5 reasons Evil Dead 2 always makes me happy.

Everybody has that one movie that always makes them happy. Most people watch some silly melodrama, or a black-and-white classic to take their mind off their troubles. Not me. This is my go-to choice for viewing whenever “real” life gets me down. I just pop in my trusty copy of Evil Dead 2, and all my cares seem to disappear like Ash’s hand…

Reason #1 – You can never have a worse day than Ash does.

Seriously. This has to be the worst 24 hour period anyone has ever had. Poor Ash just wants to go out for a secluded getaway with his main squeeze, Linda. As soon as they arrive for their romantic date, they quickly find an old book in the cabin and learn that someone has been summoning demons. Linda is sucked out the window and possessed by evil, and Ash must decapitate her with a shovel and bury her in a shallow grave. This all happens within the first six minutes of the movie!

Reason # 2 – The giddy use of low-budget special effects and stop-motion animation.

There is a reason I reach for Evil Dead 2 over the original, and it is the sense of ridiculous humor present in almost every scene. Consider how they simply toss skeletal rag-dolls at our hero to fight off. Or the brilliant physical comedy Bruce Campbell displays while his hand is inexplicably possessed by demons. The blatantly unrealistic stop-motion animation used to re-animate Linda for her dance. The screeching monkey sounds as Ash fights the demon from the fruit cellar. I love it all, in it’s cheesy goodness!

 

Reason # 3 – This.

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Reason #4 – Ash, the good-natured hero.

Ash Williams, as portrayed by Bruce Campbell, has become an icon of the every-man. He is no one special, just a guy who got dealt a shitty hand on his romantic weekend. But, man, does he roll with the punches! After decapitating and burying his love in the opening minutes of the movie, he gets randomly possessed, beaten up by his own hand, and locked in the cellar with a monster. The director, Sam Raimi, confesses in the special DVD features that many of the scenes were written in just so that he could torture his good buddy Bruce.

Despite his many unexpected clashes with inexplicable evil, he keeps his enormous chin up. Ash is a hero, because he deals with this madness the best way he can, and laughs along with the uncontrolled chaos he finds himself facing.

 

Reason # 5 – The thing in the woods.

The scariest things are always the things we do not see. We learn all about this demon resurrected by the book of the Dead, and see it possessing the cast of the film, compelling them to eat hair and such. But we never actually see the thing haunting the woods. It is shot in great first-person fashion, gliding through the woods at a relentless pace, knocking over trees and obstacles to get at our hero. But it is just something out there in the woods, and we never see it eye to eye, much to the film’s credit. The best effects are ambiguous, and Sam Raimi perfected it all those years ago, with this film.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this look at one of my all-time favorite movies. Leave some comments, and let me know what you guys think.
And if you have never seen this masterpiece, do your homework!

Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits.


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Let IT Be

Rumors have been bubbling like blood from little Beverly Marsh’s sink that a big-screen, R-rated version of the Stephen King novel It is in the works. The buzz began in 2009 that the infamous TV miniseries adaption of 1990, which quickly charmed Its way into our hearts and fortune cookies forever, is getting a modern makeover. While details are scarce and unreliable, such as a reported 2011 theatrical release date that never happened, I can find no evidence (and I actually looked) that the project has been cancelled. IMDb currently lists the movie as “in development.”

What we DO know (or THINK we know): If It actually exists the screenplay writer is rumored to be David Kajganich, whose street cred includes The Invasion (2007) and Blood Creek (2008). (He’s also rumored to be writing for the film remake of another King novel, Pet Sematary, but I didn’t feel like researching that.) Kajganich has said the Warner Brothers production will be nothing like the often comical cult classic miniseries, claiming his It will stay truer to the novel’s dark depiction of unfathomable evil while bringing the timeline of terror up to today’s terms.

For those living under a rock (or born after 1992) the short synopsis is this: There’s a group of misfit tweens in the late ‘50s from the small town of Derry, Maine, who refer to themselves as The Losers Club and battle a diabolical kid-killer that assumed the shape of Pennywise the Clown. After defeating (or so they think) the monstrous force that dwelled in the city’s sewer the kids promise that each of them will return to fight again if the evil ever resurfaces… which is exactly what happens 30 years later.

Yes, the miniseries was limited because it was made for TV. And yes, it was more satirical than macabre. But here’s where you might want to arm yourself with your inhaler and zero in on my face (“It’s battery acid you slime!”)– I think the idea of remaking It is the worst King movie cash-in since the recent Bag of Bones shit show. While you’re busy searching the sewer floor for that silver earring to shoot me with, here are my reasons:

Tim Curry. “Beep, beep Richie!” How can you recast Pennywise as anyone other than The Cheshire Cat himself? It’s blasphemy, and such tricks have proven to be deadly mistakes, even in the limited realm of King-inspired films. Remember 1997’s The Shining miniseries? No? Don’t feel bad. Most don’t. But unlike the Stanley Kubrick adaptation it followed the novel almost flawlessly. What it didn’t have? Jack Nicholson. Everyone on the planet saw Nicholson KILL in the role of crazed caretaker Jack Torrance; a polished screenplay and Steven Weber were no competition for “Heeeeeere’s JOHNNY!” And admit it… you were secretly rooting for that unhinged (but highly entertaining) lunatic to hack his screechy-ass wife’s head off with that axe. It’s okay, we all were.

The most lovable killer clown EVER.

So who do you cast? How do you compete with Tim Curry, whose portrayal as Pennywise is probably why Coulrophobia (google it kids) is a word? Well, you could tap Russell Brand. He seems to be today’s go-to choice for slaughtering classic characters. Or maybe a random juggalo from an ICP concert, they’re terrifying enough. Or you just kill it completely and go CGI. CGI and 3D; might as well exploit ALL the annoying fads of the era.

Absolutely terrifying.

Which brings us to…

Modern times suck. I understand they want to make the story relatable to today’s audience. (Because evil sewer-dwelling clowns that turn into giant fucking spiders on a whim isn’t the hard to grasp part—it’s the 80s HAIR!) But imagine modern-day Mike Hanlon facing the task of contacting his childhood friends to inform them that the horrifying evil they faced three decades ago has returned. In 1990 he called them one by one. What would he do now? Text? [OMG IT’S BACK OMFG ] Or would he send a message to his “Losers Club” circle on Google+? The good news about the latter method would be Stan would never have to kill himself, because he’d never get that fucking message. Even someone in “The Losers Club” no longer logs in to Google+. That social network has turned out to be a bigger turd than anything that’s ever floated through Palace de Pennywise. But I digress.

 

Anyway, I can agree that my beloved miniseries wasn’t an exact replica of the novel; it was restricted by television regulations and a small budget, so was unable to stick to the 1,090 page epic of evil exactly. So what? That’s why there’s books AND movies (and internet forums for people to bitch about how one doesn’t live up to the other).  Some of King’s sordid details have no place being visualized. In the book, before defeating Pennywise the loser boys basically form a train and gang bang the shit out of Bev. Sure, a cherry-popping festival like that  might hold a little more weight than a pinkie swear when you’re asked to honor a childhood promise 30 years later, but no one wants to see a bunch of ten year olds going at it on the big screen. Let me rephrase that: anyone who WANTS to see that should be shoved down the nearest sewer grate to test if they really do all float down there.

Don’t ya want it?



The Human Centipede Part 2 (Full Sequence)

The Human Centipede Part 2 : Full Sequence  (2011)

I’m sure all the deviant degenerates enrolled in this class have done their homework, and are most certainly aware of the Human Centipede films. Some people seem to write them off as pointless gross-outs for the lowest common denominator. Roger Ebert gave both films zero stars and blasted them for being merit-less. They definitely are nasty films, notorious just for the concept. But director Tom Six seems to be smarter than his critics give him credit for, and he definitely has made films that worked.

I assume you all have seen the original Dutch film where a German doctor kidnaps three tourists and joins them surgically, mouth to anus, forming a “human centipede”.

Well, the protagonist of Part 2, Martin, has seen it. In fact, he apparently watches it repeatedly on his lap-top while he works as a security guard in some dark parking garage. Despite the fact that Martin has no spoken dialogue, we learn he is an odd, socially maladjusted weirdo who lives with his deranged mother.

He spends the first, slow-moving half of the film watching the original and collecting victims for the experiment he would like to make, a 12-person centipede. Of course, Martin is no doctor or scientist, just a deranged madman who masturbates with sand-paper. His performance is dialogue-free, punctuated only by moans and grunts. Off-screen, however, he is placing calls to the agents of the stars of the first film, hoping to trick them into being a part of his creation. Oh yeah, and bashing in the heads of random people and dragging them to a secluded warehouse…

After a few more murders, one of the actresses from the original film is lured in to audition for Quentin Tarantino, and all the pieces of Martin’s creation are within grasp. He sets to vicious work, knocking out teeth and cutting tendons in their knees. He goes to work on them with a hammer, scissors, and a staple-gun. During the assembly process, two of the victims die so the centipede can only be made with ten people instead of twelve.

This is where the “medically innacurate” twist of the sequel figures in. The villian of the first film was a trained physician and scientist. Martin is merely a deranged troll who has seen too many movies, and cant distinguish fantasy from reality. Dr. Laser made his centipede as a scientific experiment ; Martin has made his as a toy. So, the lack of precision in Martin’s assembly work makes for a messy climactic sequence.

Without a doubt, the last half hour of this film features some of the most depraved and disgusting shit ever put on film. It works on your senses on a level rarely seen, pushes boundaries far enough for you to question yourself and why the hell you are even watching this.

But that is the thing. It does work. If you are watching a movie called Human Centipede 2, and don’t know what you are getting in to, you are the only one to blame. I will admit, it takes a lot to gross me out, but this movie goes to some stomach-churning places.

Director Tom six knows we all came for the spectacle. This guy says he can gross us out, let’s see what he’s got.
And he brings it. He has plans for a third Centipede film, to complete his trilogy, which he says will make this one look like a Disney film…

We will see. In the meantime, check out this one for the sickos. You have never seen anything like it, to be sure. Those of you with a weak stomach or easily offended, it seems obvious for you to skip this one.

Grade : B

Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits.


Original Vs Remake : A Nightmare On Elm Street

I am sure everyone here has noticed the disturbing trend of all your favorite movies getting remade. Everyone bitches about it, but we keep going to them so they keep making them. Well, if they are going to keep making them, then I at least am going to keep complaining about them, right here on my very own website.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) is a modern classic, a new kind of slasher flick at the time. Where Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees were hulking silent stalkers, Freddy was nimble, playful and funny. Here was a new kind of maniac, with no mask to hide his horrible face, who toyed with his victims before he slaughtered them in clever ways.

He was a cackling, unstoppable maniac, even more frightening because he came to you in your dreams. And everyone knows if you die in your sleep, you die in real life. The thing that always made Freddy the scariest, to me, was the fact that nothing could hurt him. In fact, the first time you ever even see the character, he cuts off his own finger then laughs about it.

Here was a true villain, a reputed child-killer that was wrongly set upon and put to death by angry, heart-broken parents. He was a killer, yes, but he had a reason to be pissed off. Fred Krueger’s spirit was so filled with rage that he somehow came back from death and haunted the dreams of his killer’s children to exact his vengeance. The details of his misdeeds and demise are purposefully vague, but you get the sense that Freddy was wronged in life, and that he wont rest until he settles the score.

In my opinion, this is where the remake (and most modern remakes) fails. The unknown and mysterious is what is scary, in all things. Wes Craven knew this in 1984, and deliberately kept Fred’s real motives and history vague and ambiguous. All you needed to know was that this monster was out to kill these kids, and he didn’t care about his own well-being, and there was no escaping it.

As the years passed, and the sequels and spin-offs piled up, the mystery was slowly deconstructed and explained to death, so much so that it didn’t even make sense anymore. It has happened to many of history’s fictional and real monsters ; once you know too much about the devil, he ceases to be frightening. It is a case of information overload that has infiltrated all parts of our society, the overwhelming desire to know WHY someone does what they do.

Which brings me to Nightmare On Elm Street (2010).

While I didn’t completely hate it, I did have many problems with this remake. The main problem is the one I mentioned before. The new script was written with the obvious intent to make the main character Fred Krueger more relatable and understandable. This is where the film gets it all wrong.

They remove all the mystery from the character, and he is no longer scary. The original 1984 film was about Nancy, and her struggle to adapt and survive against a new kind of monster. The new version focuses on Fred and his re-written origin story, trying to force us to like him because he was wrongfully-accused of his crimes. The original character’s crimes were always more ambiguous, which made his inexplicable popularity with children even more frightening.

To me, this is another clear example of the way the powers that be are softening things up for us consumers. Freddy Krueger is no longer the deranged boogeyman with a sense of wicked humor ; he is now a misunderstood monster, a persecuted man who is doing the best he can…

The next big mistake is in the casting. Obviously re-casting and re-designing a classic character took some balls, and like it or not, Robert Englund was forced to hang up his razor-glove. Jackie Earl-Haley, who was so good as Rorschach in Watchmen, takes over the role for the remake. He tries to make the character his own, adding new flourishes like rubbing the blades of his glove together as he approaches his victims, but as a whole the new Freddy is a failure. The new make-up job is meant to look like the more realistic scars of a burn victim, but who the hell wants realism in their slasher movie?

Which brings me to my next point : the only reason one could possibly have to remake an already effective, classic movie should be to improve on it. The great advancements made in special effects technology since 1984 should prove to enhance this new version, right? Surely the film-makers would take great advantage of this and blow us away with some outstanding nightmare-sequences, right? Not so. The dream scenes are weak and boring, the CGI really detracts from the whole film. For example, they try and replicate the great scene where Freddy pushes himself through the wall over Nancy’s bed while she sleeps…

In the original film, this effect was accomplished simply, with the actor pushing against cloth, to create this creepy effect. In the new version, this scene is done with jarringly obvious digital effects, that probably cost twice as much to be half as effective.

The 2010 version fails in almost every way, in my opinion, and pales in comparison to the creativity displayed in the original film. Watching it made me feel strange, like I had remembered my life wrong. Like someone had somehow taken my childhood memories and scrambled them all up to make something similar, but somehow just wrong.
This is why I prefer to stick with the originals….
Until next time, kiddies. Keep it real.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) Grade : A

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) Grade : D

Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits.


Spartacus : Vengeance

Spartacus : Blood and Sand was a favorite show of mine last year. Coming highly recommended from a trusted friend, it quickly became an addiction. On the surface, it appeared to be a Gladiator wannabe, with some fancy 300-style jump-cuts and slow-motion sequences. It quickly backed off on some of the CGI blood-spatters and became an intense character-driven masterpiece, full of all kinds of spectacular treasons and glorious back-stabbing drama.

That is not to say that the show is easy on the red stuff. At least once each episode, the viewer is treated to a spectacular battle, with glorious gore splashing the lens of the camera and body parts flying. In the later episodes, things gets really serious, and there are so many jaw-dropping “Holy Shit!” moments, that it becomes difficult to stop yourself from watching just one more episode.

Sadly, the actor who played the main character in the first series, Andy Whitfield, died during the production of the 2nd season. His replacement, Laim McIntyre, is impressive taking over the role and continuing the story where season one left off.  Although John Hannah as Batitus is sorely missed, all the rest of the characters that weren’t brutally murdered are back for the new season, even one who I was really surprised to see.

If you haven’t checked out this great Starz original series produced by Sam Raimi, then you are truly missing out! Make sure to watch the first season and the prequel mini-series first before enjoying the new season.
Oh yeah, did I mention that you can watch the first episode of the new season right here at Horror Homework?

Yeah, check it out, weirdos :

Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits.


The Woman

The Woman (2011) is Lucky McKee’s notorious new film. If you are not familiar with his work, do not start here. Skip to the bottom of this article immediately and order yourself a copy of May, his first film, then come back to this one later.

The big news about this film was that it was barely distributed in theaters, due to its controversial nature. In fact, the director himself gives this warning on the film’s official site: “The Woman is an exploration of the very definition of horror. It is designed to incite feelings of fear, shock, nervousness, dismay, anxiety and disgust. On a surface level, the film will make you jump, it will make you squirm, and for the more sensitive, it might even induce nausea.”

So, of course, all of us horror fanatics have been drooling in anticipation of this one.

The film’s premiere at Sundance made a huge splash, with an irate viewer standing up during the Q & A with the cast and crew and berating them all as sick people. He went on to question what “value” this film has for anyone, before being escorted from the theater. His anger at the “sick” and “demeaning” treatment of the fictional characters on display here (and the subsequent youtube video of him acting like an ass) only fueled interest in the film, and made it more notorious.

Finally, it has made it to a DVD release, and we get to see it at last.

It begins with the camera following the titular “Woman” as she hunts and gathers for herself in the woods. She is clearly not to be messed with, although “feral” may be the wrong word. The viewer can see her makeshift coverings are culled from old tents and shreds of forgotten cloth; a tattered blood-encrusted flannel from some unfortunate soul is wrapped around her midsection. She is clearly independent, not like Beyonce, but independent from all of the trappings of society.

Soon, we meet the Cleeks, the unassuming “average” family that has recently purchased and moved into the property where the woman has made her home. You can really tell that great effort was made for this to be a “character-driven” horror film. The Cleek family appears completely normal, but as you get to know them, specifically the alpha-male head of the household, you really begin to question things. As Angela Bettis, who plays the wife, said of the film in the DVD special features, “It really makes you wonder about what your neighbors are doing.”

When Chris Cleek spies the feral woman out minding her own business, washing and gathering, and of course, stalks and traps her, and chains her up in his wine cellar. Suddenly this man has made it his charge to “civilize” this woman, and she reacts aggressively. This character is completely disturbed with a self-righteous god-complex and violent temper, who rules his family with an iron fist. As Sean Bridgers, the actor who portrays Chris Cleek said, “This is a guy that actually believes the fallacy that we can control things, which I don’t believe is true. We can manage things, but life is chaos.”

Obviously, his master plan is bound to go wrong, and things spin wildly out of control, with quite a few shocks and surprising twists in the plot. The unpredictability of the violent nature of this domineering do-gooder provides great tension. You never know when he might lash out next, and at whom. I don’t want to go into too many details, but the film is very dark and ends on an ambiguous, hopeful note, and I really enjoyed it.

Highly recommended to all you horror geeks out there! Watch this shit, then make your way over to the chalkboard so we can discuss it! See you there.
Grade : A-

Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits

 

 


Trollhunter

Ah, Trollhunter! My favorite film of 2011.

Set in the gorgeous mountain terrain of Norway, where the legends of trolls and giants originated, the director André Øvredal created a truly original and scary film using some tried and true tools. Where the hand-held “cinema verite” technique is a trend I am getting tired of seeing in new horror films, it is used to great effect here. For once, the characters operating the camera are likeable and natural, and don’t instantly grate on your nerves.

The set-up is that this group of do-gooder college kids are following around a suspected bear-poacher, filming him for some kind of expose of the Wildlife Board. They snoop around in the dark, following his battered RV to and from his campground in the middle of the night. He is a standoffish and mysterious character, until one night when he comes screaming out of the dark woods, exclaiming, “Troll!”

After this, there is of course much panic and running, one of the students is mauled by something in the dark, and they return to find their car destroyed and covered in troll-slime.  It turns out that Hans, the alleged bear-poacher is really a Troll-hunter working for the Norwegian government.   In a series of interviews Hans reveals that he actually works for the Troll Security Service (TSS), which hired him to help keep trolls a secret and to kill any that leave their territory and come near populated areas. He explains that there are a number of varieties of troll, and that the one he killed the previous night was a Tosserlad and therefore could not be the same one that Hans has been seeking, a Ringlefinch. The trolls are acting aggressively and have begun to leave their territories more often than usual, and Hans must get a blood sample from the Ringlefinch to try and help determine why.

The students team up with Hans, who asks if any of them believe in God or Jesus, as the trolls can detect the smell of Christian blood. This made an interesting conundrum for the film’s main characters, as one of them apparently lied about his choice of faith, and put the lives of his friends at risk. Hans brews up a hearty batch of “troll stench” for his interns to slather on themselves as to go about undetected.

The students accompany Hans on another hunt and, using live goats on a bridge and the blood of a Christian man as bait, Hans successfully attains a blood sample from the Ringlefinch troll. He then turns it to stone with giant ultraviolet lights, and they all watch it explode. In a creative twist, our heroes  learn that the trolls’ adverse reaction to sunlight is due to their inability to convert vitamin D intocalcium, which causes their bodies to overreact and explode.

Hans reveals  that some years ago he was forced to massacre an entire troll population in a certain mountainous area, and does not like to go there. The group sets off with a new Muslim camera-woman and begins finding signs of aJotnar, a giant mountain troll, 200 feet tall. Hans takes them deep inside troll territory, and a phone call from the veterinarian reveals that the blood from the Ringlefinch came back positive for rabies. It is likely that a rabies epidemic among the trolls is causing the unusual and aggressive behaviour and must be stopped.

The film ends with a real news clip of the Norwegian Prime minister inadvertently admitting to the existence of trolls, though the press fails to take notice. After the end credit sequence three mountain king trolls are seen for a split second advancing towards the camera from their lair…

This was a great, entertaining film, class. It is incredibly well-done and convincing, one of the best of the year. Highly recommended.

Grade : A

Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits.

 


Clive Barker’s Visions of Heaven and Hell

I have been a fan of Clive Barker for many years.

I started reading Stephen King books in my pre-teen years, and after tearing through virtually all of them in a years time (give or take), I moved on to anything else weird I could get my hands on.

If there was one guy I felt I could trust (at that time in my life and his career) it was Stephen King himself. So, when I started seeing these books pop up by this crazy British author Clive Barker with King exclaiming, “Clive Barker is the future of horror!” I took notice.

I started reading them all. The Hellbound Heart was the novella the movie Hellraiser was based on. Fans like me have been waiting years now for the impending release of The Scarlet Gospels, featuring the characters and universe that first appeared in The Hellbound Heart centering on the character of Pinhead and Harry D’Amour, from The Last Illusion, The Great and Secret Show, and Everville.

Cabal was a great short novel and was the basis for the awesome movie Nightbreed. This movie was a teenage favorite of mine, and I still proudly retain my VHS copy, which is probably older than some of you students.

I devoured the notorious Books of Blood, and his other collections, The Inhuman Condition and In The Flesh. In the earliest days of his career, Clive Barker quickly became a master of short, mean, often sexually-charged horror stories. The Books Of Blood were instantly regarded as classics, and re-published again and again in various interesting editions.

Then, he moved on to the great epic adventures of Imajica and Everville. These were complex, long books with many interweaving plot-lines and interesting characters. Set in universes filled with magic and evil, these books, along with The Great and Secret Show were an awesome escape for me during my high school years.

I even went along for the sweeping historical homo-erotic romances he wrote in the late 90’s, like Galilee and Sacrament.

Clive consistently followed his own paths, even as he became less and less commercially successful. At the same time he became more and more creatively interesting, trying new venues of artistic experimentation like video games ;

comic books ;

and action figures :

Especially notable are his paintings. He is as prolific a painter and artist as he is as an author. His work is shown consistently at galleries around the world and proudly displayed on his website linked here!

He released his amazing artwork collection, “Visions of Heaven and Hell” in 2003, and gave his fans amazing insight into his mind and creative processes.

The young readers’ fantasy series Clive has worked on for the last decade, Abarat, is continuing with the amazing freshly-released third book in the series, Absolute Midnight. He paints portraits of all the characters and landscapes concurrent with the writing of the story. This world he has created, where each island is a different hour of the day, is very much reality for him. It is a great series and a wonderful alternative to all the mainstream Harry Potter knock-offs flooding the young readers’ market now.

abarat-ii

If you still don’t believe me, check out this awesome trailer for the 3rd book in the series. It looks truly terrifying, and demands to be read!

What a shame that as I wandered through the local chain book-store the other day, I couldn’t find a single title by the prolific author. He is truly a one-of-a-kind artist, and deserves much more attention than he has received lately.

Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for the internet, where we can easily find all of these treasures that were once so hard to locate.

Do your homework, children. Thank me later.

Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits.


Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (1981) By Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell

Ah, the 1980’s! Such a great time to be a kid growing up in the world, but I never believed it when adults would tell me that. “These are the best times of your life,” they would say, but I always thought they were full of shit. It had to get better than this, I thought.

So, I spent my youthful days watching cheesy sci-fi movies, playing with action figures, and reading books that potentially damaged my developing young brain. When I was a pudgy kid growing up with no friends, books were always there for me. I read everything I could get my hands on, sometimes over and over again.

One of my absolute favorites was always Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark is a series of three children’s books written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. The scary stories of the title are pieces of folklore and urban legends collected and adapted by Schwartz. The titles of the books are Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (1981), More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (1984), and Scary Stories 3 : More Tales To Chill Your Bones (1991).

The illustrations were the hook. The reader was always excited to see what deranged sketch was going to assault the senses with the turning of the next page…

This series is listed as being the most challenged series of books from 1990–1999 and seventh most challenged from 2000-2009 by the American Library Association for its violence. The problems with the censors and over-bearing mothers stems from it being classified as a children’s book. They claim that the surreal and nightmarish illustrations contained within are too intense for children. They certainly scared the under-roos off me when I was a kid, but that was the point, wasn’t it?

Stories with titles like “The Ghost with the Bloody Fingers”, “The Dead Man’s Brains”, “The Viper”, “The Hook”, and “May I Carry Your Casket?” get your attention, and keep you turning the pages to see what happens next. I read this over and over again when I was a kid, getting lost in the freakish sketches, and drifting in and out of fantastic stories. A lot of the short tales are adapted from folklore and legends, and are meant to be read around a campfire in the dark.

There were all kinds of stories in the book, full of vampires, witches, devils, and zombies. Each was told with a thoughtful and playful style that made children want to read them over and over to appreciate the words in that particular order, much like the works of Dr. Suess and Shel Silverstein. The best part of the writing, to me, was always the conspiratorial tone the author wrote with, as if he was telling you personally all of the secrets of the universe, all the stuff that nobody else knew about…

He would even introduce the chapters with small side-bars (which always seemed like he was whispering in my ear) that would say things like, “This chapter is full of stories to make your friends JUMP with fright.”

The book was recently re-issued with new illustrations that, while interesting, lack the disturbing grandeur of the originals. If you still have your old tattered copy in your collection like I do, you should treasure it. Otherwise, be patient in your search to find a copy, and be happy when you finally get your hands on this true classic.

Highly recommended.

Grade: A

Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits.


Stake Land: a film about Vampires, Humans and the New Age

By Merkin Muffley—HorrorHomework Instructor
Vampire films seem more immortal now than ever before. The genre can’t be killed, even with bad films such as Twilight and Dracula 3000 having seen the light of day over the last decade or so.

Luckily, there are some flicks that have come out in recent years which make it easier for film freaks to separate the wheat from the chaff.

One such film is 2010’s Stake Land, directed by sophomore filmmaker Jim Mickle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLiZSQ3kUnM

The premise

Basically the film revolves around Martin (played by Connor Paolo, “Alexander”) an American teenager who is saved by the mysterious veteran vampire hunter Mister (played by film co-writer Nick Damici, “World Trade Center”), in a vampire assault which claims the lives of his whole family before his eyes.

After the attack, we find that a mass vampire epidemic has nearly destroyed North America. Martin and Mister make their ways north to Canada, to a place known as “New Eden”, where vampiric activity is nearly non-existent due to the frigid climate.

In this world, where life is rare yet disposable, our antagonists fight their way to an uncertain sanctuary in the north. Along the way, they collect comrades who share their need to survive.

Why you should watch it

Stake Land is a great movie for many reasons. First of all, it’s free of that teeny bopper vampire pageantry we have all grown to loathe. It was even produced on a relatively small budget of just $4 million, according to imdb.

Just gimme a small shot of vampire to go with my glass of estrogen.

Stake Land is a coming-of-age film set in a post-apocalyptic world where survival is the fabric of society.

There are no sexy and stylish vampires to woo the characters and audience. The film’s ever-present nocturnal blood suckers resemble zombies more than vampires. The premise doesn’t get too technical on these grounds—a breath of fresh air when compared to other vampire flicks.

They really Nailed what a vamp should look like in this one.

To compare, this film resembles a few acclaimed stories; Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Mad Max, directed by George Miller.

What themes do these stories have in common with one another, class? And how are they different? What do such stories accomplish when considering the human condition?

As we follow the two characters on their adventure, Mister trains Martin in the arts of killing vampires and staying alive. The two encounter all manner of people who have survived along their way, in small towns in a barren and cold landscape.

Despite the dimly lit setting and the dun-colored patrons therein, the story is rich with religious and economic undertones.

At one point, we find that many survivors have taken to religion as their cornerstone for existence, meaning that all non-believers are just as killable as vampires. The towns which Martin and Mister make their way through come equipped with trade, entertainment, prostitutes, assholes and booze—all the facets of a functional society! It’s like a Western, on those grounds.

What this story does is comment on the human condition in a very unique way.

As Martin learns to assimilate into this new way of life, he grows and matures. The survival skills he learns open the door to an old but very important concept in human history: filial piety—reverence for those who can teach.

This film was not made with the “blockbuster” philosophy of film production, thankfully. It has something to say and show the audience. It doesn’t have to prove anything. It’s just bad ass.
For extra credit, what does the class think of this film?

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