Scares That Care 2022

Well, I’m finally back home and rested enough to do a bit of a photolog for those of you who couldn’t make it. It was great BTW. The fans were great, hanging with my fellow creators was great, and the gross out contest was…something I am not able to discuss on a nice polite blog like this.
So anyway, this is what happened in Williamsburg Virginia.

Ten Woefully Unheralded Horror Movies (part Deux electric boogaloo)

Well, when I did the first of these years ago I claimed that I could go on all day naming films that should have been on the list. Films that have never achieved any kind of renaissance of re-discovery, the Rodney Dangerfields of the horror film world. Great films, but odds are you don’t know them.
And then, I never returned to the subject…
Until Now
This list has a bit more horror-comedy in it, I make no apologies for it. If we do this a third time (and we could) maybe I’ll be more serious then, but considering my track record of behavior, don’t lay money.
So without any further to do and a do, let’s get right to it, films you should be watching, but probably haven’t.

(1)The Ghoul (1933) This one is probably the easiest to figure out as to its relatively unknown status. Frankly, it was lost for decades. The film itself was made during a contract dispute between Boris Karloff and Universal and marked his first time working in British film for twenty years. Backed by a wonderful cast including Ernest Thesiger, Sir Cedrick Hardwicke, and Ralph Richardson it was a minor hit in England, but like most English horror films of the period failed to really make its mark in the US. It was re-issued right before WW2, and then just vanished. For years it was considered a lost film. In 1969 a print was found, but it was badly chopped, murky, with bad sound, and subtitled in Czech. So even then the film, while rediscovered, was not being seen in its finest hour. Finally, in 1980, a long-forgotten film vault in Shepperton Studios was opened, and there was a mint nitrate negative. Well, 1980 was a long time ago, so why is it still mostly forgotten? Well partially because when MGM finally released a VHS of the film THEY RELEASED THE CZECH COPY. Yeah, really, no kidding. By the time the DVD version of the 1980 cut was released, it was fighting upstream against public opinion. And that is a shame, with a who’s who cast, a solid spooky story about Egyptian mythos and the dead returning, this should be a favorite. Svengoolie finally ran the real cut this year, so maybe the tide is finally turning here.

Boris Karloff gives Ernest Thesiger a hug in THE GHOUL (1933)

(2) Murders in the Zoo (1933) I think the biggest issue with this one is the name. It sounds more like a murder mystery than a horror, but make no mistake it’s all horror. The film involves an insanely jealous zoologist who has a simple solution to his wife’s flirtatious nature, he just has animals kill her beaus. Lionel Atwill is at his best in this one, there’s a great supporting cast in this, with western legend Randolph Scott appearing as well. What really sets this one apart is that it was pre-code, and probably had a lot to do with people creating that code. It caused a massive uproar, there were demands for cuts and outright censorship of the amazingly gory for the time sequences. (including a scene where a man has his lips sewn together that keeps every ounce of brutality to this day.) For 1933 this film is absolutely insane.

Publicity still where Lionel Atwill had too much caffeine for “Murders In the Zoo” (1933)

(3) Matango (1963) Ishirō Honda is rightfully a legend. The man brought us Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra, how can you not love the guy. His horror filmmaking took a much weirder and darker turn here, and since it wasn’t just big monsters breaking stuff, and never got a theatrical release in the state, this poor film has never gotten its legit due. It has legit creep to it as members of the yacht crew find an abandoned ship on an equally deserted island covered with mold and mushrooms. As it goes on it develops a similar paranoia to America’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. On a side note, some of the neatest and most fanciful toys to ever come out of Japan are tie-ins to Matango.

Actual tie-in toy that I actually really want from “Matango” (1963)

(4) The Cremator (1968) The next two have similar reasons for falling under America’s radar, they were both made behind the Iron Curtain when that meant something. The film’s story happens just as the nazis are taking over the country as its backdrop, which serves to drive home the film’s main point, the banality of evil. As the main character, the director of a crematorium named Karel does increasingly evil and vile acts, the closer he thinks he is to achieving true enlightenment and becoming the next Dali Lama. The film is oppressive and hallucinatory at the same time as the mind of the main character fractures so does the film itself, leaving the viewer to question the reality of what they’re viewing. Considered by many to be the height of the Czech New Wave of Cinema it is one of those films that can be viewed repeatedly just for the different takeaways it delivers on each viewing.

Would you buy a used coffin from this man? “The Creamator” (1968)

(5) Lokis (1970) This Polish film is almost difficult to classify as a horror film. Based on the 1869 novel by Prosper Mérimée of the same name, there is a classic slow-burn horror film there about a Count whose mother was raped by a bear and is slowly becoming one. While that is happening the viewer also receives a lush beautifully filmed historical piece, one dealing with issues of class. Not subtly like something out of Bronte, but brutally. The well-heeled view peasants as nothing but animals and treat them accordingly. Which, if you think it through is a great little joke when it’s paired with the main gist of the plot. I would also point out, the original poster for the film is INCREDIBLY COOL.

Speaking of things I want, original poster for “Lokis” (1970)

(6) Dracula AD 1972 (1972) Of all the Hammer films, I swear this one gets crapped on the most. And really unfairly. It’s a fun film, it has no pretensions at being high art at all, it gives you good characters, surprisingly good acting, and a hard and quick plotline that is just slathered with glorious cheese. And unlike the majority of the Hammer Draculas Lee isn’t expected to carry the whole thing either on his own or with Cushing helping him. Christopher Neame as Johnny Alucard is as memorable a creep in his own right as anything you’ve ever seen in any of the series. Also, any film with Caroline Munro in it is already better than any films that….well don’t have Caroline Munro in them. Again, this will never win any awards for craftsmanship, but if you want to kill an hour and a half and you just want some dumb fun, you could do way, way worse than this. This is the high end of putting your brain in park viewing.

Christopher Lee and Caroline Munro, one of my fave movie stills “Dracula AD 1972” (1972)

(7) Nomads (1986) Man, there is a lot to unpack here. Why the film never got its due is simplicity, it was in the wrong place and at the wrong time. It was an ethereal smart film that was released right in the teeth of slasher mania. Wrong place, wrong time. But it was Pierce Brosnan’s first major lead, even if he’s overshadowed by Adam Ant and Mary Woronov, he’s perfect for the role, but let’s face it those two are made to catch the eye. If it has a flaw it’s that the studio leaned on a cut running time, leaving material out from the Chelsea Quinn Yarbro book about evil tormenting nomadic spirits that would have added to the viewing experience. Of course, it managed to impress the most important audience member. Arnold Schwarzenegger was so impressed by the film he hired director John McTiernan to direct Predator.

Frances Bay as a 100% perfectly normal nun in “Nomads” (1986)

(8) Day of the Beast (1995) I’ll be honest I was torn here. I could have gone with this, or another film you’ve probably never seen by Alex de la Iglesia 2013’s “Witching and Bitching.” If there is a third list, trust me, it will be on there. But this was my first love, and it gets its own place. It’s a simple story, priest discovers that the beast will be born and needs to do evil deeds tosell his soul to the devil to find out where. To do so he enlists a heavy metal fan and a TV spiritualist. It is an hilarious film, there are some legit chilling moments, but first and foremost it has an over-the-top make you squirm with emotional discomfort sense of humor that is excellent. I mean, in the opening scene IN THE OPENING SCENE a fellow priest is crushed by a falling cross in church, and get this, it is funny as hell when it happens.

The heroes (no, really) of “Day of the Beast” (1995)

(9) Zombie Ass, Toilet of the Dead (2011) OK, where the humor in Day of the Beast has moments where it’s actually kind of smart, I am betting from the title you can tell this one doesn’t bother. It is a full-out, full-blown, slapstick gross-out from beginning to end. Director Noboru Iguchi is not a man known for subtlety which you can figure out from some of his other films “Dead Sushi” (2012) and “Robo Geisha.” (2009). Iguchi is a full-blown turn it up to 11 and snap the knob off director, and god help me the weirdness works. Somehow this relatively obscure in the states director looked at the entire Troma catalog and said, “I can beat that,” and here’s the thing, and I say this as a lifelong Troma fan, HE DOES.

You don’t need me telling you what they’re covered in. “Zombie Ass” (2011)

(10) Rigor Mortis (2013) Confession time, I have a thing for the Chinese hopping vampire myth. I just think it’s an interesting oddity. The film was meant to be a tribute to the film series that brought it to western eyes, the “Mr. Vampire” films of the 80s, so much so that numerous cast members show up in this film. But here’s the thing, director Juno Mak manages so much more than that. While there is some humor at spots, this is not “Mr. Vampire” it deals with loss and loneliness, and guilt. The desperate feeling to have her husband returned to her that leads the widow Auntie Meiyi (played by Paw Hee-ching) you can feel her fear of being alone in the world. You can feel the loneliness and drift that leads the main character Chin (Mr. Vampire alum Chin Sui-ho plays himself here) to attempt suicide. As a bonus the thing is just gorgeous to look at, dark and stark in all the right ways.

Uncle is perfectly fine in “Rigor Mortis” (2013)

BONUS ROUND RECENT FILM TIME!!!!!

(11) Uncle Peckerhead (2020) I added a bonus more recent film to the last of these lists, it seems only right that I should do the same thing here. 2020 was an awful year for horror films, anything that studios had real hopes for got shelved so as to not get killed by Covid. In the midst of that, this little ray of real sunshine landed, my favorite film of the year a film about a punk band going on their first tour whose roadie turns into a flesh-eating monster every night. It’s not high brow, and it’s gory as hell, but man is it funny. David Littleton should be on everyone’s shortlist of recent awesome performances as the titular Peckerhead. Director Matthew John Lawrence knows he has a budget that’s being counted to the last penny, but he also has a sense of humor and a way with gore that he uses to work around it. Also, it helps that the movie band “DUH” sounds hard like earlier X.

What? I’m eating here! “Uncle Peckerhead” (2020)

So there we have the list. I’d recommend each of these get given a view. Sometimes they show up on a streaming service here or there, and now when they do, you’ve got something new to try. They’re all weird, they’re all unique, and in a day and age where it seems like every horror film has t-shirts for sale on every single merch page, bet you have to hunt to find one for these. And once you find one, you’ll be among the few, the proud, the readers who read this.

The King Is Deceased, Long Live ?

Facebook. We need to have a serious talk about it in general, but in the horror community in particular. Now that FB has handed all moderation duties over to algorithms, bans and warnings are everywhere. Every time you turn around, someone is talking about their warnings or bans. Not only has FB turned over moderation, it has turned over oversight of the moderation to the same computers.

At least one well known horror figure has been completely nuked off the site, more will definitely follow. It’s just not possible to try and engage with fans or friends without saying something that will fall afoul of these increasingly nonsensical FB “triggers.”

My profile is insanely innocuous, specifically so I don’t catch bans, because I’m using the profile for business as much as pleasure. It didn’t stop me from catching a 24 and a 72 hour ban. Now to be completely fair, I wouldn’t have caught a single ban if the algorithm hadn’t glitched and given me 5 separate strikes for one post in Creator Studio. The post itself would have passed muster if there was a person there checking things, but of course there isn’t. And think about that, the NICE version is the system that controls your communication glitched and they have no-one on staff to fix it when it does. Now as an advertiser on FB, it gave me that 72 hour ban RIGHT BEFORE I HAD A BOOK COMING OUT. So it gave me a ban I didn’t earn, gave me no human to talk to to fix it, and did it right before a release. But even when you do “earn” them, how much do you really anymore? Anything can set off the stupid thing.

Why does this especially hurt the horror community? Well our business is to create things that would set off an algorithm. “Paul and Jane went to school and had a nice day,” is the sort of pablum that this downward spiral is heading toward, but it’s not what we read or write or make films and records about. So sooner or later, the algorithm is gonna’ get you.

It’s frankly untenable. Not strictly as a free speech issue, but one dealing with just how humans communicate. What makes us human. We crack jokes, we use hyperbole to make points, we really don’t care about Paul and Jane’s nice day at school, unless someone farted, but it would take a pretty good one to keep our interest. Analysts have pondered and pondered why FB’s numbers have dropped lately, but none of them get to the meat of the issue. Because of the changes the company has made for reasons of financial expediency more than any desire to “prevent hate speech/incite violence/self harm etc.”, because of the desire to not hire on the staff to run the place, it’s JUST NO FUN ANYMORE.

And that’s why the business analysts and the computer analysts aren’t getting it, they don’t understand the notion of having fun hanging out with friends.

So where next Columbus?

I can’t say for certain. First off, FB is betting that we’re all too lazy to rebuild the communities WE BUILT in the first place somewhere else. That’s more or less its business model these days. And so far, they’ve been right, but it can’t last forever.

MeWe has possibilities, they don’t data mine, and I’ve never even heard of someone getting a warning there. Of course, because of that, the politics can be a bit of a cesspool, but if enough people migrate, that could change.

Twitter has the users it’s going to get. The character limit is always going to be a factor.

Not everyone wants to make videos, so that moves TikTok down the ladder.

Spacehey is a possibility, it operates just like the old MySpace did before it got bought and ruined and everyone forgot their passwords.

Slasher is solid for the horror community, it’s two major flaws are it has no desktop version, and that still leaves out non-horror people.

Discord and Reddit seem to be picking up members, so maybe it’s one of them.

So, where do we go? I just don’t know, I’m not that kind of mind reader. But make no mistake, people are already leaving, and that is only going to continue. You would do well to remember that when you plan your future ad buys.

Last out the door, remember to turn the lights off on Zuck’s heat lamps.