Why Clownhouse (1989) is Terrifying.

clownhouse-1989

I’ve recently been gifted with a pile of retro horror films.  Among them was 1989’s Clownhouse.  I’d been really excited to watch this, confusing it with another film from the 80’s featuring a girl and her creepy clown doll.  Popped it in, recognized the director’s name but couldn’t immediately place it, but moved past quickly when I spotted Sam Rockwell’s name in the opening credits.

The premise is rather silly.  Three young brothers are left home alone for the night and must fend off a trio of escaped mental patients masquerading as the circus clowns they’ve murdered.  The eldest brother, played by Sam Rockwell in his first feature role, is a teenaged jerk appalled that he’s stuck with babysitting duties.  The youngest, Casey, has severe coulrophobia and nightmares that cause bed wetting, instilling a maternal instinct in middle brother Geoffrey.

When nothing on screen sparked any memories of having seen this prior, I sought answers from Google. First, I found that the movie I’d actually been hoping for was 1988’s Ghosthouse, not Clownhouse.  Second, that director Victor Salva actually went to jail for events transpiring off screen between himself and the film’s 12 year old lead actor, Nathan Forrest Winters.  Victor Salva, roughly around the age of 30 at time of production, had been molesting the boy and filming it. WHAT?

He spent only 15 months in jail after confessing to five counts of sexual relations with a 12 year old boy, and having videotaped said relations.  Nathan Forrest Winters has no further acting credits to his name, and can anyone blame him?  Shockingly, Disney hired Victor Salva to direct 1995’s Powder, and the director relates the lead character to his personal life and the time he spent in prison.  Powder flopped, however, in part by Nathan’s public boycotting of the film.

Hollywood has a short memory, though, and Victor Salva found favor again with 2001’s Jeepers Creepers.

Now, of course this is old news, and I’m sure most people are already aware.  Hell, Victor Salva’s name held vague familiarity because I’d remembered some kind of sexual misconduct news tied with his name when Jeepers Creepers was released.  However, reading this news while watching Clownhouse gave the film a whole new context that was both horrifying and heartbreaking.

Casey’s frail and scared demeanor took on a deeper meaning.  That he spent the film scared of the grown men relentlessly pursuing him just felt icky.  The tone no longer felt like silly kids horror.

I’m behind the times on this one, and I feel terrible for that.  But I, too, will join Nathan Forrest Winters on his boycott of Salva’s films.

Lights Out News

Remember creepy horror short Lights Out that took the top spot on my Horror Short Round Up last year?  This online favorite created by David F. Sandberg, starring his wife Lotta, is now being turned into a full length feature.  The best part?  It’s being produced by James Wan!

Sandberg will be directing, and has also mentioned via Reddit that he’s aiming for more practical driven effects.  The full length feature, written by Eric A. Heisserer, has expanded to focus on an entire family being haunted by supernatural enemy.

It’ll be exciting to see how this terrifying short translates to a much longer story.  If you’ve never seen the short previously, or need a refresher, view it here.

lights out

Texas! Experience Jaws on the Water

Jaws on the water

If you live in or near Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas or anywhere in between then you have no excuse to miss out on the upcoming Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow Event on June 27.  For those unfamiliar, the Rolling Roadshow takes the screenings out of the theater and, well, on the road.  If you’re in Austin, where the Alamo Drafthouse franchise began, this meant having access to some of the most insane settings for a screening.

One of the most popular Rolling Roadshow events occurred in 2002, where Jaws screened on Lake Travis and viewers watched while floating in inner tubes.  If that wasn’t cool enough, scuba divers bumped into the tubes and pulled on the limbs of unsuspecting attendees during key moments during the film.  Leave it to the Alamo Drafthouse to submerse the audience in a whole new level.  Did I mention the screening began after dark?

This summer, they’re bringing this event back! Tickets went on sale today at noon, so snatch them up while you can here. More information can be found here, and a more comprehensive article detailing the history of the Roadshow can be found here.

Tickets will go fast, so don’t miss the opportunity for an amazing movie experience.  And if this sounds too terrifying, you can sit on the safety of the beach…but where’s the fun in that?

Friday the 13th Mini Pies

Guess what the date is this Friday?  Friday the 13th!  If you haven’t checked your calendar yet, next month also boasts a Friday the 13th.  Two in a row! Growing up, this was a day guaranteed to air marathons of the films on cable.  Some years, you could find marathons of the television series.  Those marathons seemed to have waned over the years; I’ve checked my cable guide and can’t find a single showing on basic cable this Friday.  Instead, I’ll force my boxed set upon my poor friends.  To compensate, I’ll bring along personal sized cherry pie.

Jason Voorhees pie

Things you’ll need:
2 (2 count) packages of refrigerated pie crusts
4 cups of red pie filling (cherry, strawberry rhubarb, etc)
1 egg, whisked

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups.

2. Flour your work space. Roll out a single pie crust (keep rest of pie crust in fridge until ready to use).  Use a four-inch, round cookie cutter to cut out circle of dough.  Don’t have this? Neither do I. I used a lid of a yogurt container.  Press each circle of dough into the bottom of each muffin cup so that a little rim of dough sticks out of the top.  Repeat until all 12 cups are filled.

3. Fill each cup with pie filling, approx 1/4 cup, until nearly filled.

IMG_0446

4. Here’s the creative part.  Topping the pie. Roll out the remaining dough.  To make the Jason Voorhees hockey mask: I don’t have a miniature oval or circle cookie cutter, so I took a small spoon and traced the shape with a knife.  Then used the knife to cut out the eye holes.  For smaller holes I just pressed down with the knife and gave a small twist, following the shape in the mask as much as possible with the small dough canvas.  A cookie cutter I’m sure would have given a much cleaner appearance, as would using something like a straw for the eyes.  But, you make do with what you have, right? Place pieces on top of filling.  You can cut out any shape you wish or even make a small lattice.  I attempted a machete, but it never quite worked out how I wished.

IMG_0467IMG_0470

5. Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of each pie with the whisked egg.  Then bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling begins to bubble and the crust is lightly golden.

6.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan for at least 15 minutes.  Then gently lift out each pie from muffin tin.  If it doesn’t give as easily, carefully run a knife around the edges of each pie to loosen before removing from tin.  Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Cooling pie

Happy Friday the 13th!

2014 in Retrospect

By now you’ve seen countless of Top 10 Horror for 2014 lists, with the end of the year upon us, and I considered posting one as well.  2014 has been a great year for horror, though you wouldn’t know it judging by wide theatrical releases.  However, I feel wrong titling this list as the “top” or “best of” as, to be honest, there’s so many I still haven’t seen.  So instead, consider this my list of recommendations.  My reflection of the horror films throughout the year that resonated with me; the gems that may have gone overlooked.  In short: my absolute favorites.

The Guest

THE GUEST

Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Immediately go to your closest retailer or VOD of choice this Tuesday, January 6th.  This is, hands down, my favorite film of 2014.  While The Guest may not count as traditional horror, the obvious John Carpenter and James Cameron influences argue otherwise.  As does the blatant Halloween III homage and that the plot is set over Halloween, with the climax set amidst the most amazing Halloween party ever.  The setup is simple: a soldier shows up at the doorstep of a family, claiming to be there fulfilling a promise he made to their son to look out for them after his death.  Their teenage daughter soon suspects this soldier is not who he says he is.  The performances by leads Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe elevate the basic premise into something extremely special.  Maika’s performance as tough-as-nails Anna made her one of the best final girls in recent years. This genre bender is a masterpiece, complete with quirky humor.

Starry Eyes-

Starry Eyes

A cringe inducing allegory on ambition and a stark look at sleaze of the casting couch, Starry Eyes follows Sarah and her desire to reach stardom.  Alex Essoe carries the film as Sarah, from tragic vulnerability to vehement determination in achieving her goals.  Sarah lives in a complex of other Hollywood wannabes, a group of friends content with partying amongst each other, while Sarah persistently looks for casting calls and juggles a job at a Hooter’s style restaurant.  She gets her lucky break when invited to meet with the producer of a well-known company to discuss the lead role in their latest film, but must trade in morals and more to win the role.  Starry Eyes spends a lot of time setting up Sarah and her journey, but once her deal is struck the film picks up the pace and amps up the gore.  Sarah’s transition into stardom is both gripping..and gag inducing.

Purge: Anarchy-

The Purge: Anarchy

A hugely entertaining sequel to a mediocre at best predecessor.  Read why this film is worthy here.

Late Phases-

late phases

A blind Vietnam vet moves into a retirement community where the residents are being slaughtered every full moon.  Wait, really?  Instantly intrigued by the premise, I found this film had more in common with Bubba Ho-Tep that initially suspected.  Stocked with a solid cast (Ethan Embry, Tom Noonan, and Larry Fessenden) lead by Nick Damici as the gruff and independent vet, Ambrose, Late Phases transcends its gimmicky plot with a melancholic study on the forgotten elders.  The residents are largely forgotten outside of their community; their children have abandoned them and even the community’s security treats them like jokes.  Behind Ambrose’s abrasive persona lies guilt and depression, and it’s both heartbreaking and captivating to watch it unfold amidst the gory slayings every full moon.  I should probably mention I have a huge soft spot for werewolves, and as far as both makeup and transformation sequences, Late Phases doesn’t disappoint.  Horror and heart? Instant win.

Witching & Bitching-

Witching_and_Bitching

I’ve previously discussed how much I love Spanish horror, as well as why this eccentric comedy is a must see here.

Housebound-

Housebound

Another great horror comedy, but this time from New Zealand. After getting into some trouble with the law, Kylie is sentenced to house arrest in her childhood home.  Kylie is a bit of a loner, so this punishment is especially painful for her as she’s stuck under the same roof as her blabbermouth mother who is convinced their house is haunted.  But when she begins encountering strange events in the house, she starts to question if her mother may be onto something.  For a comedy, the film takes some surprising sharp turns that keep you guessing.  Kylie is so initially off-putting, but her mother’s quirks and personality distract and compensate.  In fact, all of the supporting cast make up for an irritating lead.  Housebound tries hard to balance the horror with the comedy elements, instead of favoring one over the other.  There are genuine scary moments as well as laugh out loud jokes, which is no easy feat to accomplish.

Afflicted-

afflicted 2013 poster

A horrific transformation story reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London that effectively uses the found footage style? Yes please!  Read why Afflicted worked so well here.

Honorable Mentions:

The Taking of Deborah Logan-

Taking of Deborah Logan

A documentary crew offers money to use Deborah Logan as the subject of their medical documentary on Alzheimer’s disease but is soon questioning if her eerie behavior is just a product of her disease or something supernatural. Jill Larson’s performance as Deborah Logan is downright frightening in the best possible way, and the first half of this unique possession tale will leave you with chills.  However, halfway through when one character wisely leaves as you most characters would, the film unravels.  The more that is revealed about the supernatural elements haunting Ms. Logan, the sillier it all becomes.  The disappointment of the final shot stings all the more with such an effective first half.

The Babadook-

thebabadook

An excellent film, to be sure, but nowhere near what critics lead me to believe.  It also doesn’t help that I’m not a mommy.  Read more about my thoughts here.

I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store.  What were your favorites from 2014?

Interactive Fear

I’m not sure if it’s due to the success of the recent string of zombie themed 5Ks, but there have been a string of recent interactive horror themed events that have been popping up lately.  The events have expanded beyond running and even tie in to movie promotion now.  Here are a few of the events that have caught my eye:

1) The Purge: Breakout 

Purge Breakout

A clever way to promote the upcoming film, The Purge: Anarchy, set for release in July.  Under the scenario of having been kidnapped right before the purge is set to begin, teams of six have 30 minutes to look for clues and solve puzzles in order to break out of the room before the clock runs out.  Tickets are on sale in major cities throughout the U.S.  Which doesn’t include mine, or I’d probably snatch up a ticket.  And I suppose that says something about my competitive nature (or the effective marketing), because I didn’t even like the Purge.

 

2) The Great Horror Campout

great-horror-campout

If you’re more the outdoorsy type this event is right up your alley.  Twelve hours of overnight choose-your-own adventure style camping.  You can participate in the “hell hunt,” which is a scavenger hunt complete with scare actors that are ALLOWED TO TOUCH YOU.  Based on their website and other recaps of the event I’ve researched, this means they can tie you up or toss you in the trunk of the vehicle while you’re searching for coveted items on the scavenger list.  There are tents for sleeping, but based on your level of purchase, the scare actors apparently pop up throughout the night to keep your awake and terrified.  Maybe that sounds too extreme?  You can opt out of the hunt and roast marshmallows while watching horror movies instead.  Ticket prices come with dinner and a continental breakfast in the morning.  This event is also selling tickets throughout the U.S., and they’re not cheap.

 

3) Zombie Themed Cruise

zombie cruise

With the cities and woods covered, I guess there’s no place left for a zombie but the ocean?  With so many themed cruises available I suppose this was inevitable.  It looks like the mecca of zombie events, though.  Seven days of zombie activities, from zombie workouts in preparation of the apocalypse to a zombie prom.  This event is complete with special guests from all aspects of zombie fandom.  Easily the most expensive event on this list, but it is a seven-day cruise.

 

Would you participate in any of these?  If you already have, how was your experience?

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2014

This past weekend I attended my first horror convention, and suffice it to say that I’m now hooked.  A full weekend submersed in all things horror seemed like a blast going in, but I had no idea.  Screenings, panels, vendors selling all sorts of horror related items, and access to so many horror icons all persuaded me that this was an event I needed to attend.  But what I didn’t know about Texas Frightmare Weekend, what made this event truly awesome, was getting to see first hand just how amazing people are in the horror community.

Texas Frightmare, it turns out, is a social event.  Long line to meet your favorite horror celebrity?  You’ll hardly notice, because your line neighbors will strike up a conversation with you and share their horror experiences.  Do you look confused because you’re not sure which line you’re supposed to be in?  Before you have to ask, someone will smile and show you the ropes.  More than an event to connect fans with their favorite icons, it’s an event to connect fans with each other.  It sounds sappy, but never have I been prouder to be a horror fan.

Before you even step foot into one of the event’s rooms, you’ll notice an array of fans showing off their very well put together costumes.

How cute is he??

How cute is he??

cosplay

So many faves in one spot

 

Anyone in costume were typically surrounded by a thick crowd, so I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked.  I did notice a creepy clown theme, so beware those who have a clown phobia.

Being a huge cinephile, I was stoked to meet the celebrities and attend their panels.  I absolutely love learning about the behind the scenes experiences and what goes into the making of my favorite movies.  It’s neat to see actors gather on stage together when they probably haven’t seen each other in years.  The Terminator panel included Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Robert Patrick, Kristanna Loken, Jennette Goldstein, Earl Boen, and Peter Kent.  Seven people to discuss three Terminator films, all crammed into an hour.  Other panels featured a sole guest, like Tobin Bell or Scott Wilson.  There were enough scheduled to cover just about all interests.

I believe there were over 40 celebrity guests in attendance, so meeting some of my favorites was a definite highlight of the trip.  You get brief one-on-one time to engage them in conversation, sometimes longer as some of them had no line at all when I passed by their table.  Lou Taylor Pucci, for example, spent a good while answering questions as I grilled him about his role in the 2013 Evil Dead remake.  For example, there were only two takes, period, to nail the arm scene in the film’s climax.  Really makes me marvel at the scene even more knowing the pressure they were under.  Or, that Lou spent a lot of time between takes jumping rope to not only maintain energy levels but to try to keep things fresh.  He didn’t want his expression of fear to become stagnant, so that was his way of trying to keep things varied.  He also was very hesitant to even audition for the film in the first place, because the original is so sacred to him.  So when he was called in to audition he intentionally gave his worst audition.  Also, the long hair and beard was something he had to convince the director and producer to keep.  That was his way of paying a sort of homage to the original.  He was so enthused to meet and speak with fans that he lost his voice by Saturday.

Lou Taylor Pucci and me

Lou Taylor Pucci and me

Other tidbits I picked up over the weekend:

  • Sharni Vinson’s role in You’re Next was a cake walk compared to prep for her role in Step Up 3d, which required weights, capoeira classes, and a variety of other training classes.
  • Doug Bradley’s feelings on the term reboot, “Bullshit.”  And his message to those wanting to remake Hellraiser, “Fuck off.” (Just so you know, he’s also one of the biggest sweethearts I’d met at Texas Frightmare.  He felt guilty about misspelling my name and chased me down to compensate for it in a huge way.)
  • Barbie Wilde, female Cenobite, is now a writer for Fangoria magazine.  Getting covered in plaster in preparation for Hellraiser 2 was nerve-wracking for her.
  • Robert Patrick studied a variety of animals to achieve his character’s persona in Terminator 2, including a praying mantis.
  • Kristanna Loken wanted to fans to associate her terminator as female, so she tried hard to maintain a sense of femininity in the role despite being an inhuman character.
  • Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn both thought they were signing on to do a sci-fi flop when doing the original Terminator.
  • Chris Marquette has recurring nightmares about Chucky the killer doll.
  • Kyle Labine is not so good at beat boxing.
Settling in for the Terminator panel

Settling in for the Terminator panel

I’m bummed it’s over, but now that I have a feel for how things work I can plan better for next year.  Because I will be going back.