Friday, January 30, 2009

Chrome Skull: The New Lord of Awesome

I know it's early in the year, but the award for Most Rad Horror Villain of 2009 has to instantly go to 'Chrome Skull' from the upcoming direct-to-DVD slasher pic Laid To Rest (due April 21st from Anchor Bay). If Russell Mulcahy had directed a slasher movie in '83, this would've been the villain and you would've never seen him in a shot that wasn't backlit with shafts of blue light and tons of smoke. I don't know what Chrome Skull's story is - if he's just a psycho, some kind of occult powered demon, or whatever - what this gentlemen has, is a look. How that look will be in action, who knows, but I'm ready to check it out (and I sincerely hope a disco ball is spinning somewhere during the climax of the movie 'cause it'd look sweet bouncing light off Chrome Skull's mask). Whether this'll turn out to be a start of a new horror franchise or not, I think even if Laid To Rest doesn't generate interest in a follow-up, Chrome Skull's look is so cool I suspect there might be a market for a show called Pimp My Slasher.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2009: The Return of 'Fun' Horror?

With early impressions of Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell trumpeting it as a victorious return to the genre for Raimi - a film that sports the trademark camera moves and gonzo sensibilities of his earlier horror films - it looks like fans will have a good time to look forward to this May when Drag Me To Hell hits theaters.

But Drag Me To Hell isn't alone in reviving 'fun' horror this year. If 2009 can be characterized as having an overriding trend, its that horror seems to be hearkening back to the crowd-pleasing era of the '80s. My Bloody Valentine 3-D was one of the best times I've had in a theater in awhile - an unabashed, gore-soaked thrill ride that had no illusions about what it's audience wanted to see. And next month sees the return of '80s superstar Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th remake and from all indications it looks like the filmmakers have endeavored to make this a fast-paced roller coaster ride that cuts straight to Jason in action, rather than follow in the footsteps of Rob Zombie's reinvention of Halloween where a long ramp-up of a psychoanalytical backstory was provided.

Later in 2009 - besides Drag Me To Hell - there's Final Destination: Death Trip 3-D, which ought to give My Bloody Valentine 3-D a run for its money. Then there's the Wolf Man remake, which should be old-fashioned monster movie fun, Richard Kelly's The Box, which looks to be an oddball horror offering with its kitchy '70s setting, and Wes Craven's still-untitled latest, which might be just as satisfying a return to his roots as Drag Me To Hell is for Raimi. What isn't on the horizon for 2009 - save for the Last House on the Left remake and Saw VI - is anything in the way of torture porn or the kind of deliberately grim offerings that have dominated the genre in the later half of this decade. If this is the trend for the foreseeable future, I'm all for it.

The dreary era of Hostel and Saw hasn't done much for me. There's been good films during the last few years but mostly of the arthouse variety (Let The Right One In, The Orphanage) while the general direction of popular horror hasn't thrilled me much. The few films of recent years that have tried to revive a lighter, '80s style of horror - like Slither and Snakes on a Plane - have failed to draw an audience. But maybe this'll finally be the year that horror finds its gory groove again.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Myriad Of Malevolent Mirrors

Last summer's Mirrors was touted as "The Horror Event of the Summer!" but even in a summer that included competition as weak as the much-disparaged The Happening (a film I haven't seen myself yet) few felt director Alexandre Aja's film lived up to that hype. But I took an instant shine to this silly movie when I saw it in theaters last August. So much so that I included it on my top ten list for 2008. Yeah, it probably didn't belong there but damn it, I'll never stand in shame at my preference for any film - especially not in a world where some people think it isn't ridiculous to like the Saw movies. But with Mirrors now on DVD, I wanted to see how well it stood up to a second look.

Well, while I didn't discover that it had gotten any better, I did find that I still liked it just as much. Kiefer Sutherland as the lead helps a lot. As Ben Carson, an ex-cop who was forced to retire from the force after he accidentally killed someone in the line of duty and who is also dealing with a separation from his wife and children, there's ample opportunity for Sutherland to get volatile. He snaps into anger mode on a dime, and I like that. He does pissed-off better than anyone else. I could watch a whole movie of Sutherland losing his shit with people and, with Mirrors, I guess I already have. He even gets up in a nun's face, threatening her at gunpoint, and that's great stuff. Of course, all these encounters begin with Sutherland trying to be reasonable and even-tempered. But there's a short clock on that approach and as soon as a conversation turns the least bit difficult, he unleashes.

When he's not exploding in a blind rage, Ben is all alone in the torched department store where he works as a night guard. And what a place this is! When it comes to ghost stories and haunted house movies, I'm a sucker for a great location and Mirrors is a winner on that count. The set design is stellar and watching Sutherland exploring these enormous, burned-out rooms with just a flashlight crossing over ash-covered mannequins, display cases, and gigantic mirrors is totally satisfying to me. What can I say - I'm an easy customer.

And after so many PG-13 remakes of Asian horror films, I took pleasure in seeing one that went out of its way to deliver R-rated supernatural splatter - even if it wasn't in the film's best artistic interests. There's the potential for an eerie, suggestive ghost story here that Aja blindly runs roughshod over, turning Mirrors literally into a bloody mess - but that only made it more endearing to me.The already infamous death of Amy Smart's character is a hideous show-stopper, for instance, but what's especially great about it is that it makes absolutely No Sense. Of all the ways for one's mirror image to inflict death, to tear your lower jaw off (!) is - pardon the phrase - a real stretch. I took it as Aja paying fanboy tribute to the 'face-ripping' scene from Poltergeist - a scene that plays out, of course, in a mirror (with all its influences, Mirrors is a jagged collection of cinematic shards). And Mirrors' finale, in which Ben has to fight for his life against a leaping, lunging horror hag straight out of Army of Darkness, is the way more horror movies should end. Just when it looks like the movie's over - bring in a horror hag. It doesn't matter what story you've been telling up to that point, because only a jerk wouldn't want to see a horror hag. Especially one that can jump straight from the floor up to the ceiling and crawl along the side of walls.

I understand that these may not be solid grounds to praise a movie but that's fine. What we like is an inescapable reflection of who we are, even if that reflection is sometimes cracked.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The New Face Of Fango?

For 30 years, FANGORIA's covers have had a distinctive style with their signature title font, the film strip along the left hand side, and the pun-ish cover blurbs and captions (which I always took as a warm tribute to Forry Ackerman's Famous Monsters).

There may have been tweaks to that look along the way (the title font was modified early on and in recent years the film strip became represented by just a single line of sprocket holes) but up to the latest issue I just purchased with Jason Voorhees standing proud, Fango has stayed recognizable as the magazine I grew up with.

But with issue #281, that era is over. As shocking as it is to see such a radical change, I think it's a good move. It's long been easy to take Fango for granted - especially in the wake of newer competitors like Rue Morgue - so hopefully a new look will bring renewed attention to the world's #1 horror magazine. Of course, it's almost impossible for any horror mag to jump off the newsstands at readers like Fango once did. The times are too different and where Fango was once shocking to behold, its pioneering use of startling imagery has jaded us.

Back in 1980, seeing the Fulci Zombie cover for Fango #8 was a revelation - you knew the horror genre had turned a corner. This wasn't Famous Monsters territory anymore, it was a new magazine with a new sensibility for a new generation (credit goes to original Fango editor Bob Martin for making the mag decidedly different and saving it from going the way of Fantastic Films and other long lost genre mags of the time).

The days when fans had to rely on print publications to bring them into contact with other fans and to keep them informed on every horrific happening may be long gone (it's hard to remember back when Fango's Terror Teletype would be the first place you'd read about projects in development) but for me, FANGORIA will always be essential reading. I don't know if the inside layout will be altered along with this new cover look or if the editorial direction of Fango will see any change but I'm glad to see, as it enters its thirtieth year, that the magazine isn't just going through the motions.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans

I came to Rise of the Lycans not as a fan of Underworld but as someone who fell asleep while watching the first two films. Clearly this series has its fanbase and I wouldn't knock someone else's favorite franchise but until now they just haven't been for me. But this new one entertained me so much that I actually stayed awake through the whole thing and that's a first for me and Underworld.

As a tale that delves into the backstory of the franchise, I'm sure that there's plenty of Easter Eggs to be had for fans of the first two films but none of that had any impact on my viewing. For most of the movie, in fact, I was trying to figure out whether the character that Rhonda Mitra plays was supposed to be the character that Kate Beckninsale plays in the first two Underworlds (she isn't).

What I liked about Rise of the Lycans was its direct, mostly mumbo-jumbo free, storyline focused on a doomed love affair. There wasn't a lot to do with the internal politics of vampire society outside of the fact that they aren't the most enlightened customers when it comes to werewolf rights. They keep Lycans as slaves and forbid any co-mingling between their species. Talk about living in the Dark Ages.

Obviously this separation won't last and when it gets out on the street that vampires and werewolves are two great tastes that go great together, the old way of life will be over. Ground Zero for this change is the romance between Rhonda Mitra's aristocratic vampire Sonja and Michael Sheen's noble werewolf slave Lucian. Doing all he can to hold back Nature Itself is Bill Nighy as Sophia's dad Viktor, the Official Head Dick of all Vampires.

On the acting front, Nighy doesn't even try to give a restrained performance and that's probably a wise move. His character is an imperious, constipated douchebag and watching him lose his cool proves to be fun. Mitra and Sheen are an effective pair and while their romance may not be one for the ages, their relationship manages to not be a drag on the film and that's accomplishment enough.

Rise of the Lycans is FX-whiz Patrick Tatopoulos' first directing gig (having performed FX duties on the first two Underworlds) and he does a handy job here. I'm not into the CG transformations of the werewolves but their final form looks pretty sharp and while I was worried that the storyline would dictate that little would happen until the big revolt, as it turns out Rise of the Lycans has plenty of action to go around.

Everything comes together at the end, with Tatopoulos and screenwriters Danny McBride, Dirk Blackman and Howard McCain giving their film a satisfying climax of its own while setting up the events of the first Underworld. Armed with this backstory, I don't feel motivated to revisit the other films but I did have a good time with Rise of the Lycans

It's always fun when vampires bite off more than they can handle.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Death Refuses To Rest On His Laurels

This pic from the upcoming Final Destination: Death Trip 3-D is reassuring to me. I just love the fact that I can't even begin to imagine what's happening to this poor bastard. Whatever it is, it sure looks like pain is involved, doesn't it? (I'm guessing he's crawling for the nearest bottle of aspirin) I'm glad to see that four films into the Final Destination series, that the filmmakers are determined to show that Death is just as hungry for the win as he ever was. The message is clear: If you want to die right, you've got to die in a Final Destination movie.

Death: Accept No Substitutes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't Take Your Pick-Axe For Granted

In the original 1981 My Bloody Valentine, the filmmakers followed the then-current mandate of slasher cinema in that psychos weren't allowed to stick to just one weapon. Instead they had to improvise completely new moves for each victim. It was like a carnage challenge - "Ok maniac, you can only use the existing items in this ordinary kitchen to accomplish a kill. Will it be the potato peeler, the cheese grater, or the meat thermometer?" Even though the original MBV's killer started a body count with a perfectly good pick-axe, the trends of the time demanded that he forget that and grab a nail gun or shove a dude's face in a pot of boiling water.

My Bloody Valentine 3-D doesn't go that route, though. Instead, in MBV 3-D, they show just how creative you can get with just one weapon at your disposal. I totally lost track of the body count in this movie 'cause it was so enormous but I know that a pick-axe was responsible for each and every slain sucker. Pick-axe mayhem has never been so dramatically depicted on film as it is here. If a murder weapon could have its own infomercial, this would be it. I even think at one point in MBV 3-D, the pick-axe got behind the wheel of a car shit-faced drunk and killed a few people on the road. It never stops finding ways to take a life.

People always associate Friday the 13th's Jason with his machete but while Jason always goes back to that blade, he never totally commits to it. MBV 3-D throws down a professional challenge to other slashers to develop a monogamous relationship with their weapon. Most slashers are like men afraid of marriage - they want to have that steady relationship to fall back on but they also want to be free to play the field. They're afraid that if they just use the axe all the time, or the machete, or the butcher knife that life is going to get stale. MBV 3-D retires that myth and says to other slashers that it's only insecurity that keeps you reaching for the next power drill or set of gardening shears. If you never bond with that one special weapon, you're never going to be complete. And that's its own kind of Hell.

Any slasher can use a weapon once and leave it behind but to find one that you refuse to kill without, then sir, you've got something special. In fact, after multiple rampages you might be surprised to find your weapon has taken on a mind of its own.

And when that happens, well, don't let go until they pry it from your cold, dead hands.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Bloody Valentine 3-D

If you're on the fence about whether you need to see My Bloody Valentine 3-D, then you must not be the target audience to begin with. It's not the kind of movie you need to see how it fares during awards season before committing to the price of a ticket - either it sounds like a good time to you or it doesn't. But for those old-school slasher fans out there who are wondering if this really delivers the goods, I can attest to you that it does and then some. I don't have time for a longer review at the moment and really, this movie may not need it. The 3-D is incredible here. The depth of the image, the feeling of immersion in the environments - it's first-rate. Then there's the gimmicky 3-D moments that you want this movie to have and they all come off great, showing some real ingenuity and showmanship. And as a slasher movie, My Bloody Valentine 3-D has an impeccable handle on itself. Scripter Todd Farmer and director Patrick Lussier are a couple of canny dudes when it comes to the slasher genre. They embrace it all the way with no hint of irony and slasher aficionados will recognize the sensibilities of fellow fans.

I do wish the climax had one more beat to it but I'm guessing on second viewing that minor disappointment will dissipate, and there's a major cheat at play in regards to the reveal of the film's mystery but I ain't going to bust the filmmakers for it - in fact, I kind of enjoyed being had. Like most everything else in this film, it put a goofy grin on my face (when I wasn't bursting into spontaneous laughter or surprised shrieks). My Bloody Valentine 3-D scores a four pick-axe rating from me. If this is an indication of how the slasher movie revival of this year is going to play out (and the 3-D revival!), consider me excited. Travel as far as you need to see this in 3-D - because such sights as a midget annihilated by a pick-axe deserve nothing less.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Crash Course At Crystal Lake

Due February 3rd on DVD, shortly before the Friday the 13th remake arrives in theaters, is the full-length documentary His Name Was Jason. Spanning the history of Friday the 13th (billing itself as "the ultimate retrospective on the groundbreaking horror series") and interviewing many of the cast and crew who have played a part in the series along with filmmakers and journalists from the genre world, His Name Was Jason is a celebration of one of horror most enduring franchises. While it isn't as thorough in exploring the series as Peter M. Brake's massive book Crystal Lake Memories, it's still an entertaining overview.

My review of the two-disc set is up now over at Shock Till You Drop.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Monster Called...Morbius!

Since Spider-Man 3 failed to live up to most expectations (I liked it just fine myself), Sam Raimi's geek credibility has faltered, even though he previously made two very well-recieved Spidey films (in regards to the kneejerk nature of nerd affections I always have refer back to a Mayor Quimby line from The Simpsons - "You're all a bunch of fickle mushheads!") but with the right storyline for Spider-Man 4, I believe he could find himself back in the good graces of fandom.

Over at CHUD, there's a link to a Raimi interview in which Raimi mentioned his fondness for the character of Michael Morbius, aka Morbius: The Living Vampire. Will Morbius really make it to the screen? I doubt it - but if it did, the blend of horror and superheroics would make a perfect match with Raimi's sensibilities and if he seriously wants Morbius to square off with Spidey, I hope he'll turn his attention to the first Morbius storyline that spanned Amazing Spider-Man issues #100-#102 - penned by Stan Lee himself.

Issue #100 was Spidey's big anniversary issue and to mark the occasion Stan had Peter Parker experiencing feelings of ennui towards his web-headed alter-ego. The title of the issue was "The Spider or the Man?" and as Peter contemplates a future life with his lady love Gwen Stacey, he realizes that it may be time to stop being Spider-Man for good. The last time he hung up his webs was back in issue #50 but this time he wasn't just going to throw his costume in the trash, this time he had come up with a formula that he hoped would wipe out his spider-powers once and for all.

Once he takes the serum, he lays down to let it take effect. He falls into a delirious dream in which he encounters all the foes he's vanquished over the years. And all the while, he feels a throbbing pain in his sides. When he wakes up, the pain is still there, worse than ever. With dawning horror, he realizes the awful truth: while the serum had been intended to take away his spider-powers, it has made him even more like a spider. Subsequently, four new arms burst from Peter's sides, giving him six arms and providing the series with its wildest cliffhanger to date.

When events pick up in issue #101, Peter is not in the best shape. He's terrified of being discovered in this state and makes a desperate call to Dr. Curt Conners, aka The Lizard, who readily offers Spidey the use of his home in Florida, no questions asked. And not far from the section of the Florida coastline where Connors' house sits (a gloomy number that's a dead ringer for the Bates house in Psycho), a doomed ship is ending its final voyage.

The ship in question bears the strange passenger known as Michael Morbius. Through flashbacks we learn that he was once a brilliant scientist working to cure himself of a rare blood disease. He was conducting this research on his own boat, which was equipped with a sophisticated lab. On board with him was his wife and best friend. The experiment - involving a vampire bat, natch - went wrong and within minutes, Morbius was draining the blood from his friend. Unable to resist his urge, he nearly drank from his wife as well but what was left of his humanity forced him to throw himself over the side of the ship, where he was eventually rescued by a passing industrial ship.

Here the story becomes a riff on Dracula and the voyage of the Demeter where the ship's strange passenger kills everyone on board. At this point, Morbius abandons ship and he finds himself washing up on the doorstep of Conners' home - the kind of coincidence that makes life in comic books so much fun.

Once inside, Morbius sees the six-armed Spider-Man working feverishly in the lab. Puzzled by the bizarre sight but needing to feed, he pounces on Spidey, leading to a pitched battle in which Spidey needs all six of his arms to keep Morbius at bay. In the middle of the melee, Curt Conners shows up looking to help Spidey with his research. The sudden strain of seeing what's happening brings on his transformation into the scaly horror known as The Lizard.

The issue ends with a face-off that'd be the envy of any monster movie, as a six-armed Spidey is caught between his reptilian arch-foe and the vampire who wants his blood.

As issue #102 opens, Morbius is beaten back by the tag-team of Spidey and the Lizard (who attacks Morbius only because he refuses to let anyone kill Spider-Man but himself) but not before Morbius takes a small bite out of the Lizard (beggars, apparently, can't be choosers). But due to the Lizard's thick hide, Morbius' fangs can only puncture so much. In the process of taking blood, he ends up passing some sort of enzyme onto Conners, which causes Conners to transform back to his human form but only halfway, leaving him as a hybrid of Conners and the Lizard.

Eventually it all boils down to Spidey and the Lizard needing to get Morbius back so they can draw his blood not only to restore Conners but Morbius' blood might also hold the solution to Spidey's dilemma as well.

Even though circumstances demand that Spidey and the Lizard join forces, Conners frequently loses control of his scaly side and Spidey finds himself trying to keep his new partner from killing him. The terrifying twosome manage to track Morbius to New York City where he's continuing to satisfy his unholy thirst on any and all victims.

In a climatic three way free-for-all, Spidey, The Lizard and Morbius battle above the streets of NY. Morbius' blood is eventually taken, although he desperately fights to retrieve the stolen vial from the hands of his enemies. As the issue ends, The Lizard is cured but Morbius snatches the last vial before it can be put in a syringe and administered to Spidey. He flies off with Spidey in pursuit, eventually colliding with a bridge and plunging into the cold river below. From a nearby garbage scow, Spidey fires a webline to rescue Morbius but only snags the vial from Morbius' hand as it disappears below the water.

An exhausted Spidey sees no sign of Morbius. He grips the vial as he stares out over the still water, delivering words that could've only come from the pen of Stan Lee: "Things...somehow we always manage to hold on to things...while men sink, doomed around us." Conners then successfully administers the cure to Spidey. He's beaten his monstrous side, as has Conners, while Morbius was tragically consumed by his.

So...there's a Spidey saga that Raimi could really knock out the park. Sure, you'd have to re-purpose it for the Spidey movie universe with MJ instead of Gwen and you'd have to work in the Lizard's origin as well (easy enough) but you've got a storyline with a vampire, the Lizard and a six-armed Spidey all locked in mortal battle - what could be better? Raimi would have a field day with the visual elements plus there's a strong moral angle with conflicted villains - which Raimi has purposely looked to incorporate into his three Spidey films to date. Man, I'd love to see it happen. Unfortunately, I'm betting that Sony wouldn't be so keen on the idea of its hero sporting six arms throughout most of the movie. Still, I bet Raimi would really run with it if given the chance. He's already made an action movie with a monster as the hero (Darkman) - it'd be great to have him be able to do it again with an icon like Spider-Man forced to become a freak.

It's all just a pipe dream, of course - it's far too weird a turn for a blockbuster franchise - but I think it's the Spider-Man film that Raimi was born to make.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Look That Kills

The trailer for George Romero's latest - and still-untitled - zombie opus is up now and judging from this brief look emphasizing its western-style action, this looks like a lot of fun. Of course, as many an internet talkbacker will point out, it also looks extremely cheap. What's funny to me about this perception isn't that it's wrong - because, honestly, it's obviously a pretty impoverished production - but that it's low budget is considered a negative for so many fans.

While I wish that studios would write people like Romero a blank check for any project they wanted to take on, I find it interesting that genre fans today are so adverse to 'B' movies. I first noticed this attitude when John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars came out in 2001. As soon as the first trailer appeared, the complaints flooded the internet that it looked like some "B" movie. That reaction was an eye-opener for me - I realized that there's a generation (or two) of fans who have been raised to believe that sci-fi, horror, and fantasy are the province of big budget entertainment. This is the T2 generation, the Jurassic Park generation, the Matrix generation. They believe that their monster movies, their zombie films, their space epics should be state-of-the-art productions. If these movies look cheap, if they're not up to par with current technology, then they're not real movies.

I don't believe that every young fan feels this way, but I do believe it's an attitude that exists with the under-25 set in a way it doesn't with Gen-X fans. My generation was the last to be introduced to genre films as B-movies first and then see the big studios gradually make that kind of material their own (well before I saw Star Wars and Superman on the big screen, I saw the likes of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, The People That Time Forgot, and Empire of the Ants and well into the '80s, it was still common to see B-movies on the big screen along with A-titles).

It used to be a letdown when a big studio would try their hand at horror because more often than not, it would be a bland effort like Ghost Story or The Awakening. Low budget films, on the other hand, had personality. It didn't matter about how slick the film was or what the effects looked like. If a film looked cheap, well, that was usually a good thing. Night of the Living Dead looked cheap - that was how the best horror films ought to look.

But these days, unless they're made with hand-held shaky-cam, modern genre films can't get away with a rudimentary look. They have to be Marcus Nispel's Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Zack Synder's Dawn of the Dead. It used to be the exception - usually an unwelcome exception at that - when a horror film looked too consciously art-directed. Films like Tony Scott's The Hunger, Michael Mann's The Keep, Paul Schrader's Cat People and even Kubrick's The Shining were accused of spending too much time on their stylized looks at the expense of producing any scares. They kept horror at arm's length in a way that low budget films didn't (Ridley Scott's Alien was the rare film to be able to have it both ways - be gorgeous to look at but still be terrifying). But now those films are more in line with the direction that horror films have taken.

Maybe it was just inevitable as technology advanced and audiences became more sophisticated. It also might have something to do with the cost of entertainment. Paying $5 a carload to see a dawn till dawn triple feature at the drive-in is a lot different than paying $10-$12 dollars for a single ticket to see a single movie. Expectations change - people want more bang for their buck. And when they pour hundreds of dollars or more into the latest home entertainment systems, they don't want to be paying that kind of money to watch movies that don't take full advantage of the latest technology. Even if a movie is bad, at least it should look and sound spectacular.

So where does that leave a movie like Romero's latest? This chintzy looking zombie movie? In a better world, it'd be greeted without scorn but in 2009, it can't help but look like an also-ran (I have to wonder if Romero deliberately went with a western angle for this film just to acknowledge how out of step and out of fashion his approach has become). Unfairly or not, a movie from one of the legends of the genre is not even competition for whatever latest teen-oritentated remakes will be screening at multi-plexes this year. To make it as a horror movie today, you have to bring your A-game.

You've got to have a look that kills.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Magazine That BLEEDS!

For a time in the late '80s, early '90s, FANGORIA offered its own staunchest competition in the form of its sister publication Gorezone. Gorezone closed shop after just 27 issues but it was a memorable run, with Gorezone having its own distinctive personality rather than just being a Fango clone. Now word comes from Fango's site that Gorezone is slated to make a comeback. No specifics have been given but a 2009 return date is promised.

I fondly remember Gorezone, usually preferring it over Fango. To me, it embodies my memories of the late '80s, early '90s horror scene in the same way that I can't think of the early '80s without thinking of avidly reading about the films of that time in Fango.

Right off the bat, Gorezone seemed like the horror mag for the diehard fan - as opposed to Fango which was more established by then and more mainstream friendly (not a bad quality, just that Gorezone felt like it was aimed at a more exclusive 'club'). At the time, with horror being at its most besieged by the MPAA and the religious right, Gorezone doggedly kept the spirit of splatter alive.

Most valuable in making Gorezone a magazine that mattered was the inclusion of Tim Lucas' Video Watchdog as a regular feature as well as Chas. Balun's Piece O' Mind. I'm sure a whole generation of fans first learned to appreciate world cinema and the intricacies of various cuts of films through Lucas' writing. And Balun was a self-styled critic (having gotten his start with several self-published collections of reviews like The Gore Score and the Connoisseur's Guide to Horror Films) who was to horror what music journalist Lester Bangs was to rock and roll (perhaps Gorezone could be characterized as Creem to Fango's Rolling Stone). I have to imagine that anyone who's in their thirties or late twenties who writes about horror - whether it be as a fan or a pro - was primarily inspired to do so by Balun and Lucas' examples.

The rest of what Gorezone had to offer was first rate as well. GZ offered more in the way of reviews than Fango, and contributions from Psychotronic's Michael Weldon and Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds author Maitland McDonagh (who wrote the first article I ever read about Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) appeared in its pages.

These days, horror is no longer the cultural scapegoat it was in Gorezone's time, having outlived its usefulness as a political tool (for now, at least). During Gorezone's run, the idea of movies as blood-soaked as The Ruins or Rambo or Punisher: War Zone earning R-ratings would've been unthinkable. Never mind the whole torture-porn fad - those films never would've seen the light of day.

Horror isn't the same beleaguered underdog that it was two decades ago. Next week, fans will be able to buy an uncut My Bloody Valentine at their nearest retail outlet and then a few days later see the - reportedly hard-R - remake on the big screen in 3-D. These aren't like the dry days for horror that Gorezone originally presided over. Back then, Gorezone was showing us all the splatter that we couldn't see on the screen or, in some cases, even in our homes.

The gore war that was raging then is over and our side won. The only question now is whether existing in today's more permissive times will make the new incarnation of Gorezone more relevant or just redundant. Time will tell on that but I have a feeling that fans will embrace the new Gorezone with no hesitation. When it comes to splatter, we have big, bleeding hearts.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The First Bad News Of 2009

It didn't take long but just two days into the new year the first letdown has happened as Dimension Films announced that its upcoming Halloween sequel H2 is slated to premiere on August 28th and not in October as some sites had initially speculated. Many might say that Rob Zombie being allowed to author a second Michael Myers installment is already the far worse crime, er, news but I was willing to overlook whatever complaints I had with RZ's Halloween (I do wish the theatrical cut was readily available on DVD as I far preferred it to his director's cut) for the promise of having Michael Myers make a proper Halloween homecoming. But now all that's shot to hell.

Sure, I'll still see H2. Hell, I'll probably get kind of excited for it. I might even stop thinking how stupid calling Halloween 2 "H2" sounds. That's just how I am - I'm easy that way. But I will have to pretend that I never put H2 on my twenty films I'm looking forward to in '09. Sorry, H2 but you can't burn me so early in the year and not pay a price for it. Although honestly, I was looking for an excuse to bump your ass in favor of Martin Scorcese's Ashecliffe and this'll do it. No hard feelings.

To the folks at Dimension Films, though - I don't get it. Even if October is overcrowded with horror films, this is Halloween we're talking about. Everything else is just a pretender to the throne. A Halloween movie in October has the home court advantage so why act like that's the last place you want to compete? A Halloween movie in October feels like an event. But a Halloween movie in August? Not so much. Michael Myers is as Halloween as candy corn - to have him sit out another All Hallow's Eve feels like The Night HE Got Robbed.