Ghost stories are a rite of passage in every child’s life.
In fact I think the urban legends and myths that are shared among friends, huddled together at sleepovers or on long walks home, are probably just as influential in shaping who we grow up to be as any schoolroom lesson we absorb over the years is. More than just scaring the wits out of us, these stories often equal as cautionary tales and warnings to heed — like D.A.R.E., only effective. Continue reading STUFF THAT SCARED ME: The Ghost from THREE MEN AND A BABY!→
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.
Thanks in part to the massive success of Friday the 13th, the early ’80s saw a surge in horror movies set around the campfire, lovingly known as “backwoods slashers”. The Burning, Mother’s Day, Madman, Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone!, Just Before Dawn, The Forest, The Final Terror, and The Prey were all released before the decade had even reached its halfway point. The trend would all but dry up by the end of the ’80s, the only real notable exceptions being the franchises that had fostered the sub-genre and had outlived the random copycats.
One of those enduring films was Sleepaway Camp, the cult shocker from 1983 that became a surprise success (making $11M off its $350K budget) thanks largely in part to its bizarre climax – which is still being talked about today. Continue reading 13 Days of Sequels: SLEEPAWAY CAMP II→
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→
Joanna and her husband Johnny (who just celebrated their 10 year anniversary in July – congrats, kids!) run the wonderfully-named site Bloody Popcorn. And from what I can tell via their social media presence, we share a lot of similar interests – including cult movies, nostalgia, and a fondness for punk tunes. I knew they were the goods when they sent me an Xmas card with Jason Voorhees on the front last year. Needless to say, I was thrilled that Joanna wanted to contribute a piece to…whatever this is. And she did not disappoint! Without further ado, here is Joanna with a double feature to die for!
SUMMER LOVE: A tribute to weird kiddie camp movies (and puberty)
Living in rural Virginia as an impressionable youngster in the ‘90s meant the video store was vital to accessing life experience (or the tropes therein). Don’t get me wrong, I had a real life—school, friends, hobbies—but living miles away from civilization without a car (or driver’s license) just called for overly-organized social planning. And more than often, I was content to just exist in my bedroom with my TV, VCR, and hundreds of duped tapes. (Don’t tell the FBI.) Continue reading SUMMERTIME SCARES! (Joanna Skrabala / Bloody Popcorn)→
Aloha, mutants! We’re almost two weeks into July and already suffering all the fun things that come along with being smack dab in the middle of summer: blistering heat, back sweat, and frizzy knuckle hair.
Last year around this time I ran a month-long piece, Drive-In Double Feature, where I had readers submit their dream double features if no rules or restrictions applied. I’ll go out on a limb and say it was a minor “hit”, so I’ve decided to do something similar this year: open the doors and allow faithful CV readers to become faithful CV contributors, if only for a month.
Cootiesis an entirely safe, digestible horror-comedy film (more specifically, “zom-com”) that average, passive intakers of horror and comedy will probably enjoy. You know that guy at work, the one who always tells you about new movies you just gotta see — yet you never agree with? He will probably really like this movie and highly endorse it. After all, it’s got that guy from The Office! And zombie kids — whoo boy!
More discerning viewers will probably walk away from Cooties feeling nothing at all, no reaction that is positive or negative. It’s not that there is anything necessarily wrong with Cooties, but there’s nothing particularly right with it either. My ultimate issue with the film is that they took an amusing idea and what could’ve been a subversive, funny movie about zombie kids trying to kill adults — and ended up going a fairly predictable route.
To be fair, it starts out really strong: we’re in a slaughterhouse watching chickens be plucked, sectioned, and run through an industrial grinder, churning out that familiar pink slime, the one that made the headlines a few years ago. But this pink slime is streaked with green: some sort of infectious bacteria which has the potential to turn kids into blood-thirsty monsters.
From there we cut to a bedroom: a sleeping Elijah Wood is rousted by his mom; it’s the first day of school. Only, Elijah isn’t a student — he’s a substitute teacher. A stalled career in Brooklyn as an author sees him back in his home town of Fort Chicken, Illinois (yes, that’s really the name they chose), living at home with mom and teaching elementary school. There, he reconnects with an old classmate — who is now a teacher, too — as well as a handful of other colorful characters on staff.
That toxic chicken meat we saw a few scenes earlier? It’s now in nugget form and being consumed by a little girl at the school. Soon, she turns into a raging zombie, infecting kids left and right, and bedlam briefly ensues. It’s at this point that movie down shifts into auto-pilot: we go from what could’ve been a prime-era Joe Dante or Fred Dekker flick and ease into something more along the lines of something I could see Kevin James or Josh Gad leading.
Zomcoms have an unfortunate history with being unable to find balance. Usually, the straight forward “this is simply a zombie movie but with humor” films are the ones that achieve the most success, both with major audiences as well as cult collectives: Evil Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Braindead, Shaun of the Dead — hell, any goddamn movie with the word “dead” in the title. The ones that fail are the ones that get too clever, too angle-heavy: Fido, Life After Beth, Warm Bodies. Unfortunately, Cooties falls into this latter category and unsuccessfully thinks the simple premise of “zombie schoolkids” can carry an 88 minute movie.
The funniest characters happen to be the two guys that wrote the movie, Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan, playing a kooky science teacher and a cocky vice principal, respectively. They feel the most fleshed out and the most unique of the entire cast. And while the always enjoyable Elijah Wood and Alison Pill are well cast as the main leads of the film, everyone else is a one-joke stock character: Rainn Wilson is the macho guy, Nasim Pedrad is the uptight woman, Jack McBrayer is the gay guy. Jorge Garcia is the stoner, and Peter Kwong is the Asian guy. With the exception of Whannell, Wood, Pill, and Wilson, all the other characters barely have a purpose in the movie. They don’t have important dialogue and aren’t necessary to move the plot along or aid in a resolution. They merely exist to perpetuate their one punchline.
In the end, Cooties has a hard time deciding what kind of comedy it wants to go for. I laughed out loud once when, early in the film, Rainn Wilson clotheslines a little girl while running from a horde of zombie kids. But most of the humor is uneven and — worst of all — very safe. Interesting ideas — like today’s kids lack of respect for authority and our culture’s current obsession with knowing where our food comes from — are only briefly touched on and quickly abandoned, and instead more focus is placed upon the Asian janitor who knows kung-fu. Cheap, easy, and safe, if you ask me.
It’s far from terrible. It’s not just anything, really. I don’t know who it’s aimed at, but if you still pay to see Adam Sandler movies in the theater or think Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson/Jack Black/Ben Stiller are the apex of comedy, then you will probably love this movie. It does have a killer poster, though.