Scream had kickstarted a decade earlier. By this point, remakes and paranormal films were starting to become the popular draws at the theater. I actually dig Cry_Wolf and would recommend a viewing if you’ve never seen it.

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The last movie I wanna bring up is Trust. This movie should terrify anyone, whether you’re a 14 year old who plays regularly on the internet, or the parent of one. This is by no means a horror film, but considering it’s based in reality, it makes it much scarier than an unkillable dude in clown mask.

Essentially, the story focuses on a young girl who begins chatting with what she thinks is a cute boy the same age as her. They agree to meet, and it all falls apart after that. The movie not only deals with what happens in those scenarios, but the way friends and family handle the situation afterwards. It’s an icky movie that makes you hate the world a little more after watching it. And hey! Ain’t that what movies are for?

Now, there have been ‘evil computer’ movies before and since these films. Lawnmower Man, Ghost in the Machine,  and Brainscan all deal with the horror of computers on a more technological level. Hell, computers have been evil ever since HAL went kamikaze in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But if you’re lookin’ for some scary internet flicks, this list is a good place to start.

This has been Dr. Jose, warning you to change your password every 60 days and never send money to anyone in Nigeria.

Who’s Walter Paisley?

titleIn 1959, up-and-coming actor Dick Miller starred in the film A Bucket of Blood, an hour-long black and white horror flick set during the beatnik heyday, directed by prolific filmmaker Roger Corman (at that point, Corman had already directed over 20 films in the three short years he’d been making movies); it would prove to be a serendipitous meeting, one that would spawn a character that Miller would end up playing several times over the next 35 years.

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In A Bucket of Blood, Miller played ‘Walter Paisley’, a struggling artist who tries desperately to make his mark in the bourgeoning Bohemian art scene. It’s only after ol’ Walt starts killing people and pets alike – and covering them in clay – that he finally gets noticed and starts receiving the attention and accolades he’d wanted for so long. But that was only the beginning for that character. Here’s what Dick Miller recalled about playing Walter Paisley after A Bucket of Blood in a 2012 interview:

“When it first happened, or when it second happened, I didn’t think much of it. [Director Joe Dante] says, “You’re Walter Paisley!” I say, “Again?” He says, “It’s just a name, it’s not the character.” I said, “All right, fine.” I didn’t think about it. And then the third time it came up, he said, “You’re Walter Paisley!” I said, “Oh yeah?” It started to build, it was an inside joke. And by the fourth time he says, “You’re Walter Paisley,” I’m saying, “What is this? Every time there’s no name for the character, I become Walter Paisley.” He says, “So what, it’s an inside joke.”

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And so it was. In 1976, Joe Dante – at the time, an unknown assistant to the aforementioned Corman – made his feature film directorial debut with the Corman-produced Hollywood Boulevard. Keeping the camaraderie going, Dante decides to name Miller’s character ‘Walter Paisley’, and with this nod to his boss, Dante would set in motion an in-joke that would pop up in another six films!

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Dante would resurrect the Paisley character in 1981 with his awesome werewolf flick The Howling. In the film, Paisley is the owner of an occult bookshop. His role is a pivotal one: he not only provides the protagonist with all the necessary information on how to stop the werewolves…but also the silver bullets to actually get the job done. Miller claims this is one of his favorite roles. The movie also has cameos from Roger Corman, as well as sci-fi cornerstone Forrest J Ackerman (Miller would later play a character named ‘Mr. Ackerman’ in an episode of ER.)

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Once again, under the direction of Joe Dante, ‘Walter Paisley’ makes yet another onscreen appearance – this time in the 1983 classic Twilight Zone: The Movie. It’s a brief appearance, as the Paisley cameos sometimes are. This time, Walter is the proprietor of a little diner. He pops up in the third segment of the film which is entitled, It’s a Good Life. Blink and you could miss him.

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 1986 would prove to be the most active year yet for the character, seeing him show up in two films released just a few months apart. The first was the Corman-produced Chopping Mall from director Jim Wynorski. Walt, a mall janitor, is electrocuted to death by the security robots that are running amok through the shopping center. Paisley isn’t the only fictional character to be carried over from another film to this one. In an odd inclusion, Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov reprise their Eating Raoul characters, ‘Paul & Mary Bland’. The film also stars genre staples Barbara Crampton, Angus Scrimm, and Gerrit Graham.

(Fun Fact: Woronov, Bartel, Graham, Miller, as well as Roger Corman and Joe Dante, had all previously appeared together in the Bartel-directed Cannonball!)

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 Just a couple months after his appearance in Chopping Mall, the Paisley character would pop up again, this time in the Fred Dekker-directed genre bending Night of the Creeps. Paisley is a cop in this film – a role Miller would end up playing in a majority of his movies. Night of the Creeps is intentionally a very referential film, including naming all of the characters after famous horror directors, having Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger play zombies, and even naming the college the kids go to “Corman University”. So it doesn’t seem as though Paisley is there within the Dante/Corman universe, but rather is being paid homage to by Dekker.

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Finally we have Rebel Highway, a short-lived television program set during the 1950s that aired on Showtime back in the mid-90s. Each episode ran about an hour and half long, and they were each directed by a different genre director – Robert Rodriguez, John Milius, and William Friedkin – just to name a few. Walter Paisley popped up – playing a cop – in the sixth episode entitled, “Shake, Rattle and Rock!”, alongside the aforementioned Mary Woronov and Gerrit Graham. Curiously enough, Joe Dante would end up directing an episode of Rebel Highway, and would even include Dick Miller, yet the character was named “Roy Farrell”. Makes ya wonder.

So there you have it. Seven times Dick Miller has played “Walter Paisley”. A Bucket of Blood was remade in 1995, with Anthony Michael Hall taking over the lead role. But we all know there’s only one Walter Paisley: that guy Dick Miller.