HIDDEN HORROR – Wake In Fright

If there was ever a horror film that the Criterion Collection needed to inject with crack, it would have to be Ted Kotcheff’s lost Australian film “Wake in Fright.” At first glance, and upon reading its title, one would assume it’s a psychological thriller or an Australian slasher flick set in the outback. Well, you wouldn’t be 100% correct, but you’re not too far off either. This forgotten gem from the ‘70s takes much of its influence from Southern Europe’s New Wavers who emerged from the ashes 10 years prior, and centers its creepy edge more so on the horrors of unfamiliarity and environmental fatigue. “Wake in Fright” is a very animalistic and, not to mention, artistically crafted production that thrives on complete uniqueness for its time. The first thing you’ll come to realize once the film begins is that it displays some of the most breathtaking cinematography in movie history. The second thing you’ll realize is that the film’s soundtrack is not only quirkily awesome, but obviously inspired the end credits theme for “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” I mean, it just had to, it’s a dead ringer.

Somber, lonely, and a somewhat menacing portrait of a man outside his own element- which is a great change of pace from the average Australian horror flick- that finally uses the continent’s harsh and eerie surroundings as a main focus, rather than a mere bonus. A school teacher named John Grant (Gary Bond), or at least a man forced to be a school teacher until he pays off his government debts, takes a train out of town during the school’s vacation time. After a small hotel deposit, a very uncomfortable encounter with an intoxicated law enforcer, and a half dozen beers later, he attempts to gamble his debts away in an underground betting ring. Awkwardly though, John leaves a day later with $1 to his name and many years of teaching ahead of him… if he can even get back without transportation fare that is. From this point on the film then lands him in one horrifyingly uncomfortable situation after another as he has no choice but to accept offers from a handful of seemingly generous people who provide him with shelter, alcohol and life threatening experiences. The most extreme of the latter being a late night Kangaroo hunt, which features real hunting footage of kangaroos being shot and killed for over 10 minutes straight. The climax of this segment is enough to make any animal activist shit themselves. As an extra plus, you’ll also get to experience more than half of this film with a great performance by Donald Pleasence in probably the least Loomis you’ll ever see him.

“Wake in Fright” is an introverts worst nightmare. For anyone who already hates being forced to interact with strange people and has not the energy for adapting to new environments on a whim, this film finds a way to do a number on you. The picture does a fantastic job at coming off as raw and disturbing without showing a single trope of the modern horror movie genre. There are no vampires here. No virus killing everyone off. Not even a crazy man with a big “knoife”. This is a horror film that lets the actualities of life reflect upon you from beyond the LCD screen. Let’s all take a moment to thank Martin Scorsese for personally exposing this film to the modern public when he nominated a preserved print to be screened at a recent Cannes Film Festival. That bloated trade show of a “art showcase” has been useful for something after all.

– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno

Advertisements

HIDDEN HORROR-The Old Dark House

The Old Dark House Poster-001Legendary director James Whale and horror legend Boris Karloff were responsible for some of horror cinemas most famous films such as Universal Studios’ “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein.”James Whale also directed “Invisible Man.” But little do people know that Boris Karloff and James Whale collaborated on another Universal Studios film known as “The Old Dark House.” The film is very old, it is from 1932, but don’t let its age scare you away, it is one of horror cinemas best kept secrets.

The film tells the tale of three travelers. They are caught in a rainstorm and a mudslide blocks the road they are traveling. They see an old creepy mansion and proceed to take shelter there. They knock on the door and a mute almost animal like butler (played by legendary Boris Karloff) answers the door! He lets them in to stay the night and they soon find out that a family inhabitants the mansion, but they are anything but normal. The family includes an odd elderly skeletal man, his religious nut of a sister, their one hundred and two year old father, and their brother that is obsessed with fire, and he is so dangerous that he has been locked away. However as the night progresses, the animal like butler becomes drunk and goes mad, letting the fire obsessed lunatic out!

This film is criminally unknown, and that is a shame because it’s an amazing film, and features Boris Karloff and is directed by James Whale, and any film with those legends deserves recognition. This film does not depend on monsters like other films that had anything to do with Karloff or Whale. Instead it relies on the mysterious dark stormy night atmosphere. If you are a fan of gore look elsewhere because this film has none of it. Another factor this film depends on is character development and each member of the family is given plenty of screen time and dialogue, and that makes the characters more real and convincing. This film has very memorable characters as well such as the religious nut who gives the guests warnings and prophesies from the bible, and who can forget the crazy arsonist brother of the family hell bent on destruction? The one hundred and two year old father is creepy as well, as a matter of fact he was played by an elderly woman.

When this film came out it was a box office bomb and forgotten about. However, it has become a cult classic over the years and is a well respected film now. The film was remade in 1962, but the remake pales in compassion to this film and the presence that Karloff had on screen. This film has also been restored and released on DVD by Kino Video. If you like Gothic horror films, a film that features memorable characters, or if you like Karloff or Whale in general, then this is a film for you.

1264844438_superjoint-ritualBonus Music Review: Superjoint Ritual’s Use Once and Destroy

Perhaps one of the greatest and unknown hardcore/heavy metal releases is Superjoint Ritual’s debut 2002 album ”Use Once and Destroy”. Superjoint Ritual was formed by legendary Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo, and he was the vocalist for this band. But don’t think that this is a Pantera knock off, Superjoint Ritual is the REAL DEAL. It sounds nothing like Pantera.

What makes ”Use Once and Destroy” such a special album is its brutality. The drums, guitars and Phil Anselmo’s vocals are extreme. Some say that Phil Anselmo destroyed his voice in this band because he screamed so much. The album opens up with the instrumental track ”Oblivious Maximus” and really sets the stage for this brutal masterpiece.  Some of the best tracks on this album are ”The Introvert”, ”The Alchoholik”, ”Fuck Your Enemy” ”4 Songs”, ”Anti-Faith”, ”Ozena”, and the self tilted track ”Superjoint Ritual” is an unforgettable track that is brutal but still manages to be psychedelic.The production on this album is excellent but still has the dirty/underground vibe the band strived for. The guitar work on this album is bad ass and nasty and this album has several memorable riffs in it, particularly in ”Ozena”. The guitar work is heavy but it still manages to have some punk sound to it. The whole album has an underground vibe and has a total of 18 songs!

Superjoint Ritual started way back in 1993. Phil Anselmo would get bored in his home city of New Orleans when Pantera was not on tour so him and underground legend/ guitarist Jimmy Bower of Eyehatgod started this group. Their idea was to create a band that fused hardcore punk with heavy metal. Their influences were Agnostic Front, Venom, Celtic Frost, Righteous Pigs, Slayer, Black Flag, Discharge ,Darkthrone and more. The name of the band comes from the lyrics of black metal band Darkthrone’s song ”The Pagan Winter”.

However Pantera was always busy touring so Anselmo had this band on hold a long time, but would still record demo songs. Anselmo wanted to be the guitar player in this band but he was the only vocalist that had the extremeness Superjoint needed. In the early 2000’s Anselmo decided to that Pantera needed to take a break and he finally recorded and released ”Use Once and Destroy”. The band featured Anselmo on vocals, Jimmy Bower and Kevin Bond on guitars, Joe Fazzio on drums, and Hank Williams III on the bass guitar.

The band toured a lot  and released one more album. Unfortunately for some reason the band disbanded in late 2004. Not much information can be found out why, however Hank Williams III said that it was over an issue involving drummer Joe Fazio and Phil Anselmo, and he also said that the band is no more. Anselmo has not given much details either but he has said that there is 100% NO way of Superjoint ever reuniting. He also said something along the lines that drummer Joe Fazzio sued him. It is a shame, because no recent mainstream metal act can compare to any Superjoint album or concert.

This band is bad ass and one of the most extreme bands ever. That may be a bold statement but it is true.Just watch one of their live videos on You-Tube and you will see what I mean. Another thing that made Superjoint stand out is that they were a self proclaimed ”anti-image” band, and they depend on music, not their looks and their goal was to use their extreme music to kill rap metal. So listen to ”Use Once and Destroy” and hear one of heavy metals best kept secrets.

-Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR – Easter Casket

ecposter1HAPPY EASTER HORROR FIENDS!

Easter is a tough time to be a horror fan as there isn’t much Easter horror to watch. However thanks to indie micro-budget horror director Dustin Mills, we now have the grand Easter horror film “Easter Casket.” Though it might have an extremely low budget, it certainly makes up for it with its pure ambition. A perfect example of more money does not equal a better film.

All Hell breaks loose when Petter Cottontail, aka the Easter Bunny, hears that the Catholic Church plans to do away with all Easter rituals not pertaining directly to the resurrection of Christ. Angered by this decision, the Easter Bunny goes on on a rampage, leaving the bodies of the clergy and a few catholic school girls in his path. Father Asher is a warrior priest who, under the guidance of the Mega Pope, is hot on the trailer of the Easter Bunny. Will Asher be able to stop the Easter Bunny, who has now revealed himself to be a ancient demon god?

With a plot like that you know this film is going to be whacky, over the top and batshit crazy and it very well is. Also, right from the beginning you can tell this film was made for nothing. However that does not get in the way of its ambitions. It’s a highly entertaining, funny and sometimes disturbing horror action hybrid that leaves you saying “what the hell?” multiple times. The characters are somewhat likable and the film explores the catholic as well as the pagan meaning of Easter, which is sex. Speaking of sex, there is a fantastic sex scene between two main characters where the buildup right before the sex is almost nerve racking and the sex is very much needed for both characters. Worth mentioning is the amazing music score by Ian Smith, it echoes of early John Carpenter. Finally, the one who steals the whole show, the Easter bunny himself, is surprisingly not played by an actor in a suit or makeup but instead he is a puppet fabricated and voiced by the director himself Dustin Mills. And here the Easter bunny is both whacky, evil and uncomfortably creepy.

If you are stumped on what movie to watch this Easter, seek out Dustin Mills “Easter Casket.” If you can forgive the low budget, you will have a blast and hopefully make this essential viewing for your Easter season.

– James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR-Shocking Asia

MV5BMTM0MTgxNTM1Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDMxNTMzMQ@@__V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_If you are in the mood for a non-traditional horror film, I would recommend Rolf Olsen’s 1974 Mondo film ”Shocking Asia.”  This is a film so hidden that very little information on it can be found online. If you are a fan of “Cannibal Holocaust,” shockumentries, or you just want to be shocked, watch this film.  While not as brutal as ”Cannibal Holocaust””, or other Mondo films, it still has the same gritty exploitation vibe to it. Also, this film serves as a great introduction to the Mondo genre.

The film is about Asian culture. From the snake meat markets to religious ceremonies this film showcases it all, the shocking rituals and practices that, while normal to Asian culture are shocking to Americans.

On the National Geographic channel there is a television show called “Taboo,” which shows you how different cultures live. Imagine an uncut version of that show and you have “Shocking Asia.” In the ’70s these films provided audiences a glimpse into other countries and were quite shocking for the time. Some of the stuff from this film is still shocking, I can’t imagine how this would play to an audience in the 1970’s.

While some of the stuff featured in this film may be exaggerated, this film is enjoyable and a  fun watch. It is especially great if you want to take a break from horror films but watch something extreme. Don’t watch this film if you are easily offended. If you are a veteran viewer of ”Cannibal Holocaust” this will be a cake walk for you .

Bonus Music Review: Pantera’s “The Great Southern Trendkill

The_Great_Southern_TrendkillPerhaps one of the heaviest and brutal albums in heavy metal history is Pantera’s 1996 release “The Great Southern Trendkill.” It’s Pantera’s darkest and most experimental album as well. It was also around this time that Metallica disappointed metal fans with ”Load” because it wasn’t a very heavy album. Fortunately  Pantera were prepared with an album that was so heavy some of the songs did not even sound like Pantera.  Pantera only made one more album after this and disbanded, and guitarist Dimebag Darrel was murdered a few years later.

If you want a great heavy metal album that is very heavy and extreme this is for you. On a personal level, it is one of my favorites. This album has been around for 18 years plus, it does not sound old or outdated either- it is still heavier then most metal bands today, and that alone makes it unique and worth its reputation. A lot of classic metal albums out there you can say are not heavy by today’s standards, but this one is an exception. The guitar work from Dimebag Darrel is extremely heavy. As a matter of fact Dimebag’s guitar solo on ”Floods” is considered to be his greatest guitar solo ever! Drummer Vinnie Paul and bass player Rex Brown create a brutal rhythm section to go along with it Dimebag Darrel’s heavy guitar work. The production on this album sounds so good that it sounds as if it were recorded yesterday.

There was a lot of tension going on within the band at the time, and it was around this time that vocalist Phil Anselmo became addicted to heroin. As a matter of fact he overdosed and died touring for this album, but was revived with a shot of adrenaline. That would probably explain the dark mood that this album has, even the album booklet has a mysterious, dark vibe to it. There are also a lot of mysterious elements to this album as well. Such as that it was not well documented like the band’s other albums such as ”Far Beyond Driven” or ”Vulgar Display of Power”. Not much information can be found about this album online. Also, Pantera did not do very many interviews with the press in the era of this album. Also not many songs from this album were played live. The only songs Pantera played live in the 96/97 era from this album were ‘Suicide Note Pt. 2’, ‘War Nerve’, ”Sandblasted Skin’ and occasionally ’13 Steps to Nowhere’. They also only made one music video for this whole album. However just because they did not play very much material from this album live does not mean the songs were not good. The songs on this album are incredible, such as ”Drag the Waters”, ”Floods”, and ”Suicide Note Part 1” is a haunting acoustic ballad. Pantera had a reputation of never selling out and being the heaviest band around, and this album serves as a testament of that.

-Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR AND UNDERRATED SEQUEL- Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2

10261888_782397245112133_1499678860_n

One of the more well-known slasher films is the 1980 classic “Prom Night,” which played a part ushering in the slasher craze of the early ‘80s. However what many horror fans may not be aware of is seven years after the first film a different studio decided to make a sequel. That film is “Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2,” a sequel that has nothing to do with the events of the first film and acts as a stand alone film. Hence, it qualifies as both a Hidden Horror and an Underrated Sequel. This film is sadly overlooked by horror fans and that is practically a crime as this little-known ‘80s horror film is quite haunting and damn good. 

In 1957 Mary Lou, the girl who is quite “popular” with all the boys at her high school, is just crowned the prom queen. As she is celebrating in front of the whole prom crowd her jealous, freshly dumped boyfriend Bill, played by genre vet Michael Ironside, plays a prank on her that backfires and results in her being burned to a crisp. 30 years later Mary Lou’s tortured spirit returns and is out for revenge and she does this by haunting the good girl Vicki, killing off her friends, inducing eerie nightmares to both her and Bill- now the high school principle- and finally possessing the poor girl herself.

Despite not being related to the first film there are quite a few good qualities that make this film worth watching. It’s well directed with decent characters, good performances, a good villain, somewhat gory deaths- there is one in a locker room that you will want to rewatch- damn eerie nightmare sequences and many fun and quite haunting set pieces. including one involving an old rocking horse that comes to life and a near ending that involves Mary Lou coming out of the possessed Vicki. However tis does not happen in a way that you’re thinking, it happens in more of a “what the fuck is happening sort of way.”

If you want to watch an overlooked high school horror film from the ‘80s with vengeful spirits, possessions, nightmares and a body count, seek out “Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2.” You’ll thank me later.

-James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR-Horror Hotel

horror-hotel1 If you want a great underrated or overlooked film, ”Horror Hotel” is definitely a movie for you. ”Horror Hotel” also known as ”The City of the Dead” is a 1960 occult horror film directed by John Llewellyn Moxey. This film along with other films like ”The Curse of the Demon” , ”Burn ,Witch, Burn” and ”The Devil’s Bride”  were some of the first films to deal with witchcraft  and the Devil before films like ”The Omen” or ”The Exorcist”. So that makes this film pretty ahead of its time and pretty unique. This film also relies on atmosphere instead of special effects. Another factor that makes this film stand out is that Christopher Lee stars in it. When people think of Christopher Lee, they normally think of his Hammer films, but this one is over looked. This film also is well made as well and is worth anyone’s time.

The film opens up with some villagers about to burn a witch. Before they can burn her she calls on Lucifer to put an everlasting curse on the town. Fast forward centuries later a college student fascinated by witchcraft is going to write a research paper on the subject. Her professor (played by the legendary Christopher Lee) tells her she should visit the same town where the witch was burned centuries ago to write her report on witchcraft. She goes  to the town despite warnings from friends and family. There she finds a mysterious, foggy and dark town that seems to have never evolved with modern times. She then gets a warning from a priest who tells her that ”In this town evil prevails”.  Little does she know the town is still connected to witchcraft and an annual ritual takes place in the town and a sacrifice must be made… And the sacrifice is her!

This is atmospheric and has kind of a Mario Bava/”Black Sunday” vibe to it. So if you’re a fan of Mario Bava you will like this film.The foggy mysterious town is the perfect horror atmosphere full of dread and tension. Also on a personal level, I have seen some crazy stuff as a horror fan, but for some reason this film creeped me out. The suggestions to Satan are chilling for a black and white film. Another unique aspect of this film is that it can be so creepy but be in black and white.This film has stood the test of time well. It does not depend on visual effects-only creativity. Also this film is in black and white and that really helps this film as well. I could not imagine this film in color because it would take away the from the creepy atmosphere this film has.

If you want an outside of the box horror film, this is for you. This film has several elements that modern horror films today lack, such as atmosphere, and creativity.

-Dakota Bailey

PS: If you are disappointed in modern rock/metal and weak generic bands that rule the radio airwaves I have some suggestions of some great metal bands to check out:

Slayer, Pantera, Morbid Angel, Immortal, Venom, Celtic Frost and Superjoint Ritual.

 

 

HIDDEN HORROR-Don’t Go in the House

MPW-24935”Don’t go in the House” is a 1980 horror/slasher film written and directed by Joseph Ellison. This film came out in the 80′s when slasher movies were very popular and they was a huge stream of them that came out and some of them that were very good were over looked. And this is one of them. It is probably one of the most brutal films of the 80′s era of horror films, and it is a great film that deserves more recognition. If this film had been more popular it probably would have had several sequels. Instead it was unpopular and no sequels followed.

 The film tells the story of a mentally unstable man named Donny. He lives in an old mansion with his elderly abusive mother. One day he returns after work and finds his mom sleeping in her rocking chair. He tries waking her up, but it becomes clear that his mom past away in her sleep. Donny is sad at first but then gets happy that there are no longer any rules in the household.. But he is wrong. As soon as he is about to do something that his mother would have not approved of, he hears her disembodied voice. Her voice begins to control and abuse him. Donny soon becomes very unstable and goes on a reign of terror with a flame thrower as his weapon!

This film to be honest rips off of ”Psycho”. However, this film brings a new level of brutality and dirtiness that ”Psycho” did not have. It is similar in ways such as that there is a son and a mom. The mom is dead, but the sun is deranged and still thinks that his mother is alive. Donny also preserves his mother’s corpse and it becomes some what of a skeleton sitting in a rocking chair such as in ”Psycho”.

What makes this film so cool, is that it is one of horror cinema’s best kept secrets. Also while other horror films of the 80′s depended on violence and gore, this film does not rely entirely on those factors. While there is some violence in this film, it does not depend on it. Instead this film is creepy, atmospheric and has a dirty exploitation vibe to it. I have heard reports that when this film was released on home video, it gathered dust on the shelves of video rentals. However this film gained some notoriety when Quentin Tarintino played it at his film festival and said he liked this film.

If you are looking for a classy Mario Bava horror this film is not for you. But if you want a brutal , under the radar horror film, then check this out.  Give this movie a chance and see one of horror cinema’s best kept secrets.

-Dakota Bailey