Welcome to the Crypt!

Welcome to the Crypt!

Enter the Crypt as John "The Unimonster" Stevenson and his merry band of ghouls rants and raves about the current state of Horror, as well as reviews Movies, Books, DVD's and more, both old and new.

From the Desk of the Unimonster...

From the Desk of the Unimonster...

Hello fellow Creepies, and welcome back to the Unimonster’s Crypt! July might be getting a late start here in the Crypt, but that doesn't mean we've been on vacation! No, the ol' Frankenputer's getting a much-needed heart transplant, so the update has been delayed just a bit! But here we are now with two new pieces, and two golden oldies!

S. J. drops in with a review of Monsters Wanted, a new Documentary that looks behind the curtain of the world of the haunted Halloween attractions we all know and love. If you've ever wanted a starring role as "Ghoul #3" at your local attraction, this just might change your mind. It ain't easy being scary, take my word for it!

Add in a new article from my, and vintage reviews from Bobbie and myself, and there's plenty to keep everyone busy with reading material! So enjoy the reading, join our Facebook page and let us hear from you, and … STAY SCARY!

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09 July, 2014

DVD Review: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT Unrated Collector’s Edition

Title:  THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT Unrated Collector’s Edition

Year of Release—Film:  1972

Year of Release—DVD:  2008

DVD Label:  M-G-M / 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Recently, critics have been guilty of overusing the term “Grindhouse”, referencing any film about which they wish to convey a sense of excessive gore or violence.  In the 1960’s and ‘70’s, however, there were films that earned that appellation honestly; indeed films that made the Grindhouse theaters a necessity.  Perhaps the most famous such film was Wes Craven’s 1972 thriller THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.  Filmed on the cheap by Craven and friend Sean Cunningham, their stated goal was to shock the audience with over-the-top gore and violence, as realistically as possible.  They accomplished that goal.

Though not as relentlessly abusive to the viewer as Meir Zarchi’s similar-themed I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978), it’s far from a pleasant film to watch.  The plot is simple:  A group of criminals, led by Krug Stillo, (David Hess) takes two young girls captive and heads out into the woods.  Their car breaks down, and they decide it’s a good spot to finish off their hostages and dump the bodies.  After the girls are tortured, raped and murdered, the killers seek shelter at the home of the Collingwoods, the only house in the area.  What the Stillo gang doesn’t know, to their detriment, is that it’s the home of Mari, one of the young girls they just viciously slaughtered.  When the parents of the murdered girl discover what has happened, and who was responsible, they go on a rampage of violence, one that makes the murder of the two girls pale in comparison.

Given the meager budget Craven was working with, and the absolute lack of name talent associated with the film, the accomplishment is notable.  The story is direct, engaging, and original… at least, it was when Ingmar Bergman filmed THE VIRGIN SPRING in 1959.  Craven lifted the bones of the plot from the far more literate and artistic Swedish film, gave them an update, and tossed in a full measure of ultra-realistic violence and a few quarts of fake blood.  The result was a qualified success.  It certainly met Craven’s goal of a film that would shock audiences, though that task was demonstrably easier in 1972.  Where Craven failed, though perhaps that’s too strong a word, is in creating a film that works as entertainment.  The film is too graphic, too gritty, and has far too much of a Cinema Verite feel to be truly entertaining.  But it is skillfully constructed; even at this early date, Craven’s potential is obvious.  The only note that rings false is the comedy relief Sheriff and Deputy.  Comic relief has no place in a film of this type; either remain true to the darkness of the film’s subject, or lighten it up overall.

It is pleasing to this reviewer that the distributors used a very nice looking print for this release.  Those who are familiar with this film primarily from aging VHS tapes will appreciate the improved quality.  Still, when you begin with what is essentially a no-budget student film, no amount of restoration will transform it into a thing of beauty.  The biggest improvement over the VHS release, at least, the copy in the Unimonster’s collection, is the sound.  Muddy and distorted on VHS, it’s actually understandable on this DVD.

Included on this release are several special features worth noting.  Extra footage has been included in the film itself, which is the reason for the “Unrated” status.  Nothing that really alters the film, just serves to lengthen and intensify the violence… as though it needed that.  Two features that are needed, and are very interesting, are a pair of documentaries featuring director Wes Craven.  Craven, who in the decades following the release of LAST HOUSE… has become the most influential horror director extant, discusses both the making of the original and the 2009 remake, directed by Dennis Iliadis.  Also included is an unfinished short film by Craven, TALES THAT WILL TEAR YOUR HEART OUT.

While this will never be the first film I’ll take off the shelf for a relaxing evening’s viewing, it is an important film that every Horror fan should be familiar with, and every Craven fan should own.  I suggest a definite rental if you’re the former; a buy if the latter.

Bobbie's Movies to Look For: HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN


Year of Release—Film:  2011

An aging, scruffy and anonymous hobo (Rutger Hauer) climbs down from a freight train at the out-skirts of Hope City (renamed Scum City by its residents) looking for a fresh start in a new town.  What he finds instead is a terrified town helplessly trapped in the grips of a psychopath named The Drake (Brian Downey) and his two equally evil and sadistic sons Ivan and Slick (Nick Bateman and Gregory Smith).  With sickened eyes, the hobo stands helplessly by as The Drake has his own brother beheaded with barbed wire in front of the terrified citizens.  Prostitution, vice and drugs are rampant, person-on-person violence is an everyday occurrence and the streets of this mean town, including its police department, clearly are in the iron fist of The Drake and his two obnoxious sons!  Still, the hobo holds on to his dream of one day owning a lawnmower and opening a lawn care service.

He saves a golden-hearted hooker Abby (Molly Dunsworth) from Slick who has rape and murder on his mind and is carved up for his troubles.  Grateful Abby allows the hobo to spend the night at her apartment and in the morning finds him gone.  The hobo earns his lawnmower money by eating glass while being filmed by a deranged filmmaker but as he enters the pawnshop to buy his dream, he’s confronted by a hold-up in progress.  The ski-masked robbers threaten to kill a baby if the terrified storeowner doesn’t give them more cash.  Grabbing a shotgun from a display, the hobo blasts the bad guys and become a HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN!  Delivering justice one shell at a time!

Outraged that this down-on-his-luck drifter is cramping his style and threatening his authority, Drake sends his two sons out to burn up a busload of children.  When the local TV news begins its report on the tragedy, Slick and Ivan break in and, killing the TV reporter, tell their stunned audience that if the townsfolk don’t want their children killed in a similar way, they need to kill all the homeless people!  Mass carnage ensues as the homeless are burned, shot and smashed flat with backhoes!  The hobo is now the hunted as he tries to clean up a town that wants him dead!

First-time filmmaker Jason Eisener has clearly studied exploitation films and with HOBO breathes new life into a genre that has grown moribund.  In 2007, Eisener entered and won an internet contest to create a fake trailer similar to the ones found on Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double-feature.  The HOBO trailer went viral and put Eisener on the fast -track to turning his $120 trailer into a feature-length feature.  But, for some reason, would-be investors didn’t think cinematic viewers would go for the scene with the bus-load of burning children so it took much haggling and two long years for Eisener to come up with the capital.  HOBO splashed it’s blood-soaked way across limited screens giving the audience everything from a pedophile Santa Clause to some unexplained tentacled creatures who seemed to have wandered in from another movie.  Did I say blood-soaked?  This movie is awash in blood, guts and gore!  Definitely not for the squeamish!

Rutger Hauer plays the title role with a road-weariness that makes a believable and even likeable anti-hero.  He appears and acts exactly like a rum-soaked, down-on-his-heels drifter.  Brian Downey as the Drake put on his shtick like some deranged game-show host, playing to his captive audience while killing it’s members.  Gregory Smith plays Slick like a demented Tom Cruise in 1983’s RISKY BUSINESS.  And it was pleasant to see Robb “Ricky” Wells from Trailer Park Boys again, even in the cameo role of the Uncle who is beheaded in the opening scene.  But, it’s Molly Dunsworth as the hooker with the heart of gold that really stands out in this!  Producers should take note of her convincing acting job as Abby and get her agent on the phone before it’s too late!  I sincerely hope that this is only the beginning for Jason Eisener and we gore-hounds can look forward to many more!


Senior Correspondent Bobbie

And Now, A Special Short Review from Senior Correspondent Bobbie!

It will bleed you white with stark, naked terror!

A brilliant film titled THE HUMAN BEE-ING just crossed the Video Vault's threshold and this short film deserves a short introduction and a big pat on the back!  An homage to 1950's big-bug movies, from it's William Castle-like opening speech which warns that anyone in the audience with heart problems, is over the age of 50 or under the age of 25 or suffers from palsy should not watch this film to its clever and comedic ending, it's 45 minutes you're not likely to forget!

Funded by Allen Danasco (Eric Hoffman), who owns a typing firm, mad scientist Dr. Charles Metzenbeamer (Jim Coughlin) has almost perfected a worker bee-human by combining human DNA with worker bee DNA to come up with a tireless typist bee.  No one seems to notice this human bee's rather large head because Dr. Metzenbeamer has cleverly dressed it in a suit, a toupee, slapped a phony mustache on it, and chained it to its desk where it tirelessly and efficiently types all day and all night.  No one that is except co-typist Stacey (Ronit Feinglass Plank) who finds herself strangely drawn to this new Mr. Hives.  Her boyfriend, Joe De Compana (John Varga) hardly noticed his girlfriend's strange obsession even after being warned by Stacey's best friend, Diane (Meredith Weiner).  As Allen Danasco demands more human-bee workers, the human office staff mysteriously begins to disappear!

Extremely smart with quick, dry humor, The Human BEEing is wonderfully acted and brilliantly directed by Tony Shea and co-written by actor Jim Coughlin.  It never spoofs 1950's B-movies but lovingly embraces the genre.  The Human BEEing is one of the best short films I've seen and I truly hope this won't be the last I see of Tony Shea and company!  Kudos!

Senior Correspondent Bobbie

First Impressions, and Second Looks by The Unimonster

As is probably the case with most people these days, when I listen to music it’s usually in the form of mp3s, on my cell phone. For someone whose second album purchase (ten points if you get the significance of that) was the soundtrack of Superman, the Movie on an 8-track tape, things have come a long way. One thing that hasn't changed or at least, I didn't think it had, is my taste in music. I grew up in a house filled with music lovers, though each followed the beat of a different drummer. My eldest sister Wanda Susan loved Motown, our sister Dee Karen was deep into what I still think of as ‘hippie music’, the Beatles, the Doors, Janis Joplin. Our brother David was Southern Rock—Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot. The youngest boy, Mark, was a heavy metal headbanger who loved Def Leppard. Our mother was pure country. And from all of these influences, and others, my rather broad and eclectic musical predilections were formed.
I long ago thought that my musical preferences were set, carved in stone, beyond the point of change. From pure honky-tonk country, to 1950s Doo-Wop, to the symphonic works of Tchaikovsky, music remains one of the great joys of my life, and until recently I was content. However, while talking with a friend, the topic moved to favorite music, and she mentioned a favorite song of hers, one that she loved as a child, one that was on an old cassette of her mother’s. That song was Eric Carmen’s Make Me Lose Control, which topped out at #3 in 1988. My first thought was that I was twenty-four when that song came out, and she was not yet born. My second thought was that I hated Eric Carmen when he was ‘popular’, and then I realized, that very song is on my phone. Not only is it on my phone, but I paid $1.29 to put it there. When in the hell did I start liking Eric Carmen?
But as I pondered that, a more disturbing thought arose. That wasn't the only Carmen song on there, including some of his work when he was lead singer with the Raspberries. I soon realized that there were more songs from artists who I once disliked and who I now enjoy.
Okay, before you regular readers start believing that the Unimonster is now doing a music blog; let me reassure you that this article is about horror movies. It occurred to me, as I was considering the rather surprising turn in my musical affections, that there are movies which I disliked upon first viewing them, and about which my opinions have mellowed, somewhat.
One of these, and the one that might be the most surprising for those readers familiar with my love of the classics, is the 1992 version of Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Though far more faithful to Stoker’s vision than most of the films that preceded it, upon my first viewing of it twenty-two years ago I found it slow-paced, talky, and for the most part uninteresting. My thoughts on it, from the personal notes from my database of Horror films, were, “Overly pretentious version of the Classic vampire tale nearly works, but is finally dragged down by the weight of its own pomposity, as well as Keanu Reeves’ absolutely wretched performance as Jonathan Harker.” Recently however, I bought the Collector’s Edition DVD, released by Sony Home Entertainment in October, 2007. While Reeves’ performance is still just as wretched (seriously, was every other possible choice for Harker tied up at the time?), and the film still comes off as pretentious, I found it far more enjoyable that I did then. The 49-year-old Unimonster was more appreciative of the theme of the film, which is ‘Love, lost yet still eternal’, than the 28-year-old Unimonster had been. I also found the manner in which the historical Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad Dracula, was reconciled with Stoker’s fictional Count very satisfying. It will never be my favorite version of the story, but it’s definitely one I will watch again.
Another that has grown on me with repeated viewings is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This picture has gone from being one that left me cold, to being one of my favorites. My first thoughts on this movie, again from my database: “Though it may rule the midnight movie show, on TV it's just a silly, dated musical. Tim Curry's performance is inspired, but it can't lift this out of mediocrity alone. Without the insanity that is the Audience Participation, it just falls flat.” Boy has my opinion changed! So much so that I’m embarrassed at how wrong I was about this movie. While I've yet to attend a midnight showing of the film, experiencing it the way it was meant to be experienced, I can say that the experience of sitting in your living room, singing along with all the songs as the dog looks at you with a strange mix of concern and, yes, pity, must be similar.
However, the movie that surprised me with how my opinions have changed over the years is one that, if I had to be honest about at this point in time, is in my personal top ten of Horror films, of all-time. That movie is Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead. Now when I watch it, I see one of the most imaginative, innovative horror films of the last half of the 20th Century, a movie that defied conventions, low-budget, and good taste to become one of the most popular films of the Drive-In era. Compare that to my database: “Made on a nothing budget, Sam Raimi’s cult blockbuster has never been a favorite of mine. Still, its popularity can’t be denied … it’s become one of the biggest Horror franchises ever.” Well, I was right … and wrong. Not about the historical significance of Raimi’s movie; but about it not being a favorite of mine. That part is no longer true.

Will my taste continue to evolve over time? What will the 60-year-old Unimonster’s opinion be of the movies that his 50-year-old self detested? Some, I’m sure, will have aged well in my eyes, perhaps prompting a similar look back in the 2024 version of the Unimonster’s Crypt, delivered via thought waves directly into the brains of my readers. Does that mean I’ll be sitting through my eighth or ninth viewing of Snakes on a Plane? I wouldn't bet on that.

Monsters Wanted: DVD Review by S. J. Martiene

Monsters Wanted

Review by:  S. J. Martiene

Too early to talk about Halloween, you say? P’shaw, I SAY!!! It is NEVER too early to talk about the second biggest holiday of the year … and even now … preparations are being made to scare the poop out of you, dear reader. Oh yes, plans are being drawn up, and plots are being formed. NO, not the normal plotting that comes from your relatives, but from those hard-working people at your local Haunted Attractions. Do you know that planning has to start in the heat of a summer night? Well, it does, my candy corn chomping friends. Today, we are going to focus on one place. It is a place that exists not too far from where I grew up in Kentucky, but first a little back story.

Long ago, three decades ago or more, your humble servant had a brief stint as a Haunted House Actor. I performed in two separate haunted houses in North Central Kentucky during the early 1980’s. My duties were varied from zombie, to Mad Doctor’s victim, to “screamer”. Though the ones I worked were small-town, and on a much, much smaller scale than detailed in the MONSTERS WANTED documentary, I can empathize with the creators of Asylum Haunts (Louisville, KY). We also had to build our own sets, create our own costumes, do our own make-up, and hope we were not too exhausted at the end to want to do it again the next year.

MONSTERS WANTED is a documentary taking us through the good, bad, and the scary ugly of what it takes to put out a high end haunted theme attraction. The Asylum Haunted Scream Park is NOT just a haunted house….but a 40-acre world borne from the maniacal hard work and creative minds of Richard Treachout and Janel Nash. The time span of the documentary takes us from July 2, 2011 until Closing night October 28, 2011, detailing the openings of Darkness Falls, Zombie City, and Carnivale of Lost Souls.

The viewer is taken through what IS actually a theatrical production. There are stage managers, auditions and fine-tuning auditions. There are production meetings, staff meetings, and problems with logistics, sets, and people. As with any good production, there are always personality clashes, and they were evident here. HOWEVER, it seemed (with one glaring exception – JOE), that most of the people running Asylum Haunts were pretty much trying to stay on the same page despite the pressures of time and money. Oh, and let’s not forget this is an OUTDOORS production so, they had to deal with stuff getting rained on and the heat…and by the end of the movie you could see everyone’s breath when they were speaking. AH, weather in the Ohio Valley!!

As the months pass, we not only get treated to the birth of this HUGE Halloween baby, but we get a peek at several other holiday-oriented events that happened. One is The Transworld Trade Show in St. Louis, Missouri. This show is for proprietors of haunted attractions and premieres the latest and greatest in Halloween gore and more. It’s kind of like a toy trade show for adults. I thought it was pretty fun how Treachout wanted to look at everything and see if they could make it cheaper “with duct tape”. It is fitting that MONSTERS WANTED was shown at the 2013 trade show. Also, I discovered that Asylum Haunts is one of the sponsors of the annual Zombie Walk in Louisville. People get dressed up, there are bands playing, food, and they swarm in on one part of the city each year. I have relatives that go to this each year and have a blast. If I still lived in Kentucky and was about 20 years younger, I probably would attend too, but it does occur on my husband’s birthday each year, so I don’t know if that would work out or not. The documentary also covered other haunted attractions in the Louisville area, such as Baxter Avenue Morgue Haunted House and The Haunted Hotel. There is enough scare to go around for everyone in Jefferson County and the surrounding areas.

As the days closed in on opening night, there was the usual drama one could expect from this type of large-scale event: actors quitting, equipment failing, and the general “idea-in-the-head-not-playing-out-as-well-in-real-life.” It didn’t take long for things to start running fairly well, and everyone was enjoying the job and scaring people, discounting the two concussions of course.

Overall, I really liked this documentary. I thought it was VERY well-done and made me feel good that it was done “back home”. The only parts I didn’t care for was some of the language and getting no warning before a certain artist started stapling and piercing himself. I am probably in the minority on this overall, but if the f-bomb is part of one’s everyday verbiage, allow it to be bleeped so others do not have to hear it. As for the performer, once I realized what the he was doing, I could not watch that part of the documentary … ewww … I mean … ewww …

Aside from those two things, for me, it was wonderful. Richard Treachout, left a well-paying job to focus his entire energy on this project and the fact he and Nash went through their life-savings and were essentially broke after this is not lost on the viewer. They are both incredibly dedicated to this project and I am sure they will have many successful years ahead of them. They have probably created many memories for thousands of people across Kentuckiana and beyond…and not many of us can say we’ve done that in our lives. If you get the chance to see this documentary on DVD, do not hesitate, especially if you love Halloween.

Please check out the links below and show them some support. After checking today, I do not see 2014 dates set, but I’m sure that will be updated soon. And if you happen to be in the Kentuckiana area during the Halloween season and are looking for a scare, visit The Asylum Haunted Scream Park.

01 June, 2014

These are a Few of my Favorite Things (and neither The Sound of Music nor Julie Andrews is on the list) by the Unimonster

When writers spend a great deal of time on one topic, whether it is Horror films, or food, or sports, they tend to focus on things that annoy or upset them.  It’s natural; most people are predisposed to complain, rather than to praise.  Speaking for myself, I often find it easier to make clear what I didn't like about a movie, than to explain what I did.  Ask me what was wrong with the Nicholas Cage version of The Wicker Man, and you’d better have a sizable hole in your schedule.  Ask me why Robin Hardy’s original film was so good, and while I could go on just as long, I can also sum it up in one sentence: “A director’s perfect vision, perfectly executed by the perfect performers for their roles.”

Occasionally however, it is nice to highlight those movies, objects, or people that make Horror and Sci-Fi fandom such an enjoyable hobby.  There’s a reason millions of people go to see the latest slasher films, or buy their eighth copy of Army of Darkness just to make sure they have every video release, or attend Horror conventions to get a treasured poster signed by someone who was essentially an extra in their favorite film.  They, like the Unimonster, love this hobby, and seek their own ways to express that love.  These are some of mine.
1.)  American Horror Story:  While AMC’s The Walking Dead is without a doubt the best Horror series on television, my personal tastes have always leaned more to the supernatural forms of horror.  Yes, gut-munching zombies are fine, and no one does a better job of bringing them to life than Greg Nicotero, but for pure horror on the small screen, the three seasons of AHSMurder House, Asylum, and Coven—are far more effective.
2.)  Horror Hosts:  Though the heyday of the Hosted Horror show is forty years in the past, there are a dedicated groups of fans that refuse to let those days fade completely from the scene, and a corps of corpses (figuratively speaking, of course) who are just as dedicated to carrying on the tradition of visiting us in our homes through the airwaves (well, Wi-Fi at least), and guiding us through the night with classic, and not-so-classic, horror films.  Svengoolie, Karlos Borloff, Penny Dreadful, and Count Gore De Vol are just a few of the many who help us celebrate the memories of days gone by.

3.)  Epic Rap Battles of History:  Okay, I know that this is a weird one, even for me, and some might wonder just what comedic rap battle videos on Youtube have to do with the world of Horror and Science-Fiction.  However, when you have such battles as Back to the Future’s Doc Brown rapping against Doctor Who, Batman vs. Sherlock Holmes, and an epic trilogy featuring Darth Vader taking on Adolf Hitler, well … it’s both genre-related, and hilarious enough to have me rolling on the floor in laughter.  Considering the new ‘season’ just kicked off with Rick Grimes battling Walter White, it seems safe to say that ERB will continue to be one of my favorites.

4.)  Conventions:  While our hobby is usually centered on the glowing phosphors shining out from our living room televisions, there’s much to be said for gathering in large numbers with like-minded people, in the fellowship of Horror / Sci-Fi fandom.  The chance to see old friends, to experience new areas of fandom, and to score new collectibles celebrating your favorite films, all are great reasons to seek out and participate in Horror conventions.  For the Unimonster, it means a time to recharge my batteries, to renew my love of everything Horror.  Oh, and new books and T-shirts … it’s not a successful con unless I leave with at least one new reference book and one new horror tee!

5.)  Kaijû:  While I love giant bugs and monsters in general, the Kaijû of Japan’s Toho studios are by far my favorites.  Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan, Mothra, and the rest have been friends and companions of the Unimonster almost from infancy.  Near constant exposure during the late ’60s-early ‘70s completely inoculated me with a love of foam rubber monsters stomping miniature Japanese cities to rubble.  Forty years on, that love is still going strong, and with new offerings such as last year’s Pacific Rim and Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla [see review below] scoring huge at the box office, it’s apparent that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

6.)  Comic Book Movies:  Comic books have always been a passion of mine, and the fact that Hollywood is now embracing them as well, combined with the technology that allows filmmakers to convincingly create worlds as diverse as Asgaard, Oa, Krypton, and Sin City, makes this the best era ever for the Comic Book Movie.  And with the upcoming Batman / Superman film set to go head to head against the second Avengers film, things can only get better.

7.)  1970s Exploitation Film Pressbooks:  Collecting ephemera (advertising paper, posters, lobby cards, etc.) from our favorite films can be a great way to celebrate and display your love of movies, but it can be expensive.  An original 1954 one-sheet poster for Universal’s Creature from the Black Lagoon is worth about $25,000, and a Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man lobby card approximately $10,000.  Pressbooks, however, can generally be had for a fraction of that, around $30-50.  And what, you may ask, are pressbooks?  Pressbooks are the advertising circulars the film distributors sent out to theaters and drive-ins giving them the information they needed to properly promote the films they would be exhibiting.  From the pressbook, they could select which posters and lobby cards to order, select newspaper ads, and order radio and television spots.  They are fascinating documents, a look behind the screen, so to speak, into the world of the motion picture business.  My personal favorites are from the 1970s, the pressbooks of the exploitation films that fed drive-ins and grindhouses with the movies that kept the fans coming back.  My collection may be small, but it’ll continue to grow … without wiping out my meager budget.

There are many more things I could add to this list, but this will do … for now.  At least, until I find something new that becomes a favorite of mine.

Godzilla / The Quiet Ones / The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Drive-In Triple-Feature

Title(s):  Godzilla / The Quiet Ones / The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Date of Theatrical Release(s):  May 16, 2014 / April 25, 2014 / May 2, 2014

MPAA Rating:  PG-13 (all)

On the 16th of May, your friendly ol’ Unimonster loaded the family truckster with food, drink, blankets, the Uni-Nephew, and the Rug-Monkey, and headed out to the local Drive-In.  Our primary goal for the night was to have a great time watching the new Godzilla film, but good timing (plus a little bit of relocating from one screen to the next during intermission) allowed us to score a triple-feature of genre films.  It was also my first chance to check out the Tibbs since they upgraded to Digital over the off-season.

Since the boys and I watched these movies as a team, we’ll review them as a team.  Each review will include their thoughts on the film in question.  So let’s go to the Drive-in!

We were all looking forward to Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, the big budget reinvention of the King of all Monsters.  Following a spring filled with hype about this movie, we were all a little concerned that it might fail to deliver as much as was promised … I more so than the boys.  I still have vivid recollections of the last time the Big G appeared on American shores, in the 1998 Roland Emmerich-directed GINO (Godzilla … In Name Only) stinkfest.  It too had been massively hyped, only to disappoint legions of loyal Kaijû fans, including the Unimonster.  I hoped history wouldn’t repeat itself, but Hollywood has a poor track record in this area.

After viewing, all I can say is … this movie was fantastic!  For once, the hype wasn’t overdone; if anything, the movie was better than I expected.  This is Godzilla; Americanized, sure … but still recognizable as the Big G.  If the trailers mislead on any point, it’s the impression that Bryan Cranston is the star of the film.  His performance as Joe Brody, the first to give warning of Godzilla’s presence is good, and the character is important to the plot, but his screen time is limited.  Never having seen an episode of Breaking Bad, my impressions of Cranston all revolve around his Emmy-nominated role of Hal, Malcolm’s long-suffering father on the hit series Malcolm in the Middle.  It’s different seeing him in a dramatic role; good, but different.  I kept expecting Hal to pop-up.

The lead is nominally Aaron Taylor-Johnson, familiar to genre fans as Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass, from Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2 (both highly recommended, btw), but make no mistake, the star of this film is 250 feet tall and scaly.  This is Godzilla’s film, and though I would’ve like to see more of him on-screen, his impact is unquestionable.

The one problem I do have with the film is that far too much of it looks as though it was lit with a 40-watt light bulb.  I understand using shadows to conceal something in order to build suspense, but in order for there to be shadows there must also be light.  When you’re seeing one- or two-minute sequences that are essentially just a black screen, that’s not building suspense; that’s taking the audience out of the action.
Still, that’s my one complaint, and it’s not a major one.  Overall, it’s a tremendous movie, and easily vaults to the top of my list for Movie of the Year.

The Uni-Nephew’s Review:  “Godzilla was a great movie, with lots of action and a great story!”
The Rug-Monkey’s Review:  “Great!”

The Quiet Ones
Ever since the resurrection of Hammer Films, and their first unqualified success with The Woman in Black, I’ve been waiting for the follow-up.  Something, anything, to show that the studio’s new incarnation was for real.  The Quiet Ones, the studio’s first release since The Woman in Black, is not that film.

Starring Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, and Olivia Cooke, The Quiet Ones is the type of Supernatural / Psychological horror that Hammer used to do very well, with films such as 1963’s Paranoiac or 1964’s Nightmare.  My issues with this film are that, for a “Horror” film, there’s a distinct lack of … well, Horror.  To describe the film as slow-moving would be an understatement; the movie plods along with the deliberateness of a stagnant creek.  John Pogue directed this tortoise of a film, working from a script he co-wrote with Craig Rosenberg and Oren Moverman.  I don’t know if ‘glacial’ was the pace he was shooting for … if so, then he hit the mark.
The characters are on the whole unlikeable; Claflin’s Brian McNeil is the closest you get to a hero for the piece, though not a very effective one.  Professor Joseph Coupland (Harris), the head of the group, is the perfect example of the ‘creepy uncle’, the kind which parents don’t let their kids visit unsupervised.  Only Cooke, as Jane Harper, the subject of the Professor’s experiments, is entertaining.  And I get the impression that that’s an accidental occurrence.

Despite all this, The Quiet Ones isn't a horrible movie … just a profoundly disappointing one.

The Uni-Nephew’s Review:  “The Quiet Ones was a good movie but could’ve been a bit faster-paced, with more horror aspects to it (considering it’s a horror movie).”
The Rug-Monkey’s Review:  “The Quiet Ones was okay, but wasn’t what I expected.”

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Okay, confession time … I’ve never been a fan of Marvel’s Superheroes (DC all the WAY!), and Spider-Man was always my least favorite of the bunch.  Still, the recent Marvel blockbusters have made me a (partial) convert—with one exception:  Spidey.  To this old comic-book lovin’ Unimonster, he still comes across as comical, almost a parody of superheroes.  Truthfully, I fell asleep during the last big-screen adaptation of Stan Lee’s most famous creation, and expected to do the same with this one.  No one was more surprised than I that, not only did I make it through the entire film (though some credit has to go to having two rambunctious teenagers in a tightly enclosed space … think ‘pair of chimps in a Gemini space capsule’), I actually enjoyed the movie.

Granted, I know next to nothing of the character’s back story, or the various comic-book iterations of it that exist.  Andrew Garfield did a very good job playing Spider-Man, but more importantly, he did a great job playing Peter Parker, the harder of the two roles.  To be the superhero, the man or woman in the mask, cape, or tights, is easy.  It’s all action.  All one has to do is be heroic.  It’s as their secret selves that you see the cost of being the hero, as with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne.

Emma Stone (Garfield’s real-life girlfriend) plays Gwen Stacy, the love-interest of Parker / Spider-Man, as she is aware of his secret.  This threw me at first, as the little that I do recall of the comic book Spider-Man was that his girlfriend was named Mary Jane, but I was enlightened as to the discrepancy by the boys.  Stone gives a very good performance, and there’s no denying that she’s one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood.

The cast overall does an excellent job, aided by a superb script from Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner.  Kurtzman and Orci have been one of the most successful screenwriting duos of the last decade, penning the Transformers, Spider-Man, and Star Trek franchises to box-office gold.  Marc Webb does well as director; though to be honest, with this level of talent on board, it would be hard not to.

While Spider-Man will never be a favorite Superhero of mine, not even my favorite Marvel hero, this movie surprised me in just how much I enjoyed it.

The Uni-Nephew’s Review:  “The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a very good movie.  It has many twists to it, and a very good story.”
The Rug-Monkey’s Review:  “The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was really amazing!”

One final word on the Tibbs Drive-In’s digital upgrade is in order.  The picture quality was very good, not as vast an improvement as you would see in a similar upgrade in a conventional theater, but that’s a function of the limited amount of light that can be projected onto the screen when that screen is a hundred or more yards away from the projector, as opposed to a hundred or so feet.  Still, I mourn the loss of film, and the idiosyncrasies associated with it.  Progress may be more efficient, but it’s nostalgia that stirs the heart.

Trash Palace Dumpster-- Bobbie's Best of the Bad: Rosemary's Baby (2014)

Title:  Rosemary's Baby

Year of Release—Film:  (2014/ TV)

Reviewer:  Bobbie 

The Devil made them do it.  What else can explain NBC's decision to remake...or retell...the tale of Ira Levin's bestselling book of the same title that was turned into the classic 1968 movie Rosemary's Baby starring Mia Farrow as guileless housewife Rosemary and her conniving would-be actor husband, Guy, played by John Cassavetes.

The story:
Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into the once elegant but now aging Dakota, a Manhattan apartment building.  Rosemary sets about remaking the apartment into a stylish home while Guy tries out for an off-Broadway play.  An older couple Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon) have a tragedy in their lives when their "ward" Terry (Victoria Verte) commits suicide and they befriend Guy and Rosemary.

During a dinner party, Guy is enamored by Roman's tales of far-away places and they begin a friendship that leaves Rosemary feeling odd man out.  Guy, by way of an apology, promises Rosemary that she would get the one thing she has been dreaming of...pregnancy!  During the romantic dinner planned to make this occur, Minnie brings over dessert..."a chocolate mouse...her specialty.”  After eating it, Rosemary feels drugged and passes out.  She begins dreaming about boating with President Kennedy and the Pope.  Suddenly, the dream becomes a nightmare of Rosemary being raped by Satan as a coven of witches chant beside the bed.
The next morning Rosemary wakes up badly scratched, with Guy confessing he "didn't want to miss baby night" so he had gone ahead with sex even though Rosemary was unconscious.  Soon, Rosemary learns she's pregnant and they celebrate the good news with their new and increasingly intrusive friends, the Castevets.  More good news follows as Guy learns he's landed the lead role in the play that would certainly make him a star!  However, not all is well as Rosemary becomes sick and is in a great deal of pelvic pain.  Her OB/GYN, Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy) assures her that it is just stiff joints and has Minnie make Rosemary a daily vitamin drink.

However, as the months pass, Rosemary's pain increases until she is practically bed-ridden, now paranoid about Guy close connections with their next-door neighbors, the Castevets!  Was the nightmare really just a nightmare?  Moreover, why does Rosemary hear chanting and flute plying from the Castevet's apartment?  What did Rosemary's friend, Hutch (Maurice Evens), mean when he instructed from his deathbed that Rosemary be given a book titled All of Them Witches?  And what about her husband's sudden success on stage?  Was it a conspiracy against Rosemary?  Or is it about her baby?  For those who have been living under a rock or in a cave for the past 40 years and have never read Ira Levin's best-selling novel or seen the Oscar-winning and enormously successful movie or even the 2014 retelling of it, I'll not give spoilers.

What made the 1968 movie was the sense of creeping horror as the viewer is drawn along with Rosemary's dawning realization that something isn't right in her World.  However, it was Roman Polanski's riveting style as director that gives Rosemary's Baby it's spooky atmosphere and morbid humor as he slowly but surely ratchets up the tension and horror.  Film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his June 29, 1968 review “...the brilliance of the film comes more from Polanski's direction, and from a series of genuinely inspired performances...” and “the best thing that can be said about the film, I think, is that it works.  Polanski has taken a most difficult situation and made it believable, right up to the end.  In this sense, he even outdoes Hitchcock.  Both ‘Rosemary's Baby’ and Hitchcock's classic ‘Suspicion’ are about wives, deeply in love, who are gradually forced to suspect the most sinister and improbable things about their husbands.”  The original Rosemary's Baby sits comfortably at number 9 on the AFI 100 Years...100 Thrills list.

Now let's examine 2014 re-telling of this story...what worked ... and what didn't.  This new version, penned by Scott Abbot and James Wong, radically updates the Ira Levin novel.  This time around, Rosemary (Zoe Saldana) is a ballet dancer and sole breadwinner for herself and her husband Guy (Patrick J. Adams).  After a miscarriage, she and Guy move to Paris where he has been offered a position as a teacher at the Sorbonne.  After an apartment fire leaves them homeless, they are invited by their new elitist friends, Roman Castevet (Jason Isaacs) and his wife Marguax (Carol Bouquet) to live in the Castevet's exclusive private apartment complex.  In the Polanski film, the devils are an old couple in a dusty Manhattan building.  In the newer version, Roman and Marguax are younger, more glamorous, seductive and extremely wealthy.  One can see that they would think everything has it's price.  Guy has what they want.  A vessel for Satan's unborn child!  A child he is willing to sell, if the price is right!  While Saldana played her part very convincingly, Patrick Adams played Guy as blandly as vanilla ice cream.  Not very convincing and at one point actually acted guilty about his part in the conspiracy and offered to flee Paris with Rosemary.  That ruined the whole plot.  In addition, if you watched any of the commercials for the mini-series, you might have noticed that all of them were shots from the second part, and wondered, ‘why’?  The answer is that the first part was as stagnant as pond water.  I could almost hear Joel singing, “Slow the plot down, boys … Slow the plot down!”  Disappointing!

Polish-born director Agnieszka Holland explains in a May 8, 2014 interview for the New York Times “my Rosemary is much more willful and stronger.”  But she added that Rosemary remains a victim to the nature of motherhood, “dependent on the people who decide, instead of her, what to do with her body.  The notion of postnatal and prenatal depression, and the feeling that you don’t own yourself anymore, that you’re not yourself anymore, it’s a quite important subject of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.” 

The 2014 version is far more gory than the original, replacing the chicken heart Mia chews on with a human heart.  In the 1968 version, Guy gets the lead in the play because the other candidate went blind.  In the 2014 version, Guy's competition for the teaching position goes crazy during the job interview and attacks the interviewer with a letter opener before slicing her own throat.

And while all that red might look interesting against the somber, almost blue and white film, it loses the psychological horror to replace it with rivers of gore.  Bad move.  The original pulled the audience along with Rosemary; we shared her increasing sense of dread, realizing that only when Rosemary knew, we'd know!  And to borrow a line from late-director Dave Friedman, the remake was all sizzle and no steak.  But, the worst part of this is that audience members might be put off watching the original Rosemary's Baby or reading Ira Levin's marvelous book.  And therein lays the real shame.


The Price of Fear (or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Man) by S. J. Martiene

Once upon a time, when I was but a little ghoul, I watched The Last Man on Earth on FRIGHT NIGHT with The Fearmonger.  Tweener that I was (and having two tormenting younger brothers), I was irrationally frightened of all those zombies and bothered that there was only ONE guy left on earth to fight them.  My brothers further exacerbated that fear by banging on our (the room I shared with my sister) bedroom door shouting, “MORGAN!!  MORGAN!!!  Come out, MORGAN!!!”  As they would return to their room, giggling, the eventual result of their teasing started a great fascination v. fear complex with Vincent Price.  The movie, The Tingler, did nothing to abate my fears.  Those William Castle touches of turning the “blood” in the film red made me want to turn away; or at least cover my eyes so I could peek between my fingers at the rest of the story.  It wasn’t until I was much older and wiser that I learned to love Vincent Price movies, TV Shows, and Radio Programs seeking out as many as I could view.  I have become a full-blown fangirl.

Vincent Price was born on May 27th, 1911 (a birthday he shares with Christopher Lee).  This month marks the end of the “Vincentennial” (as it has been pegged), a year-long celebration of the actor’s life with special events schedule in St. Louis around the time of his birthday.  This festival included movies, forums, and a display of memorabilia from his fans. 

The lucky people who were fortunate enough to meet or exchange correspondence with Mr. Price said he was a kind man and always had time for his fans.  I think hearing that was one of the main reasons I became so interested in seeing as much of his body of work as possible.  Perhaps through that, I COULD get to know him better.  When he passed in 1993, I (along with many others), were deeply saddened.  The solace we took in it was the knowledge he had over 50 years of work etched into film, TV, and radio.  We could ALWAYS see and hear him.  For that, I will always be grateful.
One of the nice things about being a fan of Vincent Price is that he was able to handle many genres effectively.  His range included being a comedic actor in SERVICE DE LUXE, HIS KIND OF WOMAN and COMEDY OF TERRORS, to dramatic performances in DRAGONWYCK, ELIZABETH AND ESSEX, and WHALES OF AUGUST, to ANY and ALL of his sinister performances throughout the decades.  He never became too much of a “just for adults” type actor.  Price did many animated feature voiceover performances as well:  The Great Mouse Detective, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Tim Burton’s Vincent, are just a few of the shows that endeared him to younger audiences too.  On TV, he could be the villainous Egghead (of the Batman TV series) or guest star on Columbo, The Bionic Woman, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  Whether villain, comedy relief, or dramatic presence, having Vincent Price in the cast made THAT show better.  Finally, on radio, he was the long-time voice of The Saint, a frequent guest on Suspense, and later in his career he had his own show called The Price of Fear.  He could be murderer or hero.  It never mattered.  He was excellent.
Now, I’m not going to get through highlights of his entire repertoire.  You, gentle reader, would be here for DAYS.  I will highlight some of my favorites.

In His Kind of Woman, a film noir/comedy, Vincent plays (to the hilt) a ham actor named Mark Cardigan.  Nasty, noir-ish things are happening all around him with Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, and Raymond Burr, but he doesn’t have a clue.  He tries to be a hero ... BUT does he succeed?  TCM runs this movie fairly often, so check it out!  Here is an example of the great lines:

Dan Milner: I'm too young to die. How about you?
Mark Cardigan: Too well-known.
Dan Milner: Well, if you do get killed, I'll make sure you get a first-rate funeral in Hollywood, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Mark Cardigan: I've already had it. My last picture died there.

In Comedy of Terrors he is teamed up with fellow horror-genre actors Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Basil Rathbone.  Price plays Waldo Trumbull, an undertaker, who has a scheme to drum up business:  killing his own customers!  The interplay between all these actors (Basil Rathbone is Shakespearean-quoting ham in this flick) PLUS the added talent of Joyce Jameson as the long-suffering Mrs. Trumbull, makes this movie a standout.  I could not pick just one line to quote on this one.  The entire film shoots arrows from beginning to end.
Vincent Price co-starred with Gene Tierney in films three times:  Laura, Leave Her to Heaven and Dragonwyck.  ALL of these films are among my favorites.  The only change I would like to have seen is Price in the lead male role in Leave Her to Heaven.  I never could understand why Ellen (Tierney) would choose Cornel Wilde over Vincent Price … maybe that’s just me.

Over the last decade, I have become a HUGE fan of Old Time Radio shows.  The site, www.archive.org is a great place to retrieve these shows.  I like them because I load them up on my mp3 player and listen daily.  The Saint series, though not well-liked by some because of its writing, featured Price as private eye Simon Templar.  This character was portrayed in the movies by George Sanders, Roger Moore, and Val Kilmer.  He fit this role well as it had both comedy and action elements.  Price also had some very good stories on radio’s Suspense, Escape, and his own show, Price of Fear.  The story, Three Skeleton Key (series, Escape) is considered the best of all the renditions.  You can listen to it here:  http://www.archive.org/details/ThreeSkeletonKeyIt is the story of three men trapped in a lighthouse after it is run over with rats.  I don’t know that there was ever a movie made from this story, but it would be a good one.  In The Hunting Trip (with character actor Lloyd Nolan), Fugue in C Minor (with the WONDERFUL Ida Lupino), and Rave Notice, he is either murderer or … accidental victim.  I’ll let you listen to those and find out for yourself.
I’ve had the most fun trying to find as many of Vincent Price’s TV work as I can.  He did quite a bit of guest roles in many shows I watched growing up:  Batman, The Red Skelton show, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Columbo, The Brady Bunch, The Bionic Woman, and Night Gallery.  He also had the job as a narrator of A Christmas Carol, a 1949 TV short.
In addition to all of this he

was an author, art collector, a gourmet cook, and he recorded many gothic horror stories to LP.  A Coven of Witches Tales is probably my favorite.  Someone kindly added them to their website which you can find here:  http://www.thesoundofvincentprice.com/coven1.html.

If I am in the mood for comedy, drama, or film noir or horror, I can ALWAYS find something starring Vincent Price.  I’m never disappointed except in the cases where I wished he had more of a presence.  The above scribblings have been only a few of the reasons I am such a fangirl.  I know I left out many movies worth mentioning but you see, I’ve only scratched the surface. 
A quote attributed to Price is as follows:   
“I've come to believe remembering someone is not the highest compliment - it is missing them.”

And yes, in Vincent Price’s case….I miss him very much.