Allen asked for a Top 5 list of Christmas Horror Films and we’re here to deliver. We each list off our Top 5 and then chat about Star Wars, Skinner, and of course The Mandalorian.
Hey GeekNerdery crew! I’m back at it again with 23min of ska and ska/punk in a holiday style for you. I hope all you fellow geeks and nerds all have a happy whatever-the-hell you celebrate and that you enjoy this tiny bit of music.
00:00 – the Notables – Blue Christmas (a Notable Christmas ’08)
01:36 – Sean Arawjo feat. Nellie McKay – This is Not the Year (for Mistletoe in the Workplace) (This is Not the Year ’18)
03:31 – Backyard Superheroes – This Christmas (Let’s Get Elfed Up ’19)
06:53 – Heavyball – Office Party (When Can You Start? ’19)
09:50 – the Shop – Come Down ’68 (a Christmas Party with the Shop ’15)
14:01 – North Pole United – Christmas Spirit of ’69 (L.A. X-Mas / Christmas Spirit of ’69 ’10)
17:31 – the Action! – Deck the Halls (Tangled in the Lights ’12)
19:18 – Bite Me Bambi – Holiday Cheer (Holiday Cheer ’19)
Check out more episodes of the 23min of Ska podcast at 23ska.com with a new episode posted every Thursday, as well as home to over 350+ past episodes!
This week we’re taking a look at two movies that tried to put some old pulp heroes into their own movie franchises but ultimately failed. First up Alec Baldwin tries to show us that THE SHADOW knows. After that Billy Zane gets ripped and tells us to slam evil in THE PHANTOM. After that we chat about CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY, MUPPETS MOVIES, and finally end per usual with some Mandalorian talk.
We are revisiting the Blacula films with Pam Grier in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM. Then we’re visiting a scientist who has the best intentions but sadly he ends up creating BLACKENSTEIN. We also talk about the merits of Friday The 13th films, Good Boys, The Movies That Made Us, and Of Unknown Origin. Also at the end we chat about the latest episode of The Mandalorian.
This week it’s time to spend some quality time in the rooms in our houses that we neglect. First up we talk DON’T LOOK IN THE ATTIC and then we DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT. After that we talk some Jojo Rabbit, 21 Bridges, Star Wars Rebels, and in what has become a new segment we talk about episode of 4 of THE MANDALORIAN.
We have a weird theme this month but let’s just say it was parents going on crazy adventures. Ok? First up Jeffrey Jones and Teri Garr have to save the Earth from destruction from Jon Lovitz in MOM AND DAD SAVE THE WORLD. Then John Ritter and Mindy from MORK AND MINDY get sucked into their TV . . . that Jeffrey Jones sold them in STAY TUNED. Also we chat about Disney+, The New Kids, and Doctor Sleep. Then at the end of the show we chat about the first two episodes of The Mandalorian.
This week Doug and Bryan are reviewing some spy movies. First up Michael Caine gets his son kidnapped and gets to ride on a Hovercraft in THE BLACK WINDMILL. After that Robert Redford finds all his office mates dead and of course that means he has to sleep with Faye Dunaway in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR. Also we chat about THE MANDALORIAN, DOCTOR SLEEP, and STAR WARS in general.
We keep the vamp train going with a comedic twist. First up is Jim Carrey playing a virgin who gets picked up by a sexy vamp in ONCE BITTEN. Then Nic Cage goes crazy in VAMPIRE’S KISS. After that we chat about LIVING WITH YOURSELF, HAUNT, and HALLOWEEN.
It’s time to talk about some badass vampire slayers. First up is the movie that introduced us to the biggest mall girl around BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Then after that we see how cool it is to wear all black pleather before THE MATRIX made it cool in BLADE. We also talk about LIVING WITH YOURSELF, ROBOCOP, and Doug throws a fit over THE BABADOOK.
1) Without Warning (1980)
I discovered this movie a few years back, having seen it billed as the inspiration for Predator, and even starring Kevin Peter Hall (the Predator hisself) as the troublemaking alien. And damned if I didn’t end up liking it better than Predator in some ways, which is not a knock against Predator, either. What I love about Without Warning is the smaller scale everything’s done on, from a little mountain town instead of a jungle, to the mostly-useless teenagers and dumbass
locals instead of a bunch of military badasses, to the tighter, chillier feel of a low-budget horror film instead of a big-ass blockbuster. Lo-fi intimacy goes a long way for me.
Without Warning makes good use of what it does have, to the sparing use of the alien to letting the two actual stars in the cast (Martin Landau and Jack Palance) chew the hell out of as much
scenery as they logically can before the whole affair winds down. The alien design itself is fairly standard, and nothing we hadn’t already seen on countless sci-fi shows and movies in decades
past, so director Greydon Clark kept its onscreen appearances to a minimum, but used them effectively. The first time you actually see the predatory alien, it’s kind of jolting. Plus, the thing looks damned cool and pretty imposing in the moonlight.
Even if the rest of the movie didn’t work, it’d worth it for Martin Landau and Jack Palance’s performances, both of whom put in more effort than you’d think was necessary for a low-budget sci-fi horror film. Jack Palance screaming, “ALLLLLIIIIIIIEEEEENNNNN!” toward the end is simultaneously goofy as hell and total badass. Oh, it’s also got David Caruso in it, but in 1980, nobody gave a shit about David Caruso, so he ends up alien-bait pretty quick. Predator took all the stuff from Without Warning that worked, did it on a much grander scale, and it’s a hell of a movie…but I love the scrappy little monster that Without Warning is. So much so that not an October goes by that I don’t watch it and hoist a glass to Jack Palance’s final,
2) Night of the Seagulls (1976)
The final, and best put-together, installment of Italian director Amando de Ossorio’s criminally-overlooked series starring the Blind Dead! A doctor and his wife arrive in a strange little coastal
town, where the doctor is taking up his post as the village medic, and as often happened in the 70’s, eeeeeevil is afoot! This time it’s in the shambling form of the undead Knights Templar.
Those rascally Knights are taking away seven young maiden sacrifices over the course of seven nights, and naturally, the good doctor befriends one of the maidens and tries to save her from a
grisly fate of being bled to death, dismembered, and fed to crabs, all in the (un)name of some Lovecraftian aquarian master.
The Blind Dead series wasn’t known for its inventiveness of story. Hell no. But Amando de Ossorio was a master of creating atmosphere, and the Blind Dead series is loaded with slow, creepy foreboding like few others, and he somehow makes the blind, sluggish knights a credible threat, with their grasping skeletal hands, leathery, ape-like faces, and teeth ready to chomp down on anybody they get hold of. The Knights can even still swing their swords! I know, I know, it sounds kinda ridiculous–and it is, I grant you–but like the other Blind Dead films, Night of the Seagulls is greater than the sum of its parts. There’s a reason British doom metal legends Cathedral wrote four songs about the Blind Dead, and it’s not because these were big-budget epics. Something about the Blind Dead movies just works.
I chose Night of the Seagulls because it’s the most polished and refined of the bunch, and is the least trashy of the series with the overall best story. It’s a good introduction to the Blind Dead series and an oft-overlooked gem that’s well worth checking out this Halloween. Trust me…blind and slow-moving or not, the Knights Templar are not to be screwed with.
3) Matango (1963)
A surprisingly bleak film from director Ishirō Honda (responsible for a little-known film called Godzilla) about a group of castaways stranded on a deserted island and slowly being mutated by the local mushrooms. Well, they’re low on food and gotta eat something, right? With 1960’s Japanese movies, particularly Toho and Honda, I’ve gotten used to brighter, more colorful adventures, but Matango is dark in both atmosphere and themes, with a sense of hopelessness
hanging over the proceedings from the get-go.
With Matango, Honda does everything with an even, measured hand, taking his time in building the story and applying the pressure to our castaways gradually, letting them be slowly crushed by their situation, one by one. After all, being stuck on a mysterious island with no viable source of food except for some bad-news mushrooms isn’t gonna make for happy times, and Honda’s approach is most definitely not Gilligan’s Island, but at the same time, it never gets so heavy-handed that it’s annoying. Honda just mostly lets people be people, watching them as they slowly lose their optimism and trappings of civilization until, finally, they just give in to the inevitable and literally lose their humanity.
The makeup effects are notable, too, as instead of going for something over-the-top (as you’d expect for a 60’s movie about mutating mushrooms), the makeup instead is reminiscent of radiation burns and growths, and is unsettling more than gruesome Not to mention realistic-looking enough that Matango caught some hell in Japan for depicting injuries too uncomfortably close to that of atom bomb survivors. Honda uses these moments sparingly, and to great effect.
The guy was good at what he did. Matango is more of a psychological horror story with bits of sci-fi mixed in than it is a
conventional monster movie, and is mostly quiet and brooding in its character, and would be a good one for a rainy night with all the lights off.
4) First Man Into Space (1959)
An oft-overlooked classic from the Space Age, this little independent, British-made (but taking place in America) film looks at what might happen if a human being were to venture beyond the safe confines of our world…and the terrible price they might pay for such hubris. This was two years before Yuri Gagarin actually became the first man into space, so at the time, this was plausible enough. Cosmic rays or some shit, right?
Well, whatever the reason, Lt. Dan Prescott flies a high-altitude rocket into the fringes of outer space, going against orders, because he’s all fired-up to be the first man into space…he’s a rebel who plays by his own rules! Then he flies through a cloud of an unknown substance. Then he nose-dives. Then he ejects. Plane crashes, Prescott’s nowhere to be found. Then a monster starts roaming the countryside, tearing up blood banks and drinking cow-blood! Vampire from space!
Naw, man. Space is filled with unknown horrors humanity didn’t know shit about in 1959, and Dan Prescott ran smack-dab into them, coming home a monster. And a pretty gruesome-looking son of a gun for a late 50’s indie movie, too. The final scenes are grim as hell, with an edge you didn’t often see from this era.
This is another one of those films where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and something about this particular little sci-fi horror film just really sucks me in, and I love it, even as I know damned well it’s no masterpiece. There’s something charmingly innocent about this bloody little Space Age tale of what could happen when humans reach space, and I never tire of it.
5) The Banana Splits Movie (2019)
So…old 60’s/70’s kids show turned into a horror movie, yeah? I was excited for this from the moment I saw the previews, and when I finally got to see it, I was not disappointed. Because this isn’t the kind of movie you go into with high expectations–you go in expecting something bloody and ridiculous, and that’s precisely what it is. The Banana Splits Movie has absolutely no illusions about itself and what it’s there for, and this is meant to be watched with a drink in hand as you hoot and holler your way through the carnage.
The story, which revolves around the robotic Banana Splits going on a rampage around the studio after being cancelled after 50 years because they weren’t current enough (or something), is light and serves its purpose without getting fancy. It does a pretty decent job of putting all the pieces in place so these lovable scamps from yesteryear can mangle the shit out of some studio staff and some lucky VIPs who got to stay after the final show to meet the Banana Splits. We all know the main attraction of this film was seeing the Splits go berserk, and the film gives us plenty of that, going for gruesome laughs as the cast is neatly whittled down by the butt-hurt
robots. We’ve seen this story before, sure, but never with the Banana Splits doing the killing.
The killings themselves are predictably gory and comical, and there’s something perversely satisfying about seeing these mostly-forgotten-but-still-beloved-in-some-quarters Saturday morning characters ripping the shit out of studio folk and overzealous fans. This is the kind of movie you would’ve half-assed wrote a script for with your friends while staying up way too late on a Friday night back in junior high. I wager that the Banana Splits Movie team still can’t believe they got away with this.
In this era of reboots and retreads, I applaud the Banana Splits Movie, as instead of trying to update an old formula for the modern era, it just says “fuck it, let’s go nuts.” And as one reviewer noted, it’s not like anybody else had a better idea.
I’m the product of a small-town Illinois upbringing that neatly coincided with the rise of cable, meaning my earliest media memories are a delightful deluge of old movies from the 50’s through the 70’s being played nonstop on TBS and USA. They had to fill the hours somehow, dammit! To this day, I’m left with a love of old movies great and horrible, and an appreciation of the absurdities of decades past colors almost everything I do, including my own writing, which mostly consists of semi-cartoonish, over-the-top, and profanity-laden tales of skull-smashing vampire action and adventure. I still reside in Canton with my lovely and infinitely-patient, where I go for long bike rides, obsess over Godzilla, still watch old movies, and get the dog all hyped up before bed.
Here’s a few of the things I’ve written…
Unholy War: The Gathering Storm
Unholy War: Rage & Redemption
Not Of This Earth (inspired by The First Man Into Space, no less.)
This week we’re checking out two Masters Of Horror episodes from Stuart Gordon. First up a student moves into the weirdest apartment building in DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE. After that Edgar Allen Poe finds that his feline friend is actually his worst enemy in THE BLACK CAT. After that we talk JOKER, 3 FROM HELL, SHADOW OF THE MOON, and get really mad at VALENTINE. Then for some reason get into a talk about LORD OF THE RINGS.
I’ve known Michael for many years through the horror community and was super curious what he would put together for some Halloween season viewing. Let’s find out what he suggests.
1. Haunt (2019)
Watch this flick before going out on your Halloween adventures. HAUNT is a masterclass in studio production and set building, highlighted by emerging actors, incredible special effects and the tangible feel of claustrophobia. Let me not forget to mention Eli Roth produced it!
2. Brightburn (2019)
A lot of people slept on this movie when it debuted in theaters May 2019, myself included! I recently borrowed this movie from my brother-in-law and was blown away by the unexpected gore, emotional punches and sinking feeling that the loving family was about to explode.
3. Candy Corn (2019)
This film is one of the few Halloween themed horror films that captures the essence of the holiday in a successful, coherent way. Traditional and nostalgic in its approach, it also features a ton of icons of fright in supporting roles. Hey, PJ Soles, Courtney Gains and Tony Todd!
4. Culture Shock (2018)
What’s more frightening than real life atrocities? This horror-thriller-drama from one of the biggest female directors in the game puts a creepy and uncomfortable spin on one of the political points dividing the nation. Can your body handle the pressure and suspense?
5. Killer Sofa (2019)
It’s a film about a possessed couch that kills people. Do I need to say more?
Michael Therkelsen is the senior editor at award winning website HorrorSociety.com. He’s also a staff writer at GaymingMagazine.com and an independent horror author.
Here we go again Geek Nerdery fans who also like ska… it’s the 23min of Ska Halloween Special! So yeah, a buncha a spooky ska to get you scared and skankin’ or some dumb sounding add copy like that… BOO!
00:00 – SkaTune Network – Beetlejuice Theme (Beetlejuice Theme ’19)
02:16 – Baked A La Ska – Calling All Ghosts (Skalloween ’19)
05:56 – the Kingpins – ‘Til the Following Night (Watch Your Back ’96)
08:11 – the Hempsteadys ft. Vinny Noble – When the Dead are Undead (Séance! Séance! ’18)
11:52 – Skamanians – Ghosts in the Park (Ride Again ’14)
15:50 – Skavoovie & the Epitones – Zombie Song (the Growler ’99)
19:28 – Profesor Galactico – Dia de Los Muertos (Sonic Waves from Beyond ’12)
Check out more episodes of the 23min of Ska podcast at 23ska.com with a new episode posted every Thursday, as well as home to over 375 past episodes!
End bumper performed by Eric Daino.
This week we talk about the horrors of the medical profession. First up Corbin Bernsen goes into a homicidal rage because he thinks his wife is cheating on him in THE DENTIST. After that Larry Drake makes a house call in DR. GIGGLES. We also talk about JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT, EL CAMINO, and CANDYMAN.
Today we’re getting some recommends from a horror film producer. Andrew Beirl has been involved with productions from Slasher Studios such as Dismembering Christmas and Irrational Fear. Let’s see what he recommends for our viewing pleasure:
1. The Hazing (2004)
Director Rolfe Kanefsky created a roller coaster of a movie starring Brad Dourif, Parry Shen, genre favorite Tiffany Shepis, and scene-stealer Nector Rose. Trapped in a deserted mansion, college students deal with being hazed by mean-spirited Greeks and an evil professor (Dourif) who wants to possess and/or murder them. It seemed to get lost in the shuffle of the mid-2000s horror – but it is ripe for rediscovery this Halloween.
2. The Skeleton Key (2005)
This Southern Gothic flick that many people seemed to avoid because of Kate Hudson, our lead and rom-com darling. Look past her previous roles and enjoy this creepy atmospheric Voodoo horror about a PCA taking care of an elderly man in a creaky house. It reminds me of a feature length Tales from the Crypt. Director Iain Softley really captures the beautiful but sinister setting of a crumbling mansion deep in Louisiana bayous and creates a stylish but clever horror that I patiently wait for a special edition Blu- Ray *cough cough Scream Factory*
3. Frightmare (1983)
This Troma masterpiece involves a group of devoted film fans (including Jeffrey Combs) who steal the corpse of their beloved horror icon for one last hurrah. Needless to say, things do not go well. Now this is not a good film, but it is definitely an entertaining one. Turn off your brain, pop some popcorn and enjoy this schlockfest.
4. Mute Witness (1994)
I have no idea why so many people have not seen this tight, suspenseful tale about a deaf SFX artist who is working on a horror film in Moscow. One night she is locked in the studio after hours and witnesses the filming of a brutal murder. No one believes her, but she knows it was real. Soon the Russian mafia, who funded the snuff film, starts coming for her. This is a tense, intelligent and well crafted thriller that is always good for movie night.
5. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2019)
The crew of a horror web series and some lucky volunteers travel to an abandoned asylum for a live broadcast. Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital, where rumor states that the director of the hospital killed all of the patients and went missing is one of Korea’s most haunted locations. The movie itself does not add anything new to the found footage subgenre, however it executes everything so well. It is a scary, unsettling film that utilizes a lot of great in-camera tricks.
Today let’s hear from someone who hosts horror movies. What should we be watching?
1. Spider Baby (1967)
This film has been called one of the predecessors to Texas Chain Saw Massacre and House of 1000 Corpses. Though nowhere new as gritty or bloody, it does have a creepy subversive edge and atmosphere. Lon Chaney Jr’s last great performance and Sid Haig’s first.
2. Messiah of Evil (1973)
A love letter to H. P. Lovecraft from the same team who wrote “American Graffiti” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” It’s about a young woman who searches for her father in a strange little seaside village after his letters to her start becoming more bizarre and macabre.
3. Not of this Earth (1957)
Early Roger Corman sci-fi/horror film about an alien agent who comes to Earth seeking blood for his race dying from radiation sickness. Effective visuals and superior writing make this a great late night watch.
4. The Sentinel (1977)
Found this one while channel surfing one night and it destroyed me for days! A fashion model moves into a house that just happens to be the Mouth of Hell. Chris Sarandon, John Carradine, Burgess Meredith and an unrecognizable young Christopher Walken star. This movie had some controversy because actors with real deformities and disabilities were used to portray denizens of Hell. Proper or not, it was horrifically effective!
5. Spectre (1977)
A great TV movie written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Intended as a pilot for a series following the exploits of a demonologist and a doctor as they fight hellspawn trying to enter our world. Would have been a great series is they pulled it off as well as the film!
For over ten years, Lord Blood-Rah has been hosting live horror and sci-fi film events across the country. His syndicated TV series, Lord Blood-Rah’s Nerve Wrackin’ Theatre, can be seen locally on My59 and on various channels and streaming services.
See lordbloodrah.com for more info.
So far we’ve heard from a lot of people from different aspects of horror but let’s hear from someone who writes horror. What does Joe Chianakas find scary? Let’s find out.
1. THE BABADOOK
This 2014 movie features a super annoying child, and I must admit that when a monster starts to torment him, I cheer for the monster! The Babadook appears through the creepiest children’s book I’ve ever seen, and it haunts a single mother and her son. The creature and the book are incredibly chilling. This is a fun, creepy, and creative movie.
Another 2014 gem, this is a horror-comedy that is equally hilarious and spooky. Laugh-out-loud moments abound (wait for the “Oh, Jesus”) and nightmare-inducing scenes still haunt me in the middle of the night when I hear creepy noises. This story features a woman who is on house-arrest. She’s convinced she’s locked in a haunted house. For our sake, well, perhaps she’s right.
This amazing 2016 film is brilliant on so many levels. Directed by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Oculus, Doctor Sleep) and starring Kate Siegel (who played the wonderful Theo in The Haunting of Hill House), this is a cabin-in-the-woods story with a twist: The protagonist is deaf. Someone breaks into her cabin, but she can’t hear him. The story is clever, and the acting is exceptional. Bonus fun fact: Siegel and Flanagan both wrote the story. They struggled a bit with the ending. What did they do? They took a long weekend retreat, rented room 237 at The Stanley (the famous hotel and room from The Shining) and revised the ending of the movie in that room until they got it just right.
4. AS ABOVE, SO BELOW
This is one of the best found-footage films in the horror genre (imo), but it got buried in an at-the-time overpopulated field. This 2014 movie takes us deep into the catacombs of France. Having explored catacombs in Europe personally, I’ve always found them to be exceptionally interesting and creepy. The found-footage filming puts you right into the spooky and claustrophobic setting with the characters. And there are definitely jaw-dropping, WTF moments that will keep you glued to the screen. This one’s a lot of fun, if you’re like me and find terrifying moments to be absolutely enjoyable.
5. THE FINAL GIRLS
This 2015 horror-comedy is one of my all-time favorites. Surprisingly, it’s very touching and heartfelt, too. But at it’s core, it’s a slasher movie that spoofs slasher movies. It features a young woman stuck in her mother’s most iconic horror movie, and she has to find a way to stop a crazy killer. I love it because of the laughs but even more because it somehow creatively tugs at the heartstrings.
Joe Chianakas is a professor of communication at Illinois Central College and an author. His most popular work is Rabbit in Red, a horror trilogy that celebrates everything we love about scary movies and Halloween. It started with a basic premise: What if Willy Wonka made horror movies instead of candy and invited fans to look behind the curtain? And what if the things they loved about those movies started to happen to them in real life?
1. Slime City
Fans of Basket Case era Frank Henenlotter or 80’s Troma should love this trash horror classic set in a run down apartment where the residents attempt to feed a new tenant booze that contains the spirit of its former residents.
The perfect showcase for George A Romero’s non zombie work. Romero comes up with is own spin on the vampire film with this heady, haunting masterpiece.
A creepy, seedy, gross film about Philipino vampires that like to suck babies out of pregnant moms. One of the first horror films accepted to the Sundance film festival and made by Wisconsin filmmakers that would go on to be involved with many well renowned documentaries.
4. This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse
If you aren’t hip on Brazil’s monster man José Mojica Marins and his character Coffin Joe, solve that problem immediately. While this isn’t the first film in the series (that is At Midnight I’ll take your Soul), this sequel plays out very similar to a much better effect. One of the most unsung obscure classics of the genre.
The Swedish answer to the EVIL DEAD that out does the ED remake in every way. Strip away the comedy and what you have here is a non stop, gory horror ride of a film.
Derrick likes horror movies. He is involved with making them (Swamphead, Hole in the Wall, Manos Returns, Screaming in High Heels) and talking about them on podcasts (Astro Radio Z, The Podcast at Orgy Castle).
Astro Radio Z:
Podcast at Orgy Castle:
Hole in the Wall: https://www.amazon.com/Hole-Wall-GregJohnson/dp/B01BJB6YF8
Screaming in High Heels: https://www.amazon.com/Screaming-High-Heels-Brinke-Stevens/dp/B008A0RGMC/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3R5CXUOY233XM&keywords=screaming+in+high+heels&qid=1568397901&s=instant-video&sprefix=screaming+in+high+%2Cinstant-video%2C156&sr=1-1-catcorr
At the last minute we decided to tackle two Stephen King inspired movies. First up is the recently released IN THE TALL GRASS. Then we discuss GRAVEYARD SHIFT. You’ll notice this week we jump right into the reviews because Doug and Noah decided to chat about Joker for 20 minutes at the beginning of the show. Luckily that has been tacked on to the very end so stay tuned after the outro music. We also discuss the upcoming Crisis On Infinite Earth cross over on the CW, AEW wrestling, and Batman 66.
1. The Living Skeleton (1968)
If you’re not afraid to dip your toe into an old Japanese flick, check out this surprisingly entertaining ghost story. In The Living Skeleton, a young man and woman living under the care of a kindly priest get wrapped up in a series of seemingly supernatural murders. It turns out a group of modern-day pirates murdered the crew of a ship three years earlier, and now the victims’ skeletons are out for vengeance.
What’s great about The Living Skeleton is that the synopsis above is only the beginning. A little past the halfway point, this Japanese horror flick takes some delightfully wild turns. I was surprised to see doppelganger sisters, secret identities, elements of old-fashioned ghost stories, mad scientists, and more — and all without the film feeling forced or disjointed.
Some of the special effects are hokey in a lovable kind of way — namely the bats on strings and woefully inarticulate skeleton marionettes. But this is otherwise a pretty gorgeous, black & white widescreen horror flick that keeps you guessing. Noboru Nishiyama’s very ’60s-sounding score is the icing on the cake.
2. Demon Seed (1977)
Julie Christie is trapped inside a house run by a super-computer called Proteus IV that wants to have a baby with her. Yep, you heard me. Demon Seed, based on the book by Dean Koontz, is mostly a one-woman show, with Christie running here and there, being captured and tormented by Proteus IV, which manifests itself as a disembodied voice (an uncredited Robert Vaughn), security cameras in every room, and a motorized wheelchair with a robotic arm. Later on, the robot manifests in other ways — some pretty cool by 1977 practical effects standards. Proteus IV basically rapes Christie a time or two, forcing her to carry his ‘synthetic spermatazoa’. Whether it’s through shere exhaustion or maternal instinct, Christie’s character eventually look forward to the baby’s birth… but what will the baby be?
Demon Seed is an entertaining claustrophobic sci-fi horror film. And with Google, Siri, Alexa, and other disembodied computers given more and more control of our lives and households, perhaps not completely outside the realm of future possibility!
3. Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1982)
An orphaned teen (Jimmy McNichol) becomes fearful of his aunt (Forbidden Zone’s Susan Tyrrell) after she kills a man in their home. But that just scrapes the surface of Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker. Add in that the aunt has incestuous desire for the boy and plans to keep him with her forever — full athletic college scholarship be damned. She even starts poisoning him. Also add in that the local sheriff (Bo Svenson) is trying to pin the murder on the boy because he thinks the boy is gay. Add in that the boy’s basketball coach (Steve Eastin) really is gay, and the only character who believes the teen or tries to help him… even though the victim was one of the coach’s old lovers. Yeah. In case you haven’t gathered, this movie is most certainly not your typical formulaic horror flick — and I loved it!
The first thing I loved about this movie is that it turns the tables on the gender paradigm. It’s a woman to be feared and it’s our male protagonist who needs rescued in the third act. (And it doesn’t hurt that he’s a cutey.) The second thing I loved about the movie was that it dealt with homosexuality at all — a pretty rare thing for a movie in the early ’80s. The sheriff gets right up in our main character’s face and tries to force him into a confession with lines like, “You’re a fag, aren’t you? Tell me you’re a fag. Admit it.” And refreshingly, the character doesn’t go out of his way to prove he’s not gay. He’s not a homophobe. He even remains friends with the coach after the coach is forced to quit his job. Again, very progressive for an early 80s movie.
Susan Tyrrell is on fire here, just like she was as the intergalactic queen in Forbidden Zone. She’s over-the-top in the best way possible, breaking dramatic moments with non-sequitur black comedy and giving already-disturbing moments just that little extra touch of perversion.
If you’re looking for something unusual, a little provocative and a little campy, then don’t miss Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker!
The Baby (1973)
A social worker investigates a mother and her two adult daughters who take care of a 21-year-old man who wears diapers, sucks baby bottles, and sleeps in a baby crib. The family insist the man has the mental and emotional capacity of an infant, but the social worker’s not so sure.
The Baby isn’t the dirty, fetishistic film I thought it would be. Director Ted Post (Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Magnum Force) and writer Abe Polsky anchor the deranged tale in the social worker’s plight to rescue ‘Baby’ from his family. The whole film is engaging and unsettling, teetering between camp and sincerity, until it arrives at a climax that pushes it very well over the edge into psychological horror. It’s such an unusual movie in so many ways, I highly recommend checking it out.
5. The Pit (1981)
A sexually infatuated twelve-year-old boy does what his teddy bear tells him to, which includes feeding the locals to a pack of monsters who dwell in a pit in the woods. I don’t know what the teddy bear and the pit monsters have to do with one another, but the first half of The Pit is remarkable in its depiction of a nascent psychopath. My favorite scene is one where the boy sneaks into the bathroom while his babysitter is in the shower. He writes “I love you” on the bathroom mirror and waits in giddy anticipation of her response. When she screams and admonishes him, you feel for poor kid. The Pit does a good job portraying how negative response to natural impulse can warp a young man’s sense of self and sexuality. Unfortunately, the second half of the movie drops the psychological intrigue and focuses on the pit monsters, which are little more than midgets in monkey suits. But like The Baby, The Pit is another one of those movies unlike anything you’ve ever seen before – and therefore well worth a viewing.
Scott Schirmer is an independent filmmaker based in Bloomington, Indiana. He is a commercial audio/video producer and editor, as well as the director of several feature films. His credits include Found, Headless, Harvest Lake, Plank Face, Space Babes from Outer Space, and The Bad Man. Most of these titles are available on DVD, Blu-ray, or digital download at scottschirmer.com!