ATTENTION MY FELLOW HORROR HUNGRY FREAKS! this is James J. Coker here telling you all that since we did a “31 Hidden Horrors for Halloween” countdown…well we might as well do one for the yuletide Season as well. Hidden and Underrated Yuletide Horrors for make youre Christmas Season SCARY AND BRIGHT! so we shall be doing a “12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS” starting Dec.2nd and posting a new Review every two days in December till Chrismas eve with youres truly writing most of the reviews and Sterling “the sport Guy” doing a review of JACK FROST. Hope you all get into the Scary Christmas spirit he he he he
Since 1899 with the creation of William K.L. Dickson’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s King John, countless filmmakers have tried their luck at adapting Bill’s plays to the screen, making Willie the most filmed writer in history(big surprise reactions allowed). Thus far we’ve had Joseph Gordon Levitt get in good with a grown up Alex Mack in a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, Amanda Bynes parading as a man in for a tween’s Twelfth Night, and Kurosawa’s Ran is simply known today as the greatest adaptation of King Lear we will ever see. We’ve even seen the Walt Disney Company, with a little help from the thievery of a classic Japanese anime, craft the story of a true Lion King, Jim Carrey haunted by a doomed existence as a candid reality TV subject and an Asgardian demigod ready to reclaim his authority to put elves to the slaughter in adaptations of Hamlet(or as the director of this review’s subject calls it, “101 money making screenplay ideas”).
Well, after all this time analyzing his plays, tropes and translations, it was only a matter of time before someone finally got it right. In the Winter of 1997, Lloyd Kaufman, aided by the debut writing of future fellow director James Gunn, created what could simply be the most unarguably effervescent rendition of not only Romeo and Juliet, but any Shakespeare drama ever conceived. In this punk rock retelling of tragedy, the Ques and Capulets are the naturally expected waring families of Varon… I mean, Tromaville, constantly out to one up each other while the lovestruck Juliet(Portrayed by future rockstar Jane Jensen)and aptly named Tromeo(Will Keenan) keep their feelings incognito for as long as the script permits them to. Speaking of script, this one actually touches on a few events that Shakespeare mistakingly cut from his final draft. These events include the time that Juliet gave birth to 3 fully grown rats and a kettle full of popcorn, or the heads of the two waring family’s dispute stemming from a conflict of ownership over their underground cinema empire(I’m sure they had those back then, they were just unpopular)and of course when Juliet had to turn into a human-cow hybrid in order to drive her slaughterhouse employee of a fiance out of the 3rd story window of Casa de Capulet. Amateur for William to leave such legendary plot beats out of the official version, but we forgive the guy.
Any literature nerd has the capacity to enjoy the hell out of this movie, for although much has been added for the sake of Troma’s eccentric flair, Shakespeare fans will be surprised at just how accurate the interpretation is in regards to the general chain of events and pacing of the 5 acts to the point of being pleasantly disturbed(well, the final act is a bit experimental I must admit). Of course, the film has much more to offer other than its plethora of evil mutated penis monsters and family sedans going up in flames, it’s also an easy and up to date way for anyone to learn to appreciate what many people call the greatest love story ever written. Plus, any love story with narration provided by Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead easily adds an extra stamp of approval to it’s already high regards. Check out this gem next time you’re at your favorite pop culture convention by visiting the Troma booth, who will be carrying the very awesome 2 disc 10th anniversary edition. Or, you can enjoy it right here, right now thanks to Troma Entertainment themselves for gallantly offering up 90% of their catalogue for us to enjoy for free via their Youtube channel. After you watch it, keep in mind that James Gunn went on to write the Scooby Doo films, the video game Lollypop Chainsaw(naming the lead character Juliet in tribute)and will be directing Marvel’s 2014 feature film, Guardians of the Galaxy. So feel free to be inspired by the ultimate example of humble beginnings.
“Parting is such sweet sorrow” said Juliet,
“It totally sucks” replied Tromeo.
– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno
When one hears the word Disney they think of the wonderful kids films they grew up with. Well did you know that in 1983 Disney made a horror film. Yes you read that right and not just any horror film, but a dark and mature one based on a book by the late great Ray Bradbury. It’s the only Disney film to take one of Walt Disney’s ideals, the concept that dreams do come true, and darkly twist it. That movie is “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and boy is it a damn good one that sadly most don’t remember.
In a small American town in the 1920s or 1930s (its never specified) Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival comes rolling into town in the middle of the night. However this isn’t your normal carnival, it is led by the Mysterious Mr. Dark, a man who can grant your very hearts desire…but at a cost. It’s up to two young boys, Jim Nightshade and Will Holloway, to discover the truth of Mr. Dark’s carnival before it preys upon all of the townsfolk.
What really depresses me about this film is not the film itself but how no one of my generation knows of it and didn’t grow up with it. Luckily I did and for me it was the film that best represented the cautionary tale of “Be Careful what you Wish for.“ Though it’s rated PG it’s a very mature and grown-up kind of horror film with its adult characters longing for what they desire. You can feel the regrets from the characters and have sympathy for these troubled townsfolk. With the adult themes it manages to be a wonderful kids coming of age film. Jim and Will are great characters who you sympathize with. Last, you have an absolutely wonderful villain in Mr. Dark, a mysterious man whom you’re not truly sure if he even is a man or something else entirely. There are plenty of genuine moments of creepiness. Truly the only “adult” Disney villain.
If you want to show your little ones a Disney film of a truly different nature where both kids and adults will be intrigued then I cannot recommend “Something Wicked This Way Comes” enough. A truly dark and wicked Disney film that I hope you will all enjoy.
-James J. Coker
For children of the 90s one of the defining names in horror was “Goosebumps.” This series of child-friendly horror books by author R.L. Stein was one of the most popular series of its time. No elementary school classroom was complete without a set of these books. Even if you didn’t read the books you at least had a passing familiarity with them. “Goosebumps” was so big that it spawned a four-season anthology horror series on Fox.
These books were important for many in my generation as it served as their introduction to the world of horror. I am not one of those people. My exposure to “Goosebumps” was limited to the choose-your-own adventure books and as for the TV series all I ever saw were two episodes: “The Haunted Mask” and “A Night in Terror Tower.” I’m reviewing the latter for this entry, perhaps in the future I will discuss the former. I had these two episodes on VHS, I believe they were birthday/christmas gifts, and I would watch them all the time.
I can’t express how excited I was to re-visit “A Night in Terror Tower.” It was my favorite out of the two However there is a sense of hesitation one gets when watching something they loved as a kid. Certain people may re-visit “Goosebumps” and find themselves enjoying it in that ironic, hipster sense (cough, my friend, cough). Maybe certain episodes haven’t aged well but that is not the case with Terror Tower. This episode is a surprisingly suspenseful, well-paced mystery with an unique story that separates it from other “Goosebumps” episodes.
Siblings Eddie and Sue are on vacation in London. Their tour group deciders to stop at Terror Tower, a historical landmark that served as a torture chamber in the 1400s. When they get to the tower strange things start happening. Eddie see’s a ghost telling him to “Go Back”, a wax figure tries to kill Sue, a strange thunder storm happens, they get separated from their group and a man dressed in black, who they though to be a wax figure, tries to capture the two. Sue and Eddie will soon find they are not who they think they are.
What I love about this episode is the plot. It is very dense. A reason I was so excited to revisit this episode was, as a kid, I fully didn’t grasp what happened. Particularly when the twist comes into play. It’s an intelligent story that does not talk down to its audience. In doing my research I have found that most “Goosebumps” episodes relied on a monster or some kind of haunted object. This one doesn’t and because of that it stands out from the rest. It may be one of the more intelligent episodes of the series. Not to knock any of the other episodes as they may be fun and entertaining but from what I understand the plots are much more simplistic.
Since the plot of this episode is different from others in the series it provides a different kind of horror as well. This one has a, for lack of a better term, “Hitchcock” feel for it. We have two characters thrust into a situation where they have no idea what is happening. There is a lot of suspense and genuine terror going on as our characters try to find out what is happening to them. The writers spent time in developing a strong and suspenseful narrative and it shows. To be fair the pacing in the first ten minutes is a little slow as the time is spent going on the tour of the museum with our characters. However get past that and you have a tense, enjoyable episode.
Re-visiting this episode was an absolute joy for me. It holds up extremely well, if not better than I remember it. I loved how this episode relies purely on suspense and mystery. This is not just the nostalgia talking either. In no way did I watch this episode with that ironic, hipster mindset. Perhaps the acting can be cheesy at times but when the story is this good it doesn’t bother me. I enjoyed this episode and I highly recommend it. Even if you didn’t grow in the 90s and have no connection to “Goosebumps” you may still enjoy it.
When you think of exorcism movies what comes to mind? Obviously “The Exorcist” and probably the recent slew of exorcism movies where, of course, a young woman is possessed and the very pure priest tries to exorcise said girl. What if I told you that this year saw a different kind of exorcism movie, one were the priests performing the exorcism aren’t pure at all, but quite the opposite and they use that impurity to their advantage. And what if I told you that said movie is also a lot of fun and has the feel of “Ghostbusters”… Do I have your attention? Good, ‘cause the movie I’m talking about is J.T. Petty’s “Hellbenders.”
From IMDB: “The Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints, a team of blasphemous ministers who live in a constant state of debauchery, work to drag the worst of demons back to Hell.” However things get dark when two of the members try to exorcise an ancient Norse demon, only to have one of them become possessed with an ancient spirit intent on wiping out all of humanity. The remaining members must then put their feelings for the possessed priest aside as they attempt to thwart the demons’ world destruction plans and stop the corporate douchebag trying to shut down their entire operation.
There are three things about “Hellbenders” that make this movie shine bright. One is that the story is not only quite unconventional for an exorcism movie but it’s also incredibly engaging from start to finish, grabbing you by the throat and not letting go. Second is that there is an equal balance between the debaucherous comedy and the horror. Imagine “Ghostbusters” as a bloody, dark and demonic horror film and you get the idea of the tone of this film. Third, the best aspect of “Hellbenders” is its likable characters. From the beginning we are introduced to our wonderful band of sinner priests and we immediately like them. Again, think of the Ghostbusters but said Ghostbusters are priest that like to smoke, drink, and sin as much as possible. However out of our band of heroes the one that steals the show is Angus, the leader of the team, played by veteran actor Clancy Brown. He plays his character with such a half crazy flare to it that he will easily be your favorite of the bunch.
If you’re tired of the recent slew of PG-13 tween exorcism movies that have been flooding cinema the last few years, take the time to track down this offbeat and fun little exorcism movie. Like a good mouthwash this film will take away the taste of all those bad exorcism movies.
-James J. Coker
I’ve just realized that in the five months Hidden Horrors You Must See has been active we’ve only reviewed one “Twilight Zone” episode. Tonight that is changing as I will be taking a look at “Living Doll,” one of the scariest and more memorable episodes of the classic anthology series. I would like to add that this one scared the shit out of me when I was little.
A mean and frustrated father does battle with his stepdaughter’s talking doll, whose vocabulary includes such phrases as “I hate you” and “I’m going to kill you”.
Long before Chucky and the “Child’s Play” movies was Talky Tina and boy was she a scare fest. What makes this episode so damn chilling is that while the dolls insults seem harmless at first they get more serious and personal. Soon the concerned father tries every method he can to get rid of the doll, however nothing works. Adding to Talky Tina’s creepiness is the fact that she remains completely still while talking. Character work is nicely handled as well. You can tell from the beginning that our main character the father is an emotionally abusive husband and father.
One can see Talky Tina as a sort of “horror guardian” for the wife and daughter. However with horror there are hardly second chances for rotten characters and Talky Tina does in fact make the father “very sorry.” I won’t spoil that for you as the ending is perhaps the most chilling part of the whole episode.
If you want some creepy killer doll horror but don’t feel like watching the foul-mouthed red-haired Chuck or those little murderous marionettes from that Full Moon series then give this episode a watch. Prepare to have a chill down your spine!