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...

What's this? TWO updates to the Crypt in one month? That's right, fright-fans, the Unimonster is sending even more Halloween goodness your way! If only someone would perfect downloadable candy.....

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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

Title:  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!

Enjoy!

Senior Correspondent Bobbie

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

THE HUMAN BEE-ING (2002)
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.