100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

SatanFest 2013 - Day Eight: "The Satanic Rites of Dracula!"

Happy rainy Thursday, gentle readers. We're back with a vengeance to drop some hot horror movie loads all over your eager faces!

We took a day off on purpose yesterday, for the sheer fact that last night was the premier of Season Three of one of the best shows on television - FX's "American Horror Story." And we wanted to gorge ourselves on some of the previous seasons just to ramp up the excitement - although binge watching is not necessary for this unique television experience.

If you're not already on this train, you need to grab your tickets and your suitcase and hop the hell on right now. And don't worry if you can't catch up on the previous two seasons - this is an anthology series, where each 13-episode season is a different story arc with different characters, although many of the same actors return each season. This season - subtitled "Coven," revolves around witches in the American South and the war between witchcraft and voodoo.

We plan on talking about this show at one point - perhaps next month after SatanFest 2013 is over.

And to that end, let us move on to the next film on our list - "The Satanic Rites of Dracula!"

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973): Directed by Alan Gibson. Written by Don Houghton. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and Hammer Films Productions.

Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Joanna Lumely, Michael Coles and Freddy Jones.

The DL: A group of English cultist - consisting of some name members of the government and teh science community - think they are conspiring with Satan. Meanwhile, Dracula is working behind the scenes to bring about a devastating worldwide plague to wipe mankind off the face of the earth.

The Hotness: Having seen this movie before - in fact, we've seen all of the Hammer "Dracula" series and are quite fond of them - we knew going in that it had little to nothing to do with Satan or even possession in the strictest sense. But it's still worth a look because of the way it uses the fear of Satanic cultists to sell people on this last film in the series that started 16 years prior with 1958's "Dracula."

Starring the seemingly immortal Christopher Lee as Dracula, versus the late Peter Cushing as a modern version of his Dr. Van Helsing, the movie focuses very little on the cultists or the idea of Satan; instead, the plot revolves loosely around Dracula obtaining a sample of a modified variant of the Black Plague to unleash Armageddon on the world.

No fucking shit. This is the plot of this farcockta movie.

It reads more like an X-file, or possibly any episode of Season Two of "Millennium," but really it's one last fly on the corpse of this once popular franchise.

Lee didn't want to make the film in the first place, and as such he is underused for most of the production. The story focuses instead on the same group of characters from the previous film - "Dracula A.D. 1972" - who are part of some investigative group that must have inspired Grant Morrison's Division X from "The Invisibles."

Lead by Van Helsing, the group tracks down the now-pointless cultists and Dracula who is masquerading as some mysterious land developer.

It's not a horrible movie, with it's "wacka-wacka" 70s soundtrack and Joanna Lumley's tasty legs, but it's no "Dracula Has Risen From The Grave," and it's a sad end to this often fun series.

The Devil You Say?: Not at all.

Cool Stuff Someone Said: "He'd want to bring the whole universe down with him! The ultimate revenge! Thousands dying of the plague, and like the shadow of death itself, one figure sidling its way through the terror and anguish - Count Dracula!" (Peter Cushing)

Side Notes: Like I mentioned previously, Lee is rumored to have made the film under the condition that it be the last of the series. He's noted to have said of the film, "I think it is fatuous. I can think of twenty adjectives – fatuous, pointless, absurd. It's not a comedy, but it's got a comic title. I don't see the point." Unfortunately, Hammer went on to release "Dracula and the 7 Golden Vampires" in 1974; thankfully, Lee passed on the role.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

SatanFest 2013 - Day Six: "The Witches of Eastwick!"

Whoo! We are backed up today gentle readers, and not from any lack of fiber either. But we are
endeavoring to catch up, as difficult as it is.

As a side note, we are actually one whole movie down now, as our copy of "Noroi" is in Japanese and the subtitles didn't work. So, admittedly, I was kind of lost there so I gave up. We have our team of crack researchers delving into the matter as we speak, so we will keep you posted.

We also did a little switching and moved "Devil" behind today's feature, because it sounds like an interesting movie and I wanted to watch it with my sons, who also have discriminating tastes in film ... just like their old man!

So let's get right to this extremely funny movie that I am anxious to talk about, "The Witches of Eastwick!"

The Witches of Eastwick (1987): Directed by George Miller. Written by Michael Cristopher (Based on "The Witches of Eastwick," by John Updike). Distributed by Warner Bros.

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Veronica Cartwright and Richard Jenkins.

Susan Sarandon wants to fuck us all ...
The DL: Three friends from the eponymous town form a mystical bond after a night of drinking and discussion about "the perfect man." Their machinations, however, summon the very devil.

The Hotness: Before you open your festering gob to shout "THIS ISN'T A HORROR MOVIE" at me around your mouthful of Spicy Chili Doritos, don't. The point was to discuss films about the Devil, and this might be the first film on the list where he actually makes an appearance. But more on that later.

This is an excellent movie, bolstered by some fine performances by some of the greatest starts of 80s cinema. And while it isn't what you would consider traditional "horror" fare, the legendary John Updike knows what is truly horrific and focuses instead on seemingly mundane things like being trapped in an unsatisfying routine with no escape. Or being the focus of gossip in a tiny one-horse-town where you can't wipe your ass without being judged on the quality of your feces. Or of hiding away your passion and talent in exchange for cold comfort and a paycheck.

Such are the lives of our three witches, and it is those weaknesses that Jack Nicholson (in the role he was born to play) exploits as he seduces and worms his way into these women's lives. His seduction is both subtle and gross, depending on the woman and the circumstances, but in each instance it is perfectly crafted to suit their mindset. And it works. Nicholson's Daryl van Horn (an anagram of "A Horny Devil") winds up having sex with all three woman, moving them into his opulent mansion and conducting ongoing affairs with them until they all wind up pregnant with his demon spawn.

Yum, saucy Jack ...
It's genius. And it's evil. And it's a perfect summation of what most people want to believe the Devil would embody if he were to actually show up an wander around - not looking all demonic and stinking of brimstone (although Cher's Alexandra pointedly tells Nicholson, "you stink," which I felt was a nod towards the traditional).And Nicholson throws himself into the role: he prances, he screams, he stomps around like a petulant child, all the while grinning so broadly he shows us every goddamned tooth in his head. It's not overacting, it's just unbridled Nicholson, doing what he does best - being a crazed, emotive madman. Even when he's spewing cherry-flavored vomit all over the place. His finest moment may be when he crawls across his bed, grinds his crotch on the mattress and deftly informs Cher that he always likes "a little pussy before lunch." I howl with laughter every time.

The other performances are just as quality: Cher is at her golden best, looking beautiful and embodying Alexandra fully, and Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer are equally at the top of their game, as is the always solid Richard Jenkins. The other standout performance comes from Veronica Cartwright as the prim and proper Felicia, who goes slightly mad after bone marrow works its way into her brain. Cartwright leaves all self-preservation at the door as Felicia descends into madness - she slobbers as Jenkins spoons oatmeal into her mouth and she lasciviously runs her hands through her legs as she rants about the "turpitude" that has invaded their little Rhode Island town. She never, ever disappoints.

Nicholson on woman in society: Who needs 'em?!
The Devil You Say?: I am pretty sure, yeah. Although by the end, Nicholson is reduced to some strange, half-vegetable/half-imp looking thing that sprouts briefly in the garden before disappearing with a wisp of smoke. That left me thinking that, maybe the writers meant for him to be more of a Satyr than a demon, but I don't recall Satyrs being able to manipulate reality. No, I think that Updike's original intent was to play with the known conventions of New England witches from antiquity, who were always said to be entering into a pact with the Devil himself, not one of his lords or lesser agents. And those conventions are most certainly in play throughout the film - the witches form a coven, hold a degenerate "ritual" that is sure to offend any puritan, and enter unwittingly into a "deal" with Old Scratch. By the way, van Horn is far more deviant in Updike's book: he breaks the pact by sleeping with a much younger woman, and when the witches kill her with cancer, he simply takes off with the dead woman's brother with whom he was also having an affair. It's at this point that the witches summon their ideal men individually and make off with them. I actually like the film version of the plot better, since we get to see Jack seduce some of the sexiest women in Hollywood.

That ... is not pea soup.
Cool Stuff Someone Said: "May I ask you something? You're all church-going folk. I really want to ask you something. Do you think God knew what He was doing when He created woman? Huh? No shit! I really want to know. Or do you think it was just another one of his minor mistakes like tidal waves, earthquakes, floods! Do you think women are like that? What's the matter? You don't think God makes mistakes? Of course He does. We all make mistakes! Of course, when we make mistakes, they call it evil! When God makes mistakes, they call it nature! So whaddya think? Women. A mistake?! Or did He DO IT TO US ON PURPOSE!? Because I really want to know!"

Side Notes: In a movie packed with great actors, there is one scene that has always held a little place in my heart. Alexandra, a sculptress, walks into the shop where she sells her "booby dolls" when the owner, Mrs. Biddle, tells her that a mysterious stranger has just purchased them all. The actress - the late Helen Lloyd Breed - then delivers a soliloquy about meeting and being charmed by van Horn, and it is full of subtlety and nuance, right down to a quick lick of her fingertip before saying "it's right on the tip of my tongue!" She's amazing and she just charms my pants right off.

SatanFest 2013 - Day Four: "The Rite!"

Oy, this is difficult ...

This is going to be another twofer today, peeps - I got backed up for the last bleeding time last night. And I had to reshuffle a few things and wound up watching "The Witches of Eastwick" last night instead of "Devil."

And other crap that is seemingly pervasive in my daily life, yada yada yada ...

Frankly, this is going to be a short one - and as you read on, you'll know why.

So read on, ravers! And thank you once again for being so good to me. I love you all.

The Rite (2011): Mikael Hafstrom. Written by Michael Pertoni. Deistributed by Warner Bros. & New Line Cinema.

Starring: Sir Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga and Rutger Hauer.

That's just ... ew. 
The DL: A former mortician, bored of his profession, uses a free ride at the seminary to get a college degree. When he tries to leave before taking his final vows, his adviser sends him to Rome to research exorcisms, where he ends up witnessing the presence of evil first hand.

The Hotness: Oh my god, is this movie ever boring. Holy shit, I was struggling with consciousness the entire time, and I had a pot of damn good coffee at my disposal, too.

The main problem here is the fact that, other than the inimitable Sir Anthony Hopkins (he earned that "Sir," and you'd better damn well use it in print), there are no name actors in the lot - at least none that I know of. Sadly, Irish actor/musician Colin O'Donoghue cannot carry the movie, nor can he solicit any sympathy - hell, any interest - in this selfish, one-dimensional character.

Which is a shame; the idea of a person using the seminary for an education and then eschewing your vows at the last minute sounds like a good premise. Add the fact that his superiors subject him to things that should change his mind, and you've piqued my interest. But save for a few reasonably accurate exorcism scenes, the rest of the movie seems to flounder in a grey area between drama and horror. In fact, if you find this sucker in the "Horror" section of your local video store (they still have video stores, right?), you should object. Horror takes a back seat - more like, it's forced into the back seat with a black hood on its head - to melodrama and disappointing character development.

The one saving grace of this movie is Hopkins, whose presence fills the screen and eclipses the performances of every one around him. In the first exorcism scene, Hopkins rattles off the Latin from the Roman Ritual as if to the manner born, never breaking even as the possessed writhes and twitches under his hands. And, for you "Bram Stoker's Dracula" fans out there who pay a little too much attention, you will be rewarded when Hopkins cries out, "We are strong in the Lord, and the power of his might" - the same lines used as he tries to force the revamped Lucy back into her coffin for a proper staking/beheading. I giggled. A lot.

"How much am I getting paid for this again?!"
Unfortunately, Hopkins cannot shoulder the entire film, and even when (SPOILER) his character becomes possessed himself, and O'Donoghue has to perform the exorcism, my interest waned considerably. Because you saw this showdown coming the minute Hopkins appears on screen and sees that O'Donoghue's character will be dragged kicking and screaming into the light of redemption. You're better off picking any number of similar films that at least revel in their cheese, and don't try to hide it under poor direction and so-so acting.

The Devil You Say?: Hell no. Absolutely not. Although the movie accepts the premise that possession is real, and that we are supposed to believe the individuals being exorcised are truly possessed, as usual the Devil himself never does the possession. Satan ain't got time for that, he's got a hell dimension to run. So, in the end we find out that (SPOILER) it's actually Ba'al, which is confusing if you're an amateur occultist like myself. Ba'al is a Semetic honorific and not exactly the name of any one demon or god, especially not one in Christian demonology. The closest you'll come to finding Ba'al in that literature is "Baalbereth," who is a lesser lord that is essentially Hell's treasurer. So, do your research next time, fella. I did - I even went to an honest to goodness book to look up the name, instead of relying on the interwebs.

Cool Stuff Someone Said: "We serve the dead, but we do not talk about them. That brings bad things."

Side Notes: The movie begins with some appallingly realistic mortuary scenes that honestly disturbed me more than anything else. The thought that one day, this beautiful body of mine will be treated like so much meat, subjected to chemical processes with clinical detachment, is quite fucking disturbing. So to watch O'Donoghue slide drainage pipes into a lovely woman's inert body, glue her wounds shut, and hide stitching beneath strategically placed clothing is to know the inevitability that most of us will face. Personally, I want to be eaten by tigers at this point.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

SatanFest 2013 - Day Three: "The Devil's Rain!"

Ernie B., about to break it down, Satanic Style. 
A Satanic Saturday to you all, my loyal coven of misfits and heretics!

Shut up, already - I know it's late. I am catching up today, okay? So stuff it! A brother's gotta have a life, too, man! I ain't getting paid to write this damn thing!

Yet ...

Actually, my tardiness owes very little to any attempts to have a life. I'm kinda lifeless right now, as in I need to get one ASAP. So I have no real excuses other than the fact that I need to stick to a schedule in order to get this done in a timely fashion. And that is just what I plan to do.

See? She's a cutie. 
In all seriousness, I have amassed a number of loyal readers and followers on Twitter that I feel I am disappointing. Of course, that was because our bestie, staff member and self-promoted front office manager Shannon admonished us for that very reason on the way to the incredible Eastern State Penitentiary last night for the best Halloween-themed event ever.

"I feel like I have to ride your ass!" she said, and she didn't mean that in any sexual way. Which, I admit, is disappointing 'cuz she is a cutie, as you can see there to the left.

Anyway, we will catch up now that the weekend is here and I will not get behind again. I swear. Shut up.

And all that said, lets get to the remarkable masterpiece known as "The Devil's Rain." Thank you all for reading! I love you!

WTF, Borgnine ... WTF 
The Devil's Rain (1975): Directed by Robert Fuest. Written by James Ashton, Gabe Essoe and Gerald Hopman. Distributed by Bryanston Distributing Company.

Starring: William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, Eddie Albert, Joan Prather and Ida Lupino.

The DL: A family with a mysterious past comes face to face with its destiny, as the leader of a Satanic desert cult comes in search of a book that will restore his dearly departed faithful ... I think.

The Hotness: I was somewhat excited at first to watch this flick, because director Robert Fuest made one of the all-time great cult films of the genre, "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" and its sequel. However, according to the Wikipedia page for the movie, this turd essentially destroyed his career, to the point that his only other film to date is a softcore porn that sounds like the type of thing Cinemax (read: "Skinimax") would have shown in the 80s, and that I would have masturbated to. In fact I think I did, frankly.

I actually enjoyed the movie - for the most part. It dragged a lot, lot, lot, towards the end. But the first third of the film is driven by two over-the-top performances by the immortal William Shatner, and the late unequivocal genius and fellow masturbator Ernest Borgnine.

"Thankya. Thankyaverymuch."
To know Shatner is to love Shatner, and as a somewhat-former Trekkie myself, I certainly do love me some Shatner. And the Shatner is delivered in full force for most of the film. The man can turn a phrase as simple as "No!" or a gesture like dropping a gun into pure and utter melodrama. So, I found myself howling with laughter for much of the first half of the movie - at both Shatner's insane and misplaced intensity and at Borgnine chewing the scenery to goddamn piece and spewing them all over the place. Sadly, I am sure the hilarious response wasn't the one the producers were looking for.

The plot kind of lumbers along, with a few early scenes between Shatner and Borgnine looking like a western, complete with the two stars in cowboy hats leaning on the post outside an obvious backlot western set. And just when you think things are gonna get all "Brokeback Satan" between the two, a proposed "Faith-Off" ends with Borgnine assuring that if he wins he gets the aforementioned book, "and you!" Confirming our suspicions that this whole book MacGuffin was just an elaborate excuse for gay sex in the desert.

You see, we find out later on that the book mostly contains a list of the people condemned to death in 1650, and that there is this whole reincarnated/vengeance from beyond the grave trope at work here that is never quite fully explained.

Tom Skerritt ponders his mustache and finding a new agent. 
Later on, the legendary Tom Skerritt shows up and does his goddamned best with the crap they gave him. He plays another hapless brother from this accursed family now burdened with this farcockta book nonsense. And I do mean nonsense - Borgnine's Jonathan Corbis, self-proclaimed "Satan's master on Earth," is shown to be a powerful magician early on, capable of many incredible feats. What the hell does he need this book for? Did he forget the names of the people he was condemned with? Seriously, I am no dummy and I am not entirely sure what purpose the book has, other than to set the overall plot in motion. Which, goddamn it, makes it a MacGuffin - plain and simple.

Again, I am not entirely condemning this movie - I will, however, say that it should be avoided unless you have a taste for cheesy, low-budget cinema. Which fortunately I do. In fact, some of the special melting effects seen towards the end are pretty cool and gross - they just linger on those shots for far too long, adding to the movie's overall "is-it-over-yet" tone.

Also, there is some confusion about exactly what "The Devil's Rain" is on the Interwebs. It appears to be both the name of a cool goat-headed vessel that Skerritt and Eddie Albert find in the cultist's temple that contains the souls of the un-resurrected. followers, and of the rain said souls appear to be drenched in whist so contained. Here again was a pretty cool, simple effect that would make a great party decoration. It's stretching things a bit, to say the least, but the whole movie is an exercise in making a little out of quite a lot.

The Devil You Say?: Oh my, yes. Although again, Satan himself doesn't make an appearance, Borgnine at one point appears to be "mounted," in the Voodoo sense of the word, by a demon who inquires why he's been summoned "from the pit." Also, renowned occultist and founder of the Church of Satan Anton LaVey served as a consultant to the film, providing it with some authentic-looking altars and properly creepy Satanic masses complete with ominous chanting (although if they are saying any actual words, I'll be damned if I know what they are).

Also, while there are obvious traditional demonic elements to the movie, LaVeyan Satanism is not "Devil Worship," nor does it revolve around any weird resurrection rituals that I am aware of. Yet, those are the visual elements being evoked throughout the film, and Satan is even referred to as the "Lord of Light," which is another traditional LaVeyan Satanist view of "Lucifer" in the romantic, William Blake/John Milton view of Satan and The Fall. LaVey also must have helped with some of the ritualistic elements as well, because some of the language is almost verbatim from some of the Satanic Masses I have read before. Unless they just up and ripped his ass off.

LaVey himself, along with pre-to's-fame John Travolta, are said to both have brief roles in the movie, but I didn't catch either of them. And Australian film reviewer Michael Adams made a great reference to Travolta's appearance in what he referred to as the "ultimate cult movie," since "it's about a cult, has a cult following, was devised with input from a cult leader, and saw a future superstar indoctrinated into a cult he'd help popularize."

And that just gave me the frigging lolz.

Cool Stuff Someone Said: "In the name of Satan, ruler of the Earth, king of the world, I command the forces of darkness to bestow their infernal power upon me! Come forth from the abyss! Open wide the gates of hell!"

Side Notes: Poor Shatner: the man really drifted in the years between the end of the original "Star Trek" series and the poorly received, yet franchise-revitalizing, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." During that time, he starred in some golden oldies like, "Big Bad Mama," and "The Horror at 37,000 Feet," which is considered by many to be his worst performance ever. Having never seen it, I place "The Devil's Rain" on my personal list of Shatner low points. Although those "Promise" commercials were pretty damn douchey.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

SatanFest 2013 - Day Two: "Insidious!"

That's right, bitches - you're getting a twofer tonight. But don't expect this kind of loving attention to be
lavished on your asses on any permanent - or even semi-permanent - basis. We are now acting under direct threat of our best friend and now, evidently, office manager here at the Unstoppable Movie Monster headquarters. And that broad is cracking the proverbial whip, too.

So you're gonna get a double dose of Satan tonight, since we just finished up the second movie on our list - 2011's "Insidious." And we're gonna talk all about it in a few minutes here. But first I need to explain a little something about this blog.

I started this out oh so many years ago to challenge myself to stick to a self-imposed schedule and to see if I really enjoyed horror movies as much as I claim to. And what I found out is that A., I can stick to a schedule, even when my life is falling apart (and, as I was going through a rough patch that eventually lead to my separation from my wife, my life surely was falling apart), and that B., I kinda do like horror movies. And, I kinda don't.

So this time around, I figured I would explore some of the aspects I universally enjoy about horror movies. I like it when seemingly normal people are pitted against "forces beyond nature," and I also enjoy movies about demonic possession because that shit terrified and fascinated me as a child. And it still does, as a matter of fact, and that lead to a lifelong study of the occult that serves me well to this day.

Since we settled on a theme of "The Devil," I wanted to make sure we addressed Old Scratch and his presence (or lack thereof) in each film. And, that is exactly what I forgot to include in my first post on "The Lords of Salem." Like a dumbass.

That section - "The Devil, You Say?" - was added, so if you've read the entry on "The Lords of Salem," go back and read it again. If you want to, that is. Or not. Whatever. This is not mandatory.

And with that little bit of expository dialogue out of the way, lettuce get to the meat andtcheese ....

Insidious (2011): Directed by James Wan. Written by Leigh Wannell. Distributed by FilmDistrict.

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey and Ty Simpkins.

Co-starring Darth Maul as a creepy bastard.
The DL: A young family is plagued by supernatural phenomena in their new home that inexplicably drives their son into a coma. A change of venue, however, fails to help as the occurrences continue and their lives become increasingly unsettling.

The Hotness: Y'know, I wrote both James Wan and Leigh Wannell off. I hated - hate, hate, hated - the "Saw" movies. Yeah, I know that most people reading this blog loved 'em, but I found them poorly acted for the most part, and derivative of the type of "torture porn" that was pervasive in 2000-era horror cinema. Yes, Tobin Bell is one creepy bastard and a fine addition to the annals of horror movie baddies. But one of the things I discovered during the "100 Days of Horror" challenge is that, I don't like torture porn. I don't watch horror movies to see someone's head ripped graphically in two. You can certainly show me that, if it's pertinent to the plot, but don't linger on the violence and glorify it, making it the purpose of the film and not a consequence of someone's inaction.

That being said, I didn't pay much attention to Wan or Wannell over the past few years - and it sounds like I wasn't missing much. However, Shannon and I caught "The Conjuring" in the theaters this summer and when I found it was directed by Wan, I probably made a surprised face and grunted with a similar tone of, "huh!" because I actually enjoyed "The Conjuring." Like, a lot. But more on that later in the month.

Not meth ... not even once.
Although "Insidious" is a little slow on its taxi down the runway, once it gets going it seriously takes off. I found some of the scenes so intense that I had goosebumps and hard nips, and I strongly questioned my reasoning behind watching such a goddamned movie alone.

Then I remember, "Oh yeah, I ruined my marriage. Right. Shit."

And while Patrick Wilson is amazing (why do I love him so much? Is it because he's Nite Owl?), and Rose Byrne is ... I dunno, passable, the real standout is Lyn Shaye as the medium Elise. Why this talented and emotive actress has made a career out of silly comedies and side gigs in television shows is beyond me. Her matter-of-fact performance is the foundation of the entire second act of the story.

And let's talk about the story a bit, Leigh. Can I call you Leigh? Good. Say, Leigh ... ever seen a little film called "Poltergeist?" Because this movie is essentially the same plot, with some of the same character tropes, and some of the same settings. This includes the "Wise Old Woman," the "Geeky Tech Guys," and the "Travel to Another World to Save our Child" plot device. But as a close friend once told me, "Good artists borrow - great artists steal." And this movie is as larcenous as they some, in some respects.

You will never watch "The Great Space Coaster" the same.
Where it separates itself from the "Poltergeist" model is in the imagery. Wan somehow manages to squeeze in every creepy image that has been rattling around in his brain for, like, ever. I will spare you a description of those sights, because honestly they heighten the creep factor to 11 and I don't want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, Wan manages to horrify you with something as simple as a man in black walking impatiently back and forth in front of a window. I mean, I was terrified. The tension is ratcheted up throughout the film's length and doesn't let up until it's over, despite some brief relief in the form of Wannell and Angus Sampson as "comical low-tech paranormal investigators." And that's from Wikipedia, not me.

The story also explores the themes of loss, separation and detachment without the heavy-handedness of other similar narratives while it preys upon our collective fears of domesticity. There is also the ever-present familial terror that rears its head when any parent has to sit back and watch things fall apart without the ability to act effectively. And that, folks, is the scariest notion of all. Trust me, I know.

The Devil, You Say?: Meh, not so much. This movie was actually on the short list in case we couldn't find enough Devil movies, but I decided at the last minute to include it because I hadn't seen it at the time. It does have a huge cloven footed beast as its main antagonist, however. And while the plot does revolve somewhat around demonic possession (which was another aspect we were willing to explore), it focuses instead on astral projection as the cause of the possession and not the traditional "obsession/oppression/possession" model. It also has more in common with haunted house movies like "The Amityville Horror" than it does movies like "The Exorcist," but it is still a solid thriller that will scare the shit out of you if you let it.

Cool Stuff Someone Said: "I don't think bad wiring is the problem here ..."

Side Notes: This is the type of thing that fascinates and allures me when it comes to Hollywood. The original movie cost $1.5 million to make, and it went on to gross over $97 million dollars. Now, I am no math whiz, but isn't that, like, almost a 100 percent take above the cost? I mean, it's close to it - feel free to bust out a calculator and give it a shot. And the second installment, "Insidious: Chapter 2," which was just released on Sept. 13, came with a $5 million budget and has already brought in $87 million. Clearly, I am in the wrong fucking business.

SatanFest 2013 - Day One: "The Lords of Salem!"

Yes, I know this is two days late. You don't have to remind me, I'm well aware of my late-ass, hangdog
status. Don't say a word to me. Don't say a fucking word to me, or I'll stab you through the heart with a fuckin' pencil ...

Now that we have made our tribute to the late, great Dennis Farina, we can get down to the business at hand.

Yes, it's true - SatanFest got off to a lackluster start on my part. Too tired to write after Tuesday's kickoff film, and too utterly ridden with depression the last two days to give much of a shit about it. I know, it's pathetic - so sue me. I ain't perfect, in fact am far from it, and sometimes - despite my best intentions - I bottom out. Can't be helped. And I shan't explain further, because you don't give two flying fucks do you?

No, you sure don't.

Anyway, I am excited to have finally mustered the energy to talk about this provocative and polarizing film. So lets get right to it!

The Lords of Salem (2013): Directed by Rob Zombie. Written by Rob Zombie. Distributed by Anchor Bay Films.

Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Meg Foster, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace and Judy Geeson.

The DL: A mysterious record shows up one day at a radio station in Salem, Massachusetts, and its haunting tune starts to have a strange effect on the women of the town - in particular Heidi (Zombie), a DJ at the station with a link to Salem's infamous past.

The Hotness: I attended this movie with my three children - daughter aged 19 (now 20), and my sons, 15
and 16. It's important to note here that, while my boys are acclimated to both Rob Zombie's music and movies in general, my daughter was adopted by another family when she was born and only recently came back into our lives. I say all this because she - unlike my heathen brood - is a good Christian girl who isn't so much a fan of horror movies. At least, not to the level the rest of us are. I thought we would be okay, since Zombie's movies tend to run more towards the disturbing end of things, tinged with a smattering of horrible violence.
Yeah, bitch - ride it ...

I was oh-so wrong.

"The fact that I know you watched this, in a theater, with all three of your kids, makes this experience that much more pleasurable," said our loyal friend and staff member Shannon during our viewing on Tuesday. And I am glad it enriched the experience for her - for me, it was a disturbing flashback and a questionable moment in my career as a father.

When crafting this film, it's obvious that Zombie did his research. The movie at times apes the look and style of a number of renowned directors - among them Stanley Kubrick, Ken Russell and David Cronenberg. And that isn't to say that he ripped them off: it's certainly more homage than any attempt at blatant lifting. But one can't help but feel like they're watching outtakes of "The Shining" or "Altered States" at times, with its monstrous and shifting religious imagery and long, ominous takes of the hallway leading up to the mysterious Apt. 5 in Heidi's apartment.

Your children probably worship this man ...
Again, these are all things that are appealing to me - I love all of the directors mentioned above, and so far I love all of Zombie's films (well ... not so much "Halloween 2," but even he admits it shouldn't even be considered one of the canon "Halloween" films). And I actually enjoyed this movie immensely - it has atmosphere, it has a number of compelling performances (Patricia Quinn is mesmerizing, to say the least), and as usual a fantastic must-have soundtrack with the score composed by longtime Zombie collaborator John 5. And while the details of the story fall apart under deep scrutiny - one minute, it seems like men are unable to physically play the record, then ... they are? - it is a good story nonetheless, and at times it's a downright spooky mess of a movie, filled with dread and a creeping paranoia that pervades the whole production.

But let's get to the rough stuff ...

Jesus ....
As Heidi descends into madness and addiction due to the machinations of the so-called "Lords of Salem,"
Zombie subjects us to her dreams and subconscious images. I think. I have no idea - maybe he is just fucking with us. But when it gets to the final moments, with melting Gothic Jesuses and faceless monsters stroking pink jelly cocks, and Sheri Moon Zombie riding on the back of a goat while German actor Torsten Voges dry-humps her from behind ... shit, I don't even know what to say here. Was there a point I was making?

Like I said, I actually enjoyed this movie. And I think most of you will, too. It isn't bad by any stretch, it's just
not for every taste. Again, it's more disturbing than scary - but that isn't to say there aren't some terrifying moments. And thankfully, Zombie eschews the "startle/scare" tactics so highly valued by many modern horror filmmakers. Also, like Kubrick at his best, Zombie makes the viewer feel a part of the proceedings, as opposed to watching the horror unfold before the character's eyes. It's a deeply personal film, cemented by solid performances - including Sheri Moon Zombie, who gives her most convincing performance to date. It also has some of the most realistic witch burnings I have ever seen - to the point that I swear these women are truly being burned alive at the stake.

The Devil, You Say?: Yeah, pretty much. Although not as the antagonist, nor even as a visible character in the movie. Rather, this is a classic Witch Tale and we have to assume that these gals have actually made some sort of pact with the devil to extend their powers from beyond the grave (cue creepy Theremin music). So even though Satan never makes an appearance, some of his cohorts do, including Beelzebub.

Cool stuff someone said: "I think you've come here to get inside my dear little Heidi's head. Get inside her head and fuck her brain. Have you come here to stick your nosy cock inside her head and fuck her brain, Mr. Matthias?"

Side Notes: The best thing about the movie just might be the performance of Voges as Count Gorgann, lead singer of Leviathan The Fleeing Serpent, in the video for their song, "Crushing the Ritual." It's hilarious and you just know there are people out there who this is a real band and are dying for a record. Video below, and you HAVE HAVE HAVE to watch it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

SatanFest 2013: The List!

Spooky-ooky Sunday, my rabid readers. It felt like a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" kinda day to me, nes pa?

Oy, this is a few days late, I know. But it's been a busy few days here at the offices of the Unstoppable Movie Monster in sunny Nottingham, getting things together for the fall, looking for steady employment and accomplishing many of our goals set out for this blog - nay, for our very lives - in a very short time.

So, kudos to us, huh?

We've also been gorging ourselves on "Breaking Bad" episodes in anticipation of tonight's finale. We actually plan on writing a blog very shortly on "Bad," and it will be an in-depth analysis of the show from our perspective. I mean, it's serious - we took notes and shit.

But first! The list of movies in our 31 Days of Satan challenge!

Show Date Title
October 1, 2013 The Lords of Salem
October 2, 2013 Insidious
October 3, 2013 The Devil's Rain
October 4, 2013 The Rite
October 5, 2013 Devil
October 6, 2013 The Witches of Eastwick
October 7, 2013 Noroi
October 8, 2013 The Satanic Rites of Dracula
October 9, 2013 To the Devil, A Daughter
October 10, 2013 My Soul to Take
October 11, 2013 The Last Exorcism
October 12, 2013 Jigoku
October 13, 2013 The Possession
October 14, 2013 The Prophecy
October 15, 2013 Stigmata
October 16, 2013 Mark of the Devil
October 17, 2013 The Unborn
October 18, 2013 The Blood on Satan's Claw
October 19, 2013 Angel Heart
October 20, 2013 The Devil Inside
October 21, 2013 The Brotherhood of Satan
October 22, 2013 The Ninth Gate
October 23, 2013 The Conjuring
October 24, 2013 Prince of Darkness
October 25, 2013 End of Days
October 26, 2013 From Within
October 27, 2013 The Reaping
October 28, 2013 The Exorcism of Emily Rose
October 29, 2013 The Unholy
October 30, 2013 Constantine
October 31, 2013 The Omen/The Exorcist/Rosemary's Baby

Yeah we imported it from Excel, so forgive the repetition of the year, but we're too lazy to bother taking them out. 

Now, the dates are scheduled but the time of day is not established. That will of course be left up to my schedule. But the goal is to watch the scheduled movie on the scheduled day. The new twist is that we will live Tweet during each movie, with trivia, production details, and favorite lines we encounter during the viewing. 

At the end, we will post a blog about the film in a similar style to our previous "100 Days of Horror" style, with a few tweaks we hope you'll enjoy.

We start this Tuesday with a viewing of a movie I believe is tailor-made for a cult classic - Rob Zombie's "The Lords of Salem!"

You can follow along during the fun on Twitter under #Satanfest2013, or you can add us and follow along: @wmshawnweigel. 

And as always, any local friends may feel free to contact us about attending a viewing. We love company!

Thanks again for reading, and I hope you follow us on this month-long adventure counting down to Halloween!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Son of Perdition! Little Horn! Most Unclean!"

This is it! We are in the thick of it! We're coming down to the wire! It's all over but the screaming!

And other cliches, to be sure.

Truth is, we are almost down to the wire here, with Oct. 1 and the debut of "Satanfest 2013" literally just days away. We here at the offices of the Unstoppable Movie Monster have been hard at work compiling, sorting, downloading, codifying, complexifying, and otherwise exemplifying themselves in every way to get this frigging list together in time to share it with our thousands of loyal readers.

And it's actually done, folks. Yes, we actually have the complete list ready for you guys, and it will be published before the end of the week, so help me Satan!

But before all that happens, we gotta talk about a little place called "Jason's Woods."

Long ago, when the world was younger, there was a little boy in the small hamlet of Oxford, Pennsylvania, who was utterly obsessed with all things horrific and terrifying. This disturbed little bastard couldn't get enough of the plethora of horror movies available to him, and the bloodier the better. His weekly allowance would be squandered on Jolt Cola and rentals from his local video store, sometimes renting the same titles week after week, silently hoping that someone, somewhere, held the same fascinations as he, and that one day there would be a place where his vivid imagination could run buck-wild-naked in the streets.

And then that place was born.

Since its inception over 25 years ago, Jason's Woods has become an institution all of its own. Ask any haunted attraction enthusiast, and if they haven't already made their pilgrimage to this Mecca of the Macabre, it's sure as shit on their bucket list. It is literally acres of terrifying thrills, nestled in the quiet and idyllic hills of Lancaster County, and it is worth the trip if you're anywhere within driving distance.

Over the years, Jason's Woods has evolved from a simple haunted hayride to a truly unique haunted attraction experience. Its creators are always looking for the next big scare, the next intriguing character, the next eye-popping horror to expose their audience to, and good lord do they ever succeed.

The event's founder and the original scaremeister himself, Bob Hershey, has handed the reins over to his son, Bob Jr., who as of this week was still hard at work with the finishing touches - so hard at work, we didn't get much of a chance to speak with him, except to hear that he was on a skid loader and was pretty darn busy. But we picked the tasty, tasty brains of production manager Damien (how apropos a name) Schlegelmilch to find out what other changes were in store for this, their 30th season.

What we found out was that one of its largest attractions, the Barn of Terror, was no more, having been reclaimed as ... well, as a barn by Bob Sr., who still runs several active farms in the off-season.

In its place, however, is a brand-new venue Schlegelmilch said is sure to scare the living crap out of their visitors: the Chamber of Horrors.

"It's pretty much the culmination of over 30 years of design work," Schlegelmilch said. "We've come up with some new concepts, the scenes are all different. And the intensity level has definitely been raised."

Tossing around words like, "aggressive" and "violent" as descriptors for the new Chamber of Horrors, Schlegelmilch also added that it isn't over-the-top gore or violence in the strictest sense of the word.

Rather, the new scenes are so suddenly intense, it is as if the entire venue was seething with things that leap to unanticipated life.

"There's nothing despicable in there," Schlegelmilch said. "It's definitely more PG-13, but nothing too bad. Definitely more action and movement than what you may be used to with a haunted attraction, that's for certain. So this is much more in the vein of 'Shock and Awe.'"

Schlegelmilch explained that the scares were revamped in an effort to keep up with changing tastes in horror movies and even video games, where the level of violence and intensity of the overall experience is at a completely different level than in previous decades.

"Stuff that was scary 25 years ago isn't so scary now," he said. "And our clientele is different now than it was back then, too, so we have to keep that in mind. Plus the collective horror mindset has just evolved over the years."

Along with the addition of the Chamber of Horrors, the scares have been retooled throughout the rest of the attraction's different events, including the hayride and the Carnival of Fear, where some of the freakiest clowns you will ever hope to encounter reside. So if you suffer from coulrophobia, Schlegelmilch advises you to stay away. Or not, if you've got the minerals.

"Clowns to the left of you, clowns to the right of you," he said with a devious chuckle. "And they are much more droolly and bitey this year. We really worked to make it more like a circus inside as well - we added lots of red."

The hayride portion of the attraction sees the return of some fan favorites, according to Schlegelmilch, as long-time attendees were clamoring for their return.

So you will certainly find Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers slinking around in the dark, along with some of the classic creatures like Frankenstein's Monster and others.

"We're calling it the Return of the Legends," Schlegelmilch said. "I think people are going to be very happy."

There's plenty more to do at Jason's Woods, including the zombie-ridden Pirate's Revenge and the Lost in Jason's Woods experience where you take a chilling guided stroll through the trees and get face-to-face with some creepy creatures. And everyone gets to visit the Grand Theater, where fan-favorite Beetlejuice gets the crowd all riled up before the real shows start outside.

In between the attractions there is a great carnivalesque atmosphere going on that is almost as much fun as the attractions themselves. There's some yummy greasy food, live music, weird folks a-aplenty wandering around and a crowd that generally is looking forward to the experience and is fun to be around.

Thousands of people come from throughout the region - even from New Jersey and New York - to take part in this unique experience each year, and it never disappoints. The hundreds of actors involved with the attraction give their all each and every time, even on the slow nights, and the energy and pace is always high. The effects and makeup are also top of the line, produced in-house by a group of dedicated and creative professionals who start gearing up for next season before the winter snow has melted each year. And even if you don't choose to take in all of the madness the event offers up, the hayride alone is worth the trip. It's somehow relaxing and rowdy all at once, particularly if you get a cart filled with fun folks.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I was the demented little bastard mentioned in the beginning of this feature. I have been attending Jason's Woods off and on since the tender age of 13, and it has never disappointed me. It was a joy I came to eventually share with my own children, and it became a major bonding point for my oldest son, who was always afraid of the event until I explained that they were people who loved Halloween just as much as we did, and they were just here to have fun, too. That lead to a real father/son moment where he told me my words gave him confidence and thanked me. All because of a haunted hayride.

For his part, Bob Sr. thinks the venue is in good hands.

"He's grown up around this, he's been a part of it the whole time," he said of his son's involvement. "I'm hoping it's better, with some young blood in there."

He also waxed briefly on his time running the Woods - and on the relationship he and I have formed over the years, to the point that he thanked me for my dedication and support. And that brought a genuine tear to my jaded, weary eye, because I love this place tremendously. And you will, too, if you give yourself over to its unique charms.

Jason's Woods is located at 99 Stehman Road in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Tickets are available at the site and in advance online at www.jasonswoods.com (they do not take credit cards at the ticket window, but they do have ATMs onsite).

Also, this is a working farm, so dress accordingly - proper shoes are a must. Scroll down for a custom video done by yours truly, featuring our family, our best friend and staff member Shannon, Mr. Hershey and Son, and a brief interview of the legendary Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick from his visit a few years ago. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

My youngest son, Josiah, menaced by a Tusken Raider at Jason's Woods oh so many years ago.

Monday, September 23, 2013

"I am the devil, and I'm here to do the devil's business ...."

It's just another Morbid Monday here at the offices of the Unstoppable Movie Monster, ladies and gents.
We are plugging along, ready to bring you a month of Satanic cinema this October - in fact our list will be posted later this week, for those of you who play along at home - and we are working on our feature stories on our region's annual haunted attractions.

Delays and changes in scheduling have plagued us at every turn with this project - it isn't easy getting some of these folks on the line this time of year, frankly. But I am bound and determined to make this work, and all my efforts are focused on making it happen!

That said, let us talk about one spooky-ass place.

Eastern State Penitentiary, located in beautiful Northeast Philadelphia, is a looming and imposing site. It literally pops up in the middle of the Fairmount neighborhood, looking egregiously out of place among the upscale shops and restaurants surrounding its impenetrable stone walls and brutal, gothic parapets. It looks like a place you toss someone in an effort to forget all about them - and that's exactly what it is. Or was, anyway.

When it opened its doors in 1829, Eastern State was considered the first true penitentiary in the nation. The idea of the penitentiary was - duh - "penitence," where the time alone was to be spent in quiet reflection and communion with god. Criminals were isolated for the majority of their time at Eastern State, alone in their stone walled cells with just a slit of a window (the "eye of god") to allow in some sunlight and a few meager possessions. And by "possessions," we mean pretty much toiletries and a bible.

Eastern State's method soon came to be known as the "Philadelphia" or "Separate System," whereby isolation was considered the pathway to redemption. Prisoners were not permitted to socialize with one another - even recreation time was staggered so no two adjoining prisoners were out in their tiny recreation spaces at the same time. The small doors forced prisoners to "bow" to enter or exit their cells - another part of the religious atmosphere that surrounded the penitentiary. Prisoners were even hooded when they exited their cells so they wouldn't be recognized by their fellow inmates.

Most of the day was spent completely alone, although the warden was required to visit each prisoner once per day and the overseers at least three times a day. This method is the polar opposite of the "Auburn System," where prisoners were required to work together in silence and violators were subject to corporal punishment in the form of beatings. Punishment was not absent from Eastern State, however, as the guards often imposed their own cruel torture tactics. People were strapped to chairs for days on end, doused with water and left outside their cells, denied food and water and basic human needs - the worst perpetrators were dumped into a literal pit called "The Hole," which was located under cellblock 14, and left without sun or nourishment for up to two weeks at a time.

Over the years, Eastern State was home to several notable characters, perhaps most infamously Al Capone, who lived a life of luxury compared to his fellow inmates. Bank robber Willie Sutton was also housed there and even made a famous attempted escape from Eastern State in 1945.

Overcrowding and the obvious psychological effects of isolation eventually lead to the downfall of solitary confinement as the preferred method of correction, and Eastern State closed its doors to prisoners altogether in 1971. The massive facility lay dormant for nearly two decades, allowing Mother Nature to take back as much of the interior as she could, while an army of stray cats made the prison their home. It has since been the focus of a slow restoration process that has seen some of the building's facilities almost
completely restored.

The first Halloween-themed event was held in 1991, a combination of theatrical performances and true stories of the prisoners once held there. A few years later the event came to be known as "Terror Behind the Walls," and it quickly became one of the region's largest and most popular haunted attractions.

Billed as "high startle/low gore," the TBTW experience is one of immersion. As soon as you walk in the front doors, a prison riot is fully underway. Panicked guards shout in your face about getting out and needing help, while spotlights glare and klaxons sound, making the moment one you wouldn't want to face on strong psychedelics. Most of the rest of the tour takes you through some of the facility's main attractions, bolstered by disturbing sights and intriguing characters.

This year's event claims to be "darker" and "bloodier" than previous years, so this excites us at UMM beyond belief. This year's event is separated into six different attractions: The Gauntlet, Lock-Down, Detritus, Infirmary, The Experiment and Nightwatch. I got shivers just typing that sentence. It also sounds like visitors are given more chances to be a part of the festivities themselves, by choosing either to spectate the goings-on or to be an actual participant and possibly be part of the show.

We don't want to give away too much here - we've only been once ourselves and we have been told that some of the scenes change from year to year, so who knows what to expect in 2013? Other than a rollicking good time, that is - TBTW is tremendous fun, especially if you're surrounded with people who are as into the experience as you are. The over 250 actors hired each season are also top-notch, eager to scare the crap out of you, and the props and settings never appear cheap of thrown together. The key here is finesse and atmosphere, and one look at the photos tells you that they absolutely do not scrimp on effects.

We here at UMM can tell you that, even for the experienced haunted attraction enthusiast, this event kicks things up "a whole other level," as our bestest friend and loyal staff member Shannon pointed out. It is a very "in-your-face" experience, and - like we said - it's total immersion. You will feel like you are a part of the prison because, frankly, you ARE a part of it for the duration of your visit. So wear comfy shoes and make sure you bring your Depends, because your bladder may damn well fail.

Eastern State is open year-round as a museum for self-guided tours, with Steve "Mr. Pink" Buscemi as your audio tour guide. There is much to learn and enjoy with a visit to this fascinating piece of American history and is well worth it at any time of year.

Oh and by the way - the joint is rife with spirits. Seriously. If you're a "sensitive," you may find yourself deeply disturbed during your visit. To truly experience the presences that inhabit its walls, go in the off-season. And take a Valium before you go. I am not kidding in the slightest.

To learn more or for tickets and tour times, visit www.easternstate.org. Scroll down for a preview video!