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[Exhumed & Exonerated] ‘Arachnophobia’ (1990)

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 13:01

Every decade has its ups and downs when it comes to cinema, no matter the genre.  Horror fans love to loft on high the output of the ‘30s & ‘40s, the ‘70s & ‘80s, and the more recent decades.  More often than not, however, the 1990s are labeled as the worst decade for the genre.  Not only that, but ‘90s horror tends to be written off as a whole, beyond a handful of undisputed classics.  The purpose of Exhumed & Exonerated: The ‘90s Horror Project, is to refute those accusations by highlighting numerous gems from the decade.  Stone cold classics will be tackled in this column from time to time, but its main purpose will be to seek out lesser-known and/or less-loved titles that I think deserve more attention and respect from fans.  Let the mayhem begin!


Directed by Frank Marshall
Screenplay by Al Williams, Don Jakoby, and Wesley Strick
Produced by Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, and Richard Vane
Starring Jeff Daniels, Harley Jane Kozak, Julian Sands, John Goodman, Brian McNamara, James Handy, Henry Jones, Mark L. Taylor, and Peter Jason
Released on July 18, 1990

The Jennings Family has picked up and moved to the country, leaving behind their metropolitan life in San Francisco for the quiet down home feel of a small rural community of Canaima, California.  The decision was sparked by patriarch Dr. Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) accepting an offer to become the new town physician, as the current one, Dr. Sam Metcalf (Henry Jones) is retiring. Or at least so they thought.

Their lives are instantly throw into turmoil when they find out that Metcalf refuses to hang up his stethoscope just yet, forcing Ross to slowly steal patients away from the aging asshole’s practice. Lucky for the Jennings, matriarch Molly (Harley Jane Kozak) is an accomplished photographer  who can pick up the financial slack. Unlucky for them all, the town has recently been infested with a rare, supremely deadly spawn of spider hailing from Venezuela. Having mated with a local species of arachnid, our insidious eight-legged antagonist is overrunning the town with its children, thereby amping up the quiet town’s mortality rate. It’s up to Ross, an admitted arachnophobe, to help discover the source of these deaths, with the aid of a bumbling town sheriff (James Handy), two entomologists (Julian Sands, Brian McNamara), and a quirky country exterminator (John Goodman).

Man vs. nature has always been a central theme in storytelling. Focusing more specifically on the horror genre, pitting man against beast on the silver screen has been done for decades. The 1950s brought us the (often atomic-fueled) likes of The Deadly Mantis and Them!. The 1970s unleashed the entertaining terrors of Jaws and hordes of imitators (Grizzly, Piranha, Orca, etc.). The 1980s brought us Deadly Eyes, Slugs, The Nest, Venom, and many others.

Spiders in particular have always been a touchstone for the horror genre, often being utilized to randomly goose the audience with a jump scare or wielded under the power of some supernatural force (i.e. The Believers). There are plenty of spider-centric terrors as well, from Tarantula to Kingdom of the Spiders to Eight-Legged Freaks to Big Ass Spider. Others may not agree, but I count Arachnophobia among the best of them.

Given that it is an Amblin production and it was directed by one of his longtime producers, you can certainly feel the Spielberg touch here. The wholesome Americana feel is sprinkled all throughout the film, both in terms of the primary locale and the people that reside within it. Even the most surly of the town’s residents (I.e. the troublesome Dr. Metcalf) is a well-rounded character who clearly has some sound reasons for forgoing his retirement, even if some of them are wholly selfish.

One of the better aspects of it is the fact that, Metcalf and the bullying manbaby of a sheriff aside, the people of Canaima welcome Dr. Jennings and his family with open arms. Even when they start cracking a few jokes at his expense when his first few patients are coincidentally bumped off by spiders (naturally unbeknownst to everyone initially), it’s not done so maliciously. Everyone generally seems to care for one another in the own, even the surlier residents.

Because no one is an outright asshole that you can root to see done in by a venomous assailant, it gives the deaths greater impact. That even holds true when some of the kills are meant to be comical, such as the “murder” of the town mortician and his wife. This makes their deaths not only humorously tragic, but also a bit disturbing due to the black humor inherent in their particular scenario. After revisiting it, I certainly thought twice about tossing food into my mouth from a bowl without looking first.

Films of this type also often paint scientists as cold-hearted bastards who care little for the lives of others when knowledge is at stake. Not so here. Chris Collins (Brian McNamara) is very much concerned about the town’s populace after realizing the danger at hand, immediately calling his boss James Atherton (Julian Sands) in on the proceedings. As for Atherton himself, while there is a bit of a detached way about him, most of that comes from the character being played by Sands, who has always had an otherworldly quality about him. No, Atherton is fascinated by what is going on, but his primary concern from the onset is to seek out the central nest and end the threat to Canaima as quickly as possible.

Character is always essential in these types of films, as you can only demonize as non-speaking, naturally-occurring “villain” so much. It’s not like some weird monster is on the loose. These are spiders, something that virtually everyone deals with regularly in their lives, no matter where they live. Still, director Frank Marshall manages to squeeze a lot of tension and dread out of the primary eight-legged adversary, aiding no doubt by some fun SFX work, as well as real life spiders.

Jeff Daniels has always been an actor I have enjoyed and he’s great here as the straight man amidst a collection of quirkier character actors. Kozak is equally wonderful as his ever-supportive wife. In addition to Sands, who is typically great, we also have John Carpenter regular Peter Jason as a delightfully stereotypical town football coach/high school gym teacher, The cherry on top, however, is John Goodman.

Featured as the aforementioned offbeat town exterminator, Delbert McClintock (love that name!), Goodman is the MVP of them film. He’s your prototypical “good ole boy”, strutting into all of his scenes with high confidence and a know-it-all attitude that it a tiny bit condescending, but not enough to be off-putting. You can tell that they just turned Goodman loose to inhabit his role and that he had a blast filling it out.

On the “scare” side of things, this film isn’t really interested in going for terror. As an early ‘90s effort, it’s instead going for a rollercoaster thrill ride vibe. Hell, it was actually advertised as a “thrillomedy” upon release. As a result, Arachnophobia wants to goose you and/or creep you out more than scare you to death. Unless you yourself have the titular phobia, in which case they already had you in the bag before you pressed play. Not all horror has to be scary, so long as it’s fun. Arachnophobia was a lot of fun 26 years ago and it remains a lot of fun today.

Up Next: ???

Previously On…
Species | Mute Witness | Popcorn | Wishmaster | Alien 3 | Cast A Deadly Spell
Disturbing Behavior | The Sect | The Addams Family | The Ugly
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer | Arachnophobia


Categories: Horror News

Syfy’s “Channel Zero” Clip Remembers Jawbone; Nightmarish Art

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 12:45

A new clip from Syfy’s “Channel Zero: Candle Cove” remembers Jawbone, who could become a new horror icon, while the art shows us more of the tooth monster that’s apparently a huge part of the debut season’s theme.

“Candle Cover” is an original six-part anthology series based on Kris Straub’s unnerving short story from creepypasta that gained notoriety online. It centers on one man’s obsessive recollection of a mysterious children’s television program from the 1980s – and his ever-growing, dreadful suspicions about the role it might have played in a series of nightmarish and deadly events from his childhood.

Independent filmmaker Craig William Macneill directs all six episodes of “Channel Zero: Candle Cove,” which hails from Universal Cable Productions. Nick Antosca (“Hannibal”) wrote the pilot and will serve as showrunner and executive producer alongside Max Landis (Victor Frankenstein, Chronicle).  Harley Peyton (“Twin Peaks”) is writer-co-executive producer. Don Mancini (“Hannibal”, creator of Child’s Play) also serves as a writer-supervising producer.

“Channel Zero: Candle Cove” stars “Newsroom’s” Paul Schneider and Harry Potter‘s Fiona Shaw.

It premieres September 27th.

Categories: Horror News

Exclusive ‘Demon’ Clip Starts a Wedding Brawl

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 12:38

The Orchard, who released our “Twilight Zone”-esque thriller Southbound, as well as the hilarious What We Do in the Shadows, acquired the critically acclaimed genre drama Demon (read our review) after a strong festival run.

Wrona shockingly passed away this September after the film held its World Premiere at the Vanguard section of the 40th Toronto International Film Festival.

In the film, “Peter is a stranger in the hometown of his future wife Janet. As a wedding gift from the bride’s grandfather, he receives a piece of land where the two can build a house and raise a happy family. While preparing the land for construction, Peter finds hidden bones of human bodies in the ground beneath his new property. Then very strange things begin to happen.

Anyways, we have an exclusive clip from Marcin Wrona’s Demon, which hails out of Poland and Israel.

The film is now in limited theaters.

Please enable Javascript to watch this video

Categories: Horror News

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler Talks ‘Happy Birthday’ (Exclusive)

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 12:01

Aerosmith fans are in for a treat when frontman Steven Tyler appears in Casey Tebo’s indie horror Happy Birthday (read our review), about two friends who embark on a journey to Mexicali for a Birthday celebration, only to soon realize their psychedelic shenanigans have taken a turn for the worse.

We caught up with Tyler in an exclusive interview to chat about his role in Happy Birthday, which he calls “A crazy f*cking 90 minute ride you wont forget.

BD LUIZ: What’s your favourite movie and why? Bonus points if it’s a scary one.

“The stock answer would be YOUNG FRANKENSTIEN (because of “Walk This Way”), but I don’t know, I’m so in love with all these comic book movies that come out every year. How about The Avengers? I mean, a bunch of people with special talents who are good alone but better as a group and who need each other, but also at times can’t stand each other? Like I don’t know – a band? YA THINK?!”

BD LUIZ: Beyond music and film, what other art forms do you enjoy?

“One of the perks of being in a band like Aerosmith is you get to travel the world, so my house is full of everything from Wizard of Oz snow globes and lunchboxes, to Inui carvings. I love it all, honestly.”

BD LUIZ: While playing Kasape Suka in Happy Birthday, were you influenced by any personal experiences?

“Here’s the thing about the Mexican people and Mexico. It’s not like people think. It’s not dirty, and dangerous. Sure, there are parts but so are parts of the U.S.. Ever been to Guadalajara or Monterrey? Gorgeous. Super Cosmopolitan – amazing nightlife and restaurants, commerce, retail…. Casey has a quote in the movie about Americans views on Mexico, it’s skewed- so when he told me some people on YouTube were criticizing him for making Mexicali look “dangerous” it just made me laugh. Have these people seen the movie? How do you even know they’re actually in Mexicali?!?!? Come on YouTubers. Mexico is amazing if you know it like we do. We go down there and there’s 80,000 kids packed in a soccer stadium because they love rock and roll. So yeah, I drew inspiration from those amazing kids.”

BD LUIZ: Did your experience with the Aerosmith music videos and behind-the-scenes documentaries help with your performance, or is it just natural showbiz talent?

“I’ve been on enough movie sets and done enough videos to know it all starts with the director. Have you seen the video for ‘Janie’s Got a Gun?’ – David Fincher directed that, and you can clearly see that. He’s also very serious as is it was our most serious video. Casey kept a great atmosphere. He played lots of loud music, and had lots of laughing; it creates a bond, you know? But really he has just a great work ethic, and I think that shows in the movie.”

BD LUIZ: Do you have any plans to make more films with Casey Tebo? I really enjoyed Happy Birthday and would be delighted to see you guys working together again.

“Absolutely. I think his next feature is a sci-fi film based on his short “The Captivus 2.0″ – And that just blew my mind. I get to play a junk yard proprietor or bartender type. He said something about it last time we spoke. I guess I can only be worried when he does a sports movie or something like that. But I could be a surly Texas oil man who owns a team, why not?”

BD LUIZ: What’s your favourite use of your music in film and/or television so far?

“I think it would be ridiculous for me to say anything other than Armageddon. I mean, that movie did a lot for us as far as that song being a huge hit… And the fact that my daughter was in that scene with Ben Affleck…I mean, that has to be the one, right?”

BD LUIZ: Can we expect to see more of you in movies in the future (excluding appearances as yourself)?

“I would love to… But it’s crazy, you know, a guy like me… I’m going to be on tour for most of 2017… so if somebody calls me to play a pawn shop owner in the new Flash movie, what can I do?”

Categories: Horror News

Arrow Video Announces ‘Creepshow 2’ Blu-Ray: Reveal GORGEOUS Artwork

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 11:46

Arrow Video has announced today that they will be releasing a 2K remastered edition of Creepshow 2, the 1987 anthology horror film written by George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and based upon stories from Stephen King (It, Carrie). The home video edition will be packed with special features, including audio commentary from director Michael Gornick, a featurette of special make-up FX legend Rick Baker, and more. The full list of features can be seen below.

In “Old Chief Wood’nhead”, a group of young hoodlums face retribution from an unlikely source after looting a local hardware store. Meanwhile, “The Raft” sees a group of horny teens wishing they’d read the warning signs first before taking a dip in a remote lake. Finally, an uptight businesswoman finds herself with some unwanted company following a hit-and-run incident in “The Hitch-hiker”.

Whilst retaining the EC comic book flavour that made the original such a hit, Creepshow 2, this time directed by long-time Romero collaborator Michael Gornick, is a decidedly darker and grimmer affair than its predecessor and remains one of the greatest horror anthologies of all time.

Arrow Video will be releasing Creepshow 2 on December 13th for North American audiences.

•Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
•High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
•Original stereo audio
•Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
•Creepshow 2: Pinfall – limited edition booklet featuring the never-before-seen comic adaptation of this unfilmed Creepshow 2 segment by artist Jason Mayoh
•Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick, moderated by Perry Martin
•Nightmares in Foam Rubber – featurette with special make-up effects artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero
•My Friend Rick – Berger on working with make-up legend Rick Baker
•Behind-the-Scenes Footage
•Trailers and TV Spots
•Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Blyth
•Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Mike Saputo
•Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
•High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
•Original stereo audio
•Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
•Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick, moderated by Perry Martin
•Nightmares in Foam Rubber – featurette with special make-up effects artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero
•My Friend Rick – Berger on working with make-up legend Rick Baker
•Behind-the-Scenes Footage
•Trailers and TV Spots
•Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Mike Saputo

Categories: Horror News

London Home For Sale Includes a Horror Room We’d All Love to Own

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 11:20

Anyone who has searched for a house to buy knows just how tiring it can be. After all, this is the place you’re going to plant your feet for several years, so you want to make sure that you enjoy yourself and really feel, well…at home! But once you find that special spot, you feel it in your bones

A home in London’s Upper Leytonshire area has gone up for sale and it’s quite massive. Seriously, there are 13 rooms set over four floors, which is probably why the price tag is a hefty £1.2 million. But when you look at the photos, you see all sorts of potential. Just look at the outside!

Or how about this quaint room with a sink and stove in the corner?

Or this living room with an atrocious carpet but large window?

Or this room dedicated to horror memorabilia and prop knives, swords, and guns?

Wait, what?!

Yeah, that’s right. This house has a guest room that is dedicated to all things horror and creepy. The Freddy and Michael statues loom over a bed that I’m guessing few people would willingly sleep upon. However, I’m not one of those folk. Count me in!

That room reminds me of a friend of mine who decided that his guest bedroom needed to be something a bit “special”. Here’s the story: A friend of his was over and everyone had a little bit too much to drink. The friend is a responsible adult, so he asked if he could crash the night, to which my pal said, “Of course!” So, with those plans laid out, they kept drinking and eventually the friend passed out without making it to the spare bed.

My pal carried him up to the guest bedroom and put him on the bed. The friend woke up the next morning to find that he was in a room with no furniture except for the bed which was suspended from the ceiling by chains! The walls, which were bright white, had splashes of red and “bloody” handprints all over. My pal thought it was hilarious. His friend? Not so much.

I wish my friend still had that room setup. Alas, he had a kid and they needed the room.

Thanks to Andrew Fox for the tip!

Categories: Horror News

Remembering McFarlane’s Movie Maniacs Toy Line

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 11:01

There’s a good chance that the first action figure you ever bought of your favorite horror movie icon came courtesy of Todd McFarlane and his once-mega-popular Movie Maniacs line. Long before companies like NECA, Mezco, and Sideshow Collectibles came along and gave more love to the horror genre than any other toy companies in history, McFarlane Toys was not just the dominant player in the game but, well, the ONLY player in the game.

Not to bore you with historical facts, but the basis genesis of McFarlane Toys is that the company was born out of Todd McFarlane’s dissatisfaction with Mattel. Once upon a time, McFarlane was working with Mattel to create action figures of his comic book characters like Spawn, and when that whole deal just didn’t work out for him, Todd took matters into his hands and launched a toy division of his own. That was back in the mid ’90s, and it was in the late ’90s that the Movie Maniacs line was born.

In the wake of putting his own spin on iconic movie monsters from the distant past, McFarlane began acquiring popular modern horror licenses for the Movie Maniacs line, launched in 1998. The first series, which revolutionized the toy game by bringing highly detailed action figures of beloved horror movie characters to the toy shelf for the first time, included Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Freddy Krueger, and both Eve and Patrick from Species 2 – firmly establishing that the line was devoted exclusively to horror and science fiction villains. There were even “rated R” variants of Leatherface, Jason, and Eve; Leatherface and Jason were covered in blood, while Eve’s nipples, unlike the regular version of the toy, were on full display.

Nobody ever said these were for kids. In fact, it’s cause they weren’t that they were so awesome.

Movie Maniacs Series 2, released in 1999, added Chucky, Ghost Face, Norman Bates, Michael Myers, and Pumpkinhead to the mix, and they were joined by The Crow‘s Eric Draven. Granted, Draven isn’t exactly a “Movie Maniac,” but the second series took the line down a path that it continued on until it eventually came to an end. Essentially, any character from a horror, sci-fi, cult or fantasy film was eligible, though the primary target audience always remained us horror fans.

In Series 3, Ash Williams, Edward Scissorhands, Shaft, Snake Plissken, Brundle Fly, and The Thing‘s Norris Creature (joined by Spider-Head) and Blair Monster were immortalized as Movie Maniacs. Series 4 brought the first and only Candyman toy into the world, along with Evil Ash, a new figure of Freddy Krueger, Terminator 2‘s T-800 and T-1000, and most notably, two different versions of the titular Blair Witch: “Tree Witch” and “Dread Witch.” Of course, the character was never actually seen in the original film, or its sequel, leading to much confusion among fans. Long story short, McFarlane was given free rein to design the unseen character.

For the fifth series, McFarlane and his team brought horror villains like Wishmaster‘s Djinn, the Tooth Fairy from Darkness Falls (open-mouthed and closed-mouth versions were released) and even Jason X‘s iteration of Jason Voorhees to the table, along with the Lord of Darkness from Legend, a few different versions of Sarah Conner, and the T-800 Endoskeleton. Series 6 was all about the Alien and Predator franchises, and it included Alien 3‘s Dog Alien and Alien: Resurrection‘s Warrior Alien, as well as Predator 2‘s standard Predator and Predator Hunter. Due to high demand, Lord of Darkness was also re-released in Series 6, and the figure this time around included a detailed collector’s base.

The Movie Maniacs line met its end in 2004, with the seventh series being its final hurrah. Corporal Hicks from Aliens made it into the line along with, finally, Robocop, but the last series was mostly devoted to the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Leatherface, Erin, Old Monty and Sheriff Hoyt made the cut, each of them packaged with dioramas and bases.

In addition to the standard wave of Movie Maniacs, various other collectibles were released under the umbrella. Deluxe figures of Ash, Freddy, Chucky, Michael Myers and Leatherface upgraded the movie icons to 12″ and 18″ sizes, and box sets paid tribute to movies like Freddy vs. Jason (long before the movie was actually made), Bride of Chucky, King Kong, Aliens and Jaws. There were also various exclusive figures, including Army of Darkness-inspired “Ash vs. Pit Witch” and “Ash vs. Evil Ash” two-packs.

One could argue that horror toys are better than ever in the present, and you damn sure won’t find me disputing that claim, but you never forget your first. And for most of us fans, McFarlane Toys’ Movie Maniacs line allowed us to collect our favorite monsters and madmen for the very first time. Eighteen years later, many of the villains that filled out the line have still never been given any love by other companies, and it’s for this reason that we will forever cherish what Todd and his team gifted us with back in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

Today, McFarlane Toys is focused more on The Walking Dead than anything else, but without their Movie Maniacs, who’s to say that horror toys would even be as popular as they are right now? Without Movie Maniacs, companies like NECA may not even exist.

Behind every great thing is a pioneer that made it all possible, and in the world of horror movie toys, McFarlane’s Movie Maniacs was unquestionably that pioneer.

Check out some of our favorite Movie Maniacs toys below!

Categories: Horror News

Red Fang Pay Homage to ‘Predator’ in This Incredible and Gory Music Video!

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 10:15

Hard rock/metal band Red Fang are known for their highly entertaining music videos. Whether it be running over a bunch of shit, facing the zombie apocalypse while holding onto their beers, or LARP-ing it up in beer can armor, the group has always produced videos that are outrageous and, simply put, pure fun. Their latest video for their song “Shadows” is no exception.

Directed by Whitey McConnaughy, the video is a comedic spoof of John McTiernan’s classic sci-fi action thriller Predator, only instead of soldiers being sent in under false pretenses, the band go on a mellow (“SO mellow!”) camping trip. However, before they left, they pissed off the wrong people…

The video is super gory, damn funny, and well worth your time, so head on down to check it out!

“Shadows” coms from Red Fang’s upcoming album Only Ghosts, which comes out October 14th via Relapse Records. You can pre-order the album right here.

Upcoming tour dates:
September 22 Portland, OR Northwest Hesh Fest
September 26 Brighton, UK Concorde 2
September 27 London, UK Koko
September 28 Bristol, UK Bierkeller
September 29 Leeds, UK Leeds Stylus
September 30 Manchester, UK Manchester Academy 2
October 2 Birmingham, UK Institute2
October 3 Glasgow, UK Garage
October 4 Newcastle, UK Riverside
October 5 Southampton, UK Engine Rooms
October 7 Athens, Greece Desert Fest
October 9 Paris, France Trabendo
October 10 Munich, Germany Strom
October 11 Vienna, Austria Szene Wien
October 12 Berlin, Germany Huxleys
October 13 Cologne, Germany Essigfabrik
October 14 Antwerp, Belgium Desert Fest
October 15 Leipzig, Germany Conne Island
October 16 Hamburg, Germany Markethalle
October 18 Odense, Denmark Posten
October 19 Oslo, Norway John Dee
October 20 Stockholm, Sweden Debaser Medis
October 21 Malmo, Sweden KB
October 22 Munster, Germany Skater’s Place
October 23 Karlsruhe, Germany Substage
October 24 Amsterdam, Netherlands Melkweg (OZ)

November 18 San Francisco, CA Slim’s
November 19 Pomona, CA Glasshouse
November 20 Los Angeles, CA Teragram Ballroom
November 22 San Diego, CA Casbah
November 23 Phoenix, AZ Rebel Lounge
November 25 Austin, TX Mohawk
November 26 Dallas, TX Three Links
November 27 Houston, TX Warehouse Studio
November 29 Atlanta, GA Masquerade (Hell)
November 30 Durham, NC Motorco
December 1 Washington, DC Rock and Roll Hotel
December 2 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
December 3 Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg
December 4 Boston, MA The Sinclair
December 5 New York, NY Mercury Lounge
December 7 Pittsburgh, PA Spirit Lounge
December 8 Cleveland, OH Beachland Ballroom
December 9 Detroit, MI El Club
December 10 Chicago, IL Metro
December 11 Bloomington, IL Castle Theater
December 13 Denver, CO Bluebird Theater
December 14 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge
December 15 Boise, ID Neurolux
December 16 Seattle, WA Showbox

Categories: Horror News

‘Hobgoblins,’ ‘Deathrow Gameshow’ and More Coming to Blu-ray this October!

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 10:01

Vinegar Syndrome has announced their Blu-ray releases for October and they are delivering four treats just in time for Halloween! On October 25th VS will be releasing Blu-ray/DVD combo packs for Hobgoblins, Deathrow Gameshow, Nightmare Sisters and a David DeCoteau double feature of Murder Weapon & Deadly Justice.

This lineup is, wow. I don’t know where to begin. Hobgoblins is probably what I’m most looking forward to, but how do you top three DeCoteau films all starring Linnea Quigley? We’re living in a golden age, folks. A real golden age.


Kevin just got hired to be the assistant night watchman at an old film vault. Warned to stay out of one mysterious chamber, the rookie guard can’t help but satisfy his curiosity and unwittingly unleashes a group of hobgoblins: furry aliens who grant people wishes only to kill them in the process. As the body count starts to rise, Kevin, with the help of his friends, decide to track down the deadly creatures before they wreak havoc on the city.
Director Rick Sloane’s cult classic and Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan favorite is a sleazy, low rent tribute to creature features and drive-in fare. Long available only in tape-sourced editions, Vinegar Syndrome presents HOBGOBLINS on Blu-ray newly restored from its original 35mm camera negative.

• All extras on both disc formats
• Region free Blu-ray and DVD combo pack
• Scanned, restored & preserved in 2k from 35mm original camera negative
• Archival commentary track with director Rick Sloane
• “Hobgoblins Revisited” brand new making-of featurette
• Brand new interview with hobgoblin creature fabricator, Kenneth J. Hall
• “Hobgoblins: The Making of a Disasterpiece” featurette
• “Hobgoblins Invade Comic-Con” featurette
• Trailer
• Reversible cover artwork
• English SDH Subtitles


Chuck Toedan hosts the most controversial show on TV: Live or Die, where deathrow inmates compete against each other for a chance to beat the executioner.
However, when he accidentally kills a mob boss of the most feared mafia in the city, a hit man tries to put an end to him and his show once and for all. As a battle of wits and survival ensues, Chuck is forced to engage in the very tactics he uses on his contestants, or die trying.
From acclaimed independent filmmaker Mark Pirro, DEATHROW GAMESHOW is a playful assault against good taste, featuring outrageous kills and non-stop screwball comedy. Vinegar Syndrome is proud to present this under seen piece of late 80s camp newly restored in 2K and on Blu-ray for the first time.

• All extras on both disc formats
• Region free Blu-ray and DVD combo pack
• Scanned, restored & preserved in 2k from 35mm original camera negative
• Commentary track with director Mark Pirro, John McCafferty (actor) & Robyn Blythe (actress)
• “Revisiting Deathrow Gameshow” – 32 minute making-of documentary
• 2015 director’s cut of DEATHROW GAMESHOW
• Multiple director introductions
• “Buns” 1978 (short film directed by Mark Pirro)
• “The Spy Who Did it Better” 1979 (short film directed by Mark Pirro)
• Original theatrical trailer
• TV spot
• Image gallery
• Director bio
• Reversible cover artwork
• English SDH Subtitles


Three plain looking sorority sisters (Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer) decide to host a séance and invite their nerdy boyfriends to enjoy the fun. But when Omar (Dukey Flyswatter), a mystical shaman, suddenly appears in their crystal ball and tricks the girls into touching him, they’re suddenly transformed into ravishing succubi, determined to suck more than just souls. Will the guys be able to stop the madness before it’s too late?
Director David DeCoteau’s sexy horror comedy, NIGHTMARE SISTERS, is a non-stop thrill ride of outrageous 80s trash, starring three of the biggest names in scream queen history. Vinegar Syndrome is proud to bring NIGHTMARE SISTERS to Blu-ray for the first time anywhere in the world, newly restored from its original 35mm camera negative!

• All extras on both disc formats
• Region free Blu-ray and DVD combo pack.
• Scanned, restored & preserved in 2k from 35mm original camera negative
• Commentary track with director David DeCoteau & actress Linnea Quigley
• Director introduction
• Alternate feature length TV version
• Interview with writer / associate producer Kenneth J. Hall
• Bloopers / outtakes
• Reversible cover artwork
• English SDH Subtitles


The beautiful Linnea Quigley stars in two erotic thrillers from filmmaker David DeCoteau.
First, in MURDER WEAPON, two women, who have just been released from an asylum hold a party to reunite with their old boyfriends. Soon though a mysterious black clad killer begins murdering the boys in increasingly gruesome ways. Can the murderer be unmasked before it’s too late?
Then, in DEADLY EMBRACE, a lonely and under-sexed housewife hires a studly houseman, only to begin an affair with him. But when his actress girlfriend (Linnea Quigley) comes to visit, as well as her wealthy husband (Jan-Michael Vincent), things start happening that no one would have expected…
Never released theatrically, Vinegar Syndrome is proud to have restored these nudity and blood filled direct to video classics from their long lost 16mm camera negatives and bring them to Blu-ray for the first time.

• All extras on both disc formats
• Region free Blu-ray and DVD combo pack
• Scanned, restored & preserved in 2k from 16mm original camera negatives
• Commentary track with director David DeCoteau & actress Linnea Quigley on both films
• Director introduction for both films
• Video trailer for MURDER WEAPON
• Outtakes for DEADLY EMBRACE
• Reversible cover artwork
• English SDH Subtitles

Categories: Horror News

Fresh Images From Rob Zombie’s ’31’ to Go With UK Release News

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 09:56

Rob Zombie’s 31 arrives in the U.S. on VOD platforms September 16 and in limited theaters October 21, while we’ve just learned that UK readers can rent it on VOD September 23.

We now have even more images from the Halloween-themed slasher starring Sheri Moon Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween), Malcolm McDowell (“Mozart in the Jungle”, A Clockwork Orange), Jeff Daniel Phillips (The Lords of Salem) and Meg Foster (The Lords of Salem).

We reviewed 31 out of its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, where Fred Topel writes:

“’31’ is Rob Zombie’s ‘The Running Man’ and it works…It’s fast-paced, violent and fun.

“It is a harrowing ordeal and you know that anyone who even survives will be traumatized for life. It’s not hard to get behind a desperate fight for your life. Set on Halloween 1976, a classic rock soundtrack propels a lot of the violence. It seems Zombie found the sweet spot between his punishing aesthetic and letting the audience have a rewarding catharsis by the end.”

In the film, five carnival workers are kidnapped and held hostage in an abandoned, Hell-like compound where they are forced to participate in a violent game, the goal of which is to survive twelve hours against a gang of sadistic clowns.

Categories: Horror News

Jovanka Vuckovic Heads to the Apocalypse With ‘Riot Girls’!

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 09:32

Clique Pictures producer Lauren Grant announced today that XX director Jovanka Vuckovic will be at the helm for the feature film Riot Girls, Bloody Disgusting learned.

Set in a world where adults have mysteriously died and resources are scarce, Riot Girls tells the story of a teenage girl who is called to action when her brother is captured by rivals and set to be executed. Joined by the girl who has always loved her, and the boy who wants to love her, the threesome tear through the crumbling suburbs on a violent road marked by betrayal, sexual discovery, and brutal justice.

Vuckovic won the 2012 Fantasia Film Festival Best Short award for The Captured Bird (pictured), which was executive produced by Guillermo del Toro. She also wrote and directed a segment for XX, the groundbreaking all-female horror anthology produced by XYZ Films to be released by Magnet Releasing in 2017. She’s scheduled to direct the feature adaptation of Clive Barker’s Jacqueline Ess as well as All My Heroes Are Dead, a thriller based on an original screenplay by Vuckovic.

“I’ve always been attracted to films that break the rules,” says Vuckovic. “Riot Girls isn’t a simple post apocalypse tale, a violent survivalist horror story, a queer romance, or a kids adventure film – it’s all of those things blended together beautifully. I look forward to bringing Katherine’s genre-bending, coming-of-rage love story to life onscreen.”

Riot Girls is written by Katherine Collins, who is currently working on the upcoming Netflix series Lost In Space to be directed by Neil Marshall and was a writer on the first season of the NBC hit Blindspot.

Riot Girls is currently casting.

Categories: Horror News

Latest “American Horror Story ?6” Promo Suggests It’s All Been an Illusion

Fri, 09/09/2016 - 01:15

A brand new promo for FX’s “American Horror Story ?6” has been released and it mixes footage from pretty much every single promo that has already come out for the sixth season. The video uses music from star Lady Gaga’s brand new single “Perfect Illusion”, which you can hear below, which brings up the possibility that everything we’ve seen so far has been a misdirection, even though both TV Guide and Comcast/Xfinity have both suggested that the theme is based upon the promo titled “The Mist“. I guess we’ll have to wait and see when “American Horror Story” premieres next Wednesday, September 14th.

FX CEO John Landgraf explained that when it comes to the teasers, “One is accurate; all the rest are misdirect.” He continued, “We decided, Ryan [Murphy] and I and [marketing president] Stephanie Gibbons, that it would be really fun this year…to keep it a mystery. There is a theme and a setting and a place and time, but we’re not going to reveal it,” per IndieWire.

Sarah Paulson joins Lady Gaga, Kathy Bates, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Romika Annabell Osorio. We’re still waiting to hear if Angela Bassett, Denis O’Hare, Matt Bomer, Wes Bentley, Cheyenne Jackson or Finn Wittrock will return.

Categories: Horror News

Remember That Anne Hathaway Giant Monster Movie? Here’s a First Look at…Not Much

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 20:32

Just a few days ago, we posted that the giant monster film Colossal would be having its world premiere at TIFF. Directed by Nacho Vigalondo (Extraterrestrial, VHS Viral, Timecrimes) and starring Anne Hathaway, the film has been on our radar for well over a year and we’re excited to learn more about it!

However, the latest news from EW doesn’t really offer all that much information and their first look, which you can see below, offers basically nothing. The photo shows Hathaway and co-star Jason Sudeikis at a bar with both looking rather bored. Wahoo.

Meanwhile, Vigalondo tells the site, “The movie’s coming from my obvious love towards monster movies, and I was always intrigued by the possibility of setting a monster movie story in a human scale. This is a monster movie that collides with a small indie drama, which is an interesting collision

The story follows a woman who moves back to her hometown after losing her job and boyfriend in New York, only to discover that she is somehow strangely connected to a giant creature that has materialized over Seoul and is wreaking havoc on the city.”

The film ran into some issues in May of 2015 when it was slapped with a lawsuit that alleged it was an “unauthorized Godzilla film.

Updated with the first clip, which Vigalondo teases to Deadline, “This is from an early part of the film, and shows how Anne and Oscar evolve while the world is in shock. As in real life, massive destruction and faraway tragedies don´t stop our everyday.”

Categories: Horror News

WORLD OF DEATH EP10 – “Manhood” / “The Table”

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 20:00

Sexual exploration is a typical part of anyone’s forge through maturity. Many people welcome a new position, role playing, even toys or props to help keep things “spicy” in the bedroom. In our first short film, “Manhood” we find our main character at the tail end of a dead body trying to get his rocks off. Though definitely not considered “acceptable” by societal standard, he seems to think this is a perfectly good way to fulfill his sexual desires. He thought wrong. Matt Hanchey’s well-shot short film shows us that it’s always best to ask permission first!

Shane Free’s “The Table” shows us the lighter side of death. Wait, is that even possible? In World of Death, anything is possible! A man purchases an antique table for his dining room and is a little too late making a grim discovery as to the original intentions of this particular piece of furniture. “The Table” is a perfect blend of comedy and gore for anyone out there looking for a laugh… and plenty of blood.

World of Death is the web series that fans of independent horror have been waiting for.  Featuring short horror films from all over the globe created by the largest variety of talent that a collection has ever been able to boast, WOD provides plenty of blood, guts, screams and laughs for all fans of the macabre.  And with episodes averaging around eight minutes in length, WOD is the perfect entertainment for a fan base constantly on the go.  Watch it anywhere, at any time, for FREE! New episodes premiere every Monday and Thursday at 7pm CST.


Meet the Filmmakers

Matthew Hanchey of Los Angeles has been working professionally in the industry since about 2010. A Nightmare on Elm Street is without a doubt his favorite horror movie, adding “Nothing comes close.” He currently pays the bills by working on major network TV shows, but you can follow his personal production company at

Shane Free is also from Los Angeles and has been making movies since he was 8 years old. He recently distributed the feature documentary “Hex Hollow: Witchcraft and Murder in Pennsylvania”, which is a true crime story about a farmer in 1928 who was murdered because three men thought he was a witch. It’s currently available on iTunes, Amazon and DVD, more info can be found at

Categories: Horror News

Kate Beckinsale’s Kid Needs to Learn How to Wash His Hands in This ‘The Disappointments Room’ Clip

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 19:44

A new clip from The Disappointments Room has been released and it shows Kate Beckinsale waking up from a nap to see her son staring out her bedroom window. After reassuring him that everything is okay, both are suddenly spooked because his hands are covered in filth. C’mon, they don’t have a bottle of Purell laying around somewhere?

In this psychological thriller from the director of Eagle Eye and Disturbia, Dana and David move from Brooklyn to a once-grand southern mansion with their 5 year old son looking for a fresh start. But Dana’s discovery of a secret room unleashes unexplainable events that test her sanity and slowly reveal the home’s terrifying past.

Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, Total Recall, Mel Raido (Legend), with Gerald McRaney (Focus, The Best of Me) and Lucas Till (X-Men: Apocalypse, TV’s “MacGyver”) round out D.J. Caruso’s (Disturbia, Eagle Eye) all-star cast.

The Disappointments Room is unlocked on September 9th. You can watch the trailer here.

Categories: Horror News

Fede Alvarez’s ‘Evil Dead’ Getting Blu-Ray Director’s Cut

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 19:19

Fede Alvarez is riding high right now after topping the box office two weeks in a row with his horror/thriller Don’t Breathe (review), which I personally loved.

A few days ago, Alvarez was interviewed by Altapeli, where he spoke about the film and also his previous film, 2013’s Evil Dead, where he let slip something very exciting…

[The ‘Evil Dead’] extended cut will come out on blu-ray. Just a few hours ago we talked about the study and it seems that Halloween will be available,” Alvarez tells the site. An extended version aired in the UK back in early 2015 but was a mistake as the distributor apparently sent the wrong master for broadcasting purposes.

This is exciting news as fans have been wanting an extended version ever since the film came out and it looks like now it’s going to happen! We’ll be keeping our eyes and ears open for an official announcement with a release date.

Categories: Horror News

Sohn Releases “Signal” Video Directed By and Starring Milla Jovovich

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 18:57

British-born, Vienna-residing electronic artist Sohn has released a video for his new single “Signals”. The video, which was directed by and stars Resident Evil and The Fifth Element star Milla Jovovich, is a one-take shot of Jovovich with herself projected behind her. The Milla in the forefront is clean and polished while the one projected has makeup running down her face because of tears. It’s a stark clip and one that embraces the dynamic emotions of the song.

Sohn tells Stereogum, “I sent Milla some of my new music while she was in Paris — we got on the phone and she had these beautiful visions of what “Signal” could be visually. It was really clear that she would be the perfect person to bring it to life and it became a real collaboration between friends and artists. We ended up with this incredible, emotional one-take video that just blew me away as I saw it unfold live. As an actor and a director, I feel like Milla somehow managed to translate the heart of the music into images on screen… The performance is so gripping, and the motion and beauty of the shot just blows me away.

Jovovich also explained to the site:

Once I started thinking about how to bring the original concept to life, I became obsessed with bringing projections into the mix. I felt like we could bring the viewer into the mind of the character I was portraying through the different projections, both behind me and on my body, that would be both emotional and visually exciting. What happened on the day was absolute magic; one of the takes was so powerful and really told the story so well that SOHN knew we had the video for his song right then, on the day, totally live. This was something he had wanted right from our first conversations, to make the video completely analog and real and to somehow be able to shoot everything in one take. It is a testament to the focus and skill of our amazing DP Vern Nobles and his crew that we were able to capture the soul of the song in such a seemingly effortless way; no cuts, no tricks. I am so excited that SOHN trusted me to visually bring his music to life and so proud that I was able to put the team together who made this video possible.

Sohn’s Signal can be purchased via iTunes.

Categories: Horror News

New Poster for ‘In a Valley of Violence’ Pits Light Against Dark

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 17:01

We’ve been covering In a Valley of Violence (review), the upcoming non-horror Western, because it hails from Ti West, who has brought us such fantastic films as House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, and The Sacrament. Sure, it doesn’t fall under the horror umbrella but we’re thrilled to see him expand and push his craft in what appears to be a very solid film, one that our own Trace hails as, “…a lot of fun and hilarious to boot.

Today, a new poster for the film came out and it shows Ethan Hawke and John Travolta right around the corner from each other, each with their weapons drawn and ready. You can see it down below.

A mysterious drifter named Paul (Ethan Hawke) and his dog make their way towards Mexico through the barren desert of the old west. In an attempt to shorten their journey, they cut through the center of a large valley — landing themselves in the forgotten town of Denton, a place now dubbed by locals as a “valley of violence.” The once-popular mining town is nearly abandoned and controlled by a brash group of misfits — chief among them Gilly (James Ransone), the troublemaking son of the town’s Marshal (John Travolta).

As tensions rise between Paul and Gilly, Denton’s remaining residents bear witness to an inevitable act of violence that starts a disastrous chain reaction, infecting the petty lives of all involved and quickly drags the whole town into the bloody crosshairs of revenge. Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga) and Ellen (Karen Gillan), two bickering sisters who run the town’s only hotel, try to find the good in both men, while desperately searching for their own salvation. Only the world-weary Marshal struggles to stop the violent hysteria, but after a gruesome discovery about Paul’s past… there is no stopping the escalation.

West wrote, directed and even edited the film, which stars Ethan Hawke, James Ransone, Taissa Farmiga, Karen Gillan, and John Travolta.

In a Valley of Violence will release theatrically in select cities and on VOD and Digital HD by Focus World on October 21, 2016.

Cheers to BMD for the reveal!

Categories: Horror News

“Rick & Morty” Have Invaded the World of ‘Shaun of the Dead’!

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 16:47

I was only just turned onto Dan Harmon’s “Rick & Morty” earlier this year. To say that I’ve been missing out on a lot is an understatement, as the show is wickedly smart and ventures into themes and territories that few others will dare to travel.

Thanks to Critters, the two cartoon characters have now descended upon the world of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead…sorta. You see, Critters took creatures and characters from the show and laid them overtop certain parts of the film, specifically during Shaun’s walk to get some treats to cure his hangover.

It’s wonderfully merged and the scene plays out beautifully, as though the two were meant to be a part of the same universe.

Check it out below!

Categories: Horror News

[In Defense Of] The ‘Pumpkinhead’ Franchise

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 15:03

We dust off the ‘Pumpkinhead’ franchise, looking at what makes these films special and why their premise still works

“God damn you!”
“He already has, son. He already has.”

Freddy Krueger. Jason Voorhes. Even Leatherface. These are the murderous icons from horror franchises that people throw their arms up in outrage over and furrow their brows at beyond recognition when various trades announce they’re being remade/rebooted/re-animated. However, when it was recently announced that executive producer, Peter Block of the Saw franchise (as well as The Devil’s Rejects, Crank, and more) was going to be rebooting the Pumpkinhead franchise, most readers cleared their throats in disinterest and wondered, ‘Pumpkinhead,’ is that the kid from ‘Halloween III’? And yet, Pumpkinhead is a horror series that actually has some (deformed) legs to stand on. The franchise goes through a bumpy ride over the course of its four films, but each one manages to reinforce some of the precise themes that the original picture slams into your face so effectively (Although Mortal Kombat XL really wouldn’t be remiss if they threw Pumpkinhead into the next DLC pack along with other totems like Candyman and the Babadook…). With the Pumpkinhead series coming back around, it seemed worthy to explore the power behind these films and what the upcoming reboot should do in order to succeed.

The original Pumpkinhead film that came out in 1988 is by far the strongest of the four films in the series, with a lot of this having to do with Stan Winston being in the director’s chair and his strong vision for this horrific tale. The name Stan Winston is probably ringing a bell for you because he’s the makeup master and effects extraordinaire for iconic horror creatures such as the Xenomorph, Predator, the T-1000, and the sleeker dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. Winston was at the top of his field in the effects department, which is why it was so exciting when he finally wanted to try his hand at directing, with Pumpkinhead being his passion project. Winston’s career as a director could have been huge if Pumpkinhead’s reception went differently, but this is far from a bad first film and should have earned Winston a better filmography as a director than what he ultimately ended up with (don’t expect a feature on A Gnome Named Gnorm coming out of me). It’s worth noting that Winston turned down the opportunity to direct Nightmare on Elm Street 3 in order to direct this, which was a huge gamble, but continues to reinforce his belief and conviction in this idea.

With Winston being such a pro at creating terrifying monsters, obviously the expectations for the beast in Pumpkinhead were appropriately high. I think Winston did a fairly good job here, even if he does bear a little too strong of a resemblance to the Xenomorph at times. Winston has said that Pumpkinhead’s look is meant to resemble a diseased organ, which definitely comes across as well as it reinforcing the idea that revenge corrupts and dries you out. Tom Woodruff Jr. is also doing the duty of the man in the Pumpkinhead suit (who is also the guy scaring your ass off as the Xenomorph in Alien a number of times, too) who lumbers around in a dreadful way. It also doesn’t hurt that the film’s cinematographer is Bojan Bazelli, who would later go on to do the same chilling work on Verbinski’s The Ring nearly fifteen years later.

Pumpkinhead is a revenge story, but what’s so beautiful about the original is how it operates so atypically to a generic slasher film (it’s almost an hour into the movie until Pumpkinhead is conjured and the murders start to happen), when it so easily could. Instead it opts to shade in various details of its cast. There’s a real muted charm to this film that just makes it feel different. It takes its time with its father-son relationship dynamic, making their bond the story before finally getting around to the monster fodder. The focus on Ed and Billy Harley as characters makes the film’s final act work all the better accordingly. The “City Kids” that are in danger are being pursued by Pumpkinhead, who has been called by Ed, but he’s also simultaneously trying to call him off. There are many layers to the relationships in play here, which again adds to some of the great depth of this weird film. It’s also a fair piece of commentary on how the act of vengeance is complicated in itself, pulling you in all sorts of directions..

The most effective, powerful thing about Winston’s film is that it makes you want vengeance as much as Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) does. His young boy, Billy’s (Matthew Hurley), death is brutal, especially after all the time the film spends building their bond, but his death itself is intentionally meant to hit you like a punch in the gut. He’s mercilessly run down by some asshole teenagers on motorbikes and the film paints them all (at first) as monsters because it wants you to detest them as much as Ed does. Billy’s death is a manipulative, exploitative one, but carefully crafted to elicit a response from you. This is a film that revolves around revenge and vengeance and what better way to embody that by putting you in the same blind rage that its protagonist is feeling?

For a while the film’s working title was even Vengeance: The Demon, indicating how integral this emotion is to this film and character. At a certain point Ed realizes he’s gone too far by summoning Pumpkinhead, trying unsuccessfully to cancel it. That’s not to say that the film’s anger subsides at this point. Rather, Ed’s anger shifts towards himself for what he’s done, which is kind of beautiful. This all boils down to a basic morality play with a lesson trying to be pushed here, even if it’s still evil beating good in the end.

Pet Semetary, for instance, is another film from the same era that also features the death of a young child (in a very similar way), while chronicling the disastrous efforts to right this wrong. Pet Semetary, however, “moves on” rather than wallowing in its anger like Pumpkinhead. We’re given the impression that Ed Harley has very little else besides his son. The scene where Ed carries his son’s dying body away is gutting, but what really is incredible is the look of true hatred that he glares into one of the remaining motorbikers who asks to help (it’s a look that even rivals Donald Sutherland’s final expression in Invasion of the Body Snatchers). This is a film with a horrifying ten-foot demon in it, and yet Henriksen’s rage stare is somehow the scariest thing in the film. Henriksen hasn’t always been given the best opportunities to shine but he absolutely kills it as Ed Harley. You can tell that Henriksen cares a tremendous amount about this character. It’s easy to see how Billy’s death warrants him selling his soul to the devil, so to speak.

The film also plays with the idea of how these teens might not be the worst after all. It looks like they might have even gone to the police or turned on the one “problematic” friend if Pumpkinhead weren’t being brought into the picture. This introduces an interesting idea on vengeance sometimes playing its course naturally without such an intervention. Guilt is certainly eating through most of these teens in the second half of the picture with the horrors of a conscience doing just as much internal damage as Pumpkinhead is doing physically.

Pumpkinhead’s sequel, Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings isn’t nearly as bad as the reputation it’s earned for itself (if anything, it kind of reminds me of the shift between Predator and its sequel—another Part Two that I think is better than people give it credit for). It generally ups the carnage, has Pumpkinhead show up way earlier, and just generally ups the stakes in the way that a sequel should. It interestingly kind of plays connect the dots with the original film’s lore, almost acting as a reimagining of the core concept rather than being beholden to the rules of its predecessor. Almost like how there seems to be different weaknesses and ways to kill the Leprechaun in each of the Leprechaun movies, but the general idea remains the same. There is sort of the implication though that Tommy, the deformed boy from the film’s prologue is the lovechild of the witch and Pumpkinhead, which is a bonkers idea that’s so nuts I can actually get behind it.

Winston might have been out of the director’s chair, but in his place was Jeff Burr who came from Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and The Offspring horror fame. Burr gives it his all, and isn’t in poor form, but Winston’s voice and love for his mission statement is largely absent this time around. Before Burr, Tony Randell of Hellbound: Hellraiser II was supposed to direct the picture before dropping out at the last second. This might have led to a much gorier film, but that being said, there are still brutal deaths in this thing, like setpieces where people get ripped apart, almost as if to prove how hardcore the film is. Then again, Greg Nicotero was also doing the effects work in the film, which might have something to do with it, too. Pumpkinhead II also features Ami Dolenz as Jenny, the Sheriff’s daughter, hot off her stint in Witchboard 2 (mandatory viewing, as far as I’m concerned). Not to mention, Linnea Quigley is also in tow for a scene, making use of the prominent scream queen of the era, who’s seen carnage in horror titles like Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Demons, Silent Night, Deadly Night, and nearly hundreds of others.

Pumpkinhead II might not be a great film, but it is a great example of a surreal revenge yarn. Blood Wings continues to nail the concept and themes that its predecessor introduces, and when it embraces those elements the film is at its strongest. This time Pumpkinhead operates with kill list style efficiency, just knocking off the bullies who wronged Tommy in the past in an almost soothing fashion. Just think of him as a super, super ugly Uma Thurman. Burr also builds an effective habit of setting scenes to violence over ‘50s and ‘80s pop music creating a didactic effect. A lot of these scenes are done in slow motion too, making instances like Tommy’s tormenting all the more surreal and difficult to watch. Burr also pushes a bizarre sense of humor in the film where bizarre allusions are being made to other iconic pieces of horror. The Necronomicon from Evil Dead appears in the cabin in the woods, Pet Semetary’s cinematography intentionally gets sent up and the film is even name-dropped, and the teens hit-and-run with the witch plays eerily similar to the not-yet-released I Know What You Did Last Summer. It’s like the film is trying to prove to you how hip it is.

Part of the charm of the Pumpkinhead series is that there are such loose rules in place with more or less a clean slate being present for each of these films. This series works best as bursts of anger and not some overly complicated connected piece of canon. Pumpkinhead’s curse works most effectively as a cautionary tale, not some plague that’s continually attacking the same person through a number of movies. So although there’s a gap of a dozen years before Pumpkinhead II and Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes, this span of time doesn’t hinder the film any. It’s all just about having a strong revenge story and once again this fresh approach works in the film’s favor.

The third and fourth films in the series are surprisingly decent for a pair of made-for-TV SyFy movies that were released within a year of each other. The third film manages to turn out some effective and shocking murder setpieces, whether it’s one taking place in a church, or another smart one that makes the most of the cramped confines of a jail cell. These two films even feature a surprising amount of Lance Henriksen as they carefully attempt to make ties to the original picture. Henriksen’s reprisal of Ed Harley might be more of an unfortunate reflection on how far his star has fallen rather than genuine love for the franchise, but he’s a welcome addition here. Turning Ed into a plagued ghost that tries to warn people about the dangers of giving into vengeance isn’t the worst progression of that doomed character. He’s still paying for his one indiscretion.

Ashes to Ashes and Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud are basically just different revenge parables with the fourth film essentially acting as “Romeo and Juliet Meet Pumpkinhead.” This in itself isn’t a bad framework and in the right hands, you can do a lot with this premise in a creative way. This is hopefully the appeal that Saw producer, Peter Block, was getting excited about when picking up this franchise for re-visiting.

Ashes to Ashes curiously explores the idea of a crooked morgue worker, Doc Fraser, and his funeral staff simply dumping bodies into the swamp as a means of cutting down on costs. When bodies start coming to the surface, the community is understandably outraged and wants revenge for the desecration of their loved ones. It’s certainly not the most usual plot and revenge story to pursue, but that’s kind of why this works. The weirdness of this premise hints at the versatility of the Pumpkinhead franchise where virtually anything that fits under the bracket of “vengeance” effectively qualifies. A corrupt mortician might not be the most compelling story, but it’s better than getting another story about a young boy dying and retreading past events. Meanwhile Pumpkinhead 4 sees a feud going on between the Hatfield family and the McCoys (seriously), and when a McCoy ends up killing one of the Hatfield girls, the Hatfields unsurprisingly summon forth Pumpkinhead to seek vengeance on the whole bloodline and finally put an end to this rivalry.

There are a number of issues with the third and fourth films, but a lot of it comes down to budgetary issues, with the directors doing the most with what they have. Ashes to Ashes and Blood Feud were put into production back-to-back, with a shared budget. While the one-two punch of these releases is clearly a temptation SyFy couldn’t resist, simply making one really good Pumpkinhead movie with a lavish budget rather than two hindered ones might have been the better decision.

Pumpkinhead is also sort of known for its backwoods sort of look with heavy scenes of forestry and the woods. Ashes to Ashes and Blood Feud are both shot in Romania (surely a tax credit reason again relating to budget), which minimizes a lot of the first two films’ iconic backdrop. That being said, these films do reintroduce the twang-y yokel-infused score to the film, which is reminiscent of the first movie’s attitude. It’s these touches and connections to the original picture that show that Jake West (Ashes to Ashes’ director) at least has a strong love for Winston’s film and its monster.

There’s a peculiar tradition where you see a lot of ’80s horror franchises being turned into confusing episodic TV shows, but Pumpkinhead is actually one that would work quite well in the format—and maybe this is something that SyFy was even considering if their films had seen a tremendous response. Just keep telling different stories where Pumpkinhead is plopped in to solve problems. It’s basically a revenge anthology series; a vengeance-based Tales From the Crypt, and who wouldn’t love that? Use Henriksen’s Ed Harley as your host and Cryptkeeper surrogate, and how can you go wrong?

The concept of vengeance demons is still a relatively unexplored one. The idea comes up for a bit on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it’s certainly remained an underdeveloped concept from the series when it ended. Pop culture’s avoidance of this sort of horror means that there’s still room for this deep monster to be expanded upon. It’s not something like werewolves, vampires, or zombies where the lore is already hammered into you and overdone at this point. This would be something new.

Moving forward though, hopefully the new Pumpkinhead film will make the right decisions and not overthink this. There’s a beautifully simple core to these movies underneath all of the witches, magical necklaces, and monsters, and it’s something endlessly human at that. Develop the right revenge yarn, go the practical route for Pumpkinhead rather than CG-ing him up, and you can make this thing work. Let’s just hope this character returning conjures up excitement and nostalgia for the brand rather than people apathetically shrugging and remembering why this character was forgotten about in the first place.

Categories: Horror News