Crash Discussion: Highway of Horror

The Last KnockTake a ride with us as we floor it and find out why horror and cars go so well together. Whether it’s CHRISTINE or DEAD END, and HITCHER or BLOOD CAR, there’s a gas guzzlin’ monster for everyone. Get it in gear – and don’t check the rearview – just drive with us and embrace the carnage.

Crash Discussion: Witches of Distinction

The Last KnockThe witch has been at the center of worldwide folklore for thousands of years. At times revered, and other times feared, the witch is the prime subject of many a horror, from 1922’s HAXAN to 2014’s THE WITCH. We not only look at witches throughout horror cinema, but the politics and realities of witch hunting. We’ll also look at SUSPIRIA, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, PUMPKINHEAD, BABA YAGA, LORDS OF SALEM, BLACK DEATH, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, and many more.

Crash Discussion: STARRY EYES

The Last KnockThe new horror film from writers/directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, STARRY EYES has been hyped up quite a bit – but is it as good as some say it is? We take a look at the film from all starry-eyed angles, including performances from Alex Essoe, Noah Segan, Pat Healy, Louis, Dezseran, and the always amazing Maria Olsen. What did you think of the film? Let us know at Crash Palace.

Crash Analysis: A Bug Hunt: ALIENS

Four_Marines-A2*** Spoilers abound ***

In 1986 James Cameron’s ALIENS was released, and I was one of many in theatres around the world engaging the action/sci-fi/horror. Though it received several Academy Award nominations, and is adored by many around our little blue ball, I always hated the damn thing – even before I saw poor Lance Henriksen pop out of his hole, revealing the lower half of his body to catch that screeching urchin, Newt.

Yes, the original ALIEN is my favorite film, but don’t think I’m knocking on Cameron’s second installment simply because it’s a sequel.

The year is 2179, and Lieutenant Ripley, the sole-survivor of the Nostromo, has been rescued by a salvage team. Brought back to Earth, she learns that she’s been floating in space for 57-years, and in short order, the planetoid where the Nostromo crew had picked up the alien now has a small colony on it – and “the company” has lost contact with the place. Of course her employer’s ticked that she blew up their ship because they don’t buy her story (it’s amazing how Cameron left out any civil ramifications for her implied murder of six crew members. However, Ripley eventually sets off as an advisor with Colonial Marines, aliens run amok, and the only question is: “Who will survive?”

After the opening with the salvage crew (the best part of the movie), we soon discover that Ripley’s Colonial Marine buddies must have been magically transported from 1968. Instead of coming up with clever slang and such, Cameron fell back on Vietnam War speak and characterizations that are all sad caricatures, whether they’re discussing cornbread based cuisine, how “short” some of the “grunts” are with enlistment, or scoring some “poontang.” Again with the element of caricature, we have a rag-tag group of rejects (Vasquez and Drake), including a nutcase (Hudson), and other passive-aggressive or “soldiers on the ball” (Hicks, among other red shirts). They are led in command by their big daddy sergeant, Apone, the spokes model for the Corps, and what would be called a “90-day wonder” in Vietnam: Lieutenant Gorman. The lieutenant is the new “by the numbers” guy who’s had all the training but none of the practical experience. Oh, and “the company” (now named in the sequel as the “Weyland-Utani Corporation”) has sent along their own representative in a snake oil man named Burke.

None of the dialogue is new or special for the age, though STARSHIP TROOPERS screenwriter, Edward Neumeier had no trouble employing new lingo, something author Robert A. Heinlein had even failed to do. But when Hudson makes an illegal alien joke about Vasquez’s ethnicity, I find it hard to believe that we’d still have that issue almost two centuries from now.

To date, the only horror movie I can think of that presented a military unit in its best trained and most logical form is Neil Marshall’s DOG SOLDIERS. But in ALIENS, they are loose, cliquish, and silly. Besides their Pulse Rifles (which includes parts of a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun), Hicks carries an Ithaca Model 37 pump shotgun “for close encounters”, while Private Frost whips out a Heckler-Koch VP-70, and Vasquez sports a Smith and Wesson Model 39 automatic. Now, we’re about two hundred years in the future, and these marines carry weapons from the late 20th century? That’s ridiculous. That means my personal back up on the field would be a 1793 Versailles Flintlock Cavalry Carbine. I don’t think so. I guess they raided a museum on the way to the planetoid.

So the company apparently wanted to send the worst, most ill prepared group to the colony. Once again, as in the original, they send along a “goddamned robot” with Bishop, who can’t harm humans. Of course, this kicks Ripley’s PTSD into high gear, and it’s clear that she’ll eventually trust him over time. Yawn. We also learn that the only survivor of the colony is a squealing little runt called “Newt.” And in an instant, Ripley becomes her surrogate mommy, and we know beyond a doubt that absolutely nothing will happen to the squirt (though I truly wanted an alien to tear her to shreds). Another yawn.

The worst part about ALIENS, however, may be the transformation of Ripley as intelligent survivor of an alien attack to an obnoxious, bitchy, know-it-all. What we loved about her in the original has been stripped away as she becomes what many theatregoers at the time labeled as “Rambette” (Sylvester Stallone’s ludicrous “Rambo” crap was big at the time). Her ugliness shines through in the scene where the marines are below the nuclear engine that drives the colony. When it’s made clear that the ammo the marines use can damage the tanks, which would end in a thermo-nuclear explosive of epic proportions, Gorman orders Apone to collect ammo yet continue with the sweep. In short order, the aliens unleash themselves, and the near defenseless marines are either dead or dying. It’s full combat, and Gorman freezes, but Ripley’s suddenly in full mental awareness and tells them to get out of there. One: did anyone need to tell them to pull out? Two: If one listens to Gorman’s wimpy dialogue about “laying down” suppressing fire and to withdraw, his plan’s pretty solid, but no one can hear the whispering pinhead over the carnage. Third – and most crucial – this is a nuclear power plant without the capability of exploding in mass megatonnage. Sure, a meltdown could happen as well as intense contamination, but a nuclear explosion? Never. It’s clear that Cameron didn’t give a damn about any semblance of reality and simply wanted to create a mindless action romp.

Other stupid stuff:

In the original, when an alien bleeds acid, it burns through a few decks. However, although marines are affected by acid splashes, when the aliens are initially attacked under the power plant, acid doesn’t burn through floors or walls.

How the hell did little shit Newt survive all that time? If these aliens are so damn smart – intelligent enough for the queen to not only get on an elevator but pick the right floor – how come none of these creatures ambushed her outside of her hiding place? Better still, all Newt does is scream, which gives away her position time and time again. Nope. She would have been nothing but food or a place to lay an egg.

Speaking of which, Burke apparently wanted to impregnate Ripley and Newt to get them back to Earth for the bio-weapons division. But if his plan had worked, the marines would have seen the facehuggers stuck to their faces because they like to hang on for a while. Plus, they would have known something was up because the two had been locked in the med lab and Ripley’s Pulse Rifle had been removed. You think the company would have sent a sharper scumbag along.

After the first dropship exploded, why didn’t Hicks get Bishop to bring down the other dropship right away so they could escape? Nope, they had to wait until almost all hope was lost to get the hell out of there for good. This is pure idiocy, and more bad writing on Cameron’s part.

Best of all: who knew that Ripley was so ripped? Just think of the finale, which doesn’t do much to deviate from the original, because the only way to get rid of the queen is make sure the vacuum of space gets her. Yet, even with Ripley’s “loader” (the mechanical suit I’m still surprised we don’t have yet – and no, that’s not a nod to Cameron, but a nod to Heinlein), space, and the alien queen tugging on her, she gets away, and even climbs a ladder to shut the doors. Incredible.

So don’t be suckered. ALIENS may look good, and even sound cool, but the narrative is weak, and the plot is full of enough holes to make that planetoid a piece of cheese. A marine unit, or any military unit for that matter, wouldn’t last a day if they acted like they’d never been trained. And for Hudson? It would have been “game over” long beforehand because guys like that wouldn’t qualify for a mission.

If you’re a military/horror fan, watch DOG SOLDIERS. And if you love a great sci-fi horror, check out Ridley Scott’s ALIEN and enjoy the character interactions and claustrophobia. As for Cameron, he does choose visuals over story, but I do have respect for the man. Watch his documentary on the sinking of the Bismarck and you’ll find something truly worthwhile.

one star out of five

(Photo from Avi.Wikia.)

CRASH DISCUSSIONS: Interview with Horror Director Nick Simon

The Last KnockWho’s worked with Alexandre Aja and Wes Craven? Filmmaker Nick Simon, that’s who. In fact, his mentor, Wes Craven, is currently producing his new film venture, THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS. Find out about the film, what it’s like to work with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum, Emma Caulfield, and much more.

Crash Reports: A Horror Film that Must be Made: Emilie Flory’s TRAUMA DOLLS

Bijou was once a wonderful young woman who wanted to become a dancer, but fate stood in her way and prevented her from achieving her dream. Yet, after an incident leaves her for dead, Bijou rises like the Phoenix. The once lovely woman, however, is different somehow… Now, a highly sought after model, she has the world at her feet – but the only thing really piling up around her are the bodies… What happened to Bijou?

And that is TRAUMA DOLLS.

No, you can’t head to your local theatre to catch the film, and it’s not available on Netflix – yet – but writer/director, Emilie Flory is about to change all that.

Last year, Denise Gossett and company featured the trailer at Shriekfest. That alone was enough to get my heart pumping. After looking at Emilie’s Icone Label Pictures site, I was hooked even more because I found much more than TRAUMA DOLLS: I discovered a passionate artist in Emilie, and her wonderful short film that grasped my attention.

In Emilie’s short film, PROCESS 5, we watch a resistance group doing their best to not only survive, but thrive in an ever decaying world. Unlike most dystopian tales, we remain with the group in their place of refuge and dive into a dramatic tale of coping skills and distrust amidst paranoia. Emilie’s writing is solid, and her lines, like poetry, speak volumes: “Blood never prevented betrayal.” That certainly puts a twist on the old phrase that “blood is thicker than water”, and once that line slips from the lips of a character, we know we’re in for something different than watching a group of people storming government warehouses for food, or taking on a military outpost. Any other writer and director could have stuck with exploiting the tropes of the dystopian subgenre and become trapped by cliché, but Emilie went deeper, and even darker, by keeping us in an intimate setting where the true colors of the characters are revealed. Even so, I think Emilie is making a greater statement: In the face of calamity, we will continue to remain self-centered and egotistical regardless of our best intentions. After all, if everyone could see the “bigger picture”, wouldn’t the world be a better place already? Regardless of what the future holds for any of us, utopian or dystopian, Emilie reminds us that we’re human and we’ll continue to carry our baggage with us into the future no matter changes around us.

This is why I’m so interested in seeing her feature film, TRAUMA DOLLS, come to fruition. Emilie won’t take us down a road less traveled, she’ll bulldoze her own path, and we’ll follow like children discovering something new and unsettling. And to help bring her story to light, the director of photography, who also shot PROCESS 5, Tariel Meliava, will bring his stellar talents to the screen. To prove my point, one simply has to watch the great 13 TZAMETI where Tariel won the Kodak Award for Best Director of Photography. His cinematography kept the story moving, and kept us engaged, and he will definitely bring us remarkable visuals with TRAUMA DOLLS (again, just watch the trailer).

Right now, Emilie is hard at work trying to capture the attention of distributors and producers in the United States. Though she hails from the phenomenal city of Paris, her desire is to shoot the film on American soil and in English. The wonderful Cameron Watson has translated Emilie’s script to English, and helped her create a press kit, which I have had the pleasure of reading. I’m sold. Unfortunately, Crash Palace Productions is not Cash Palace because I only have spider webs in the cracked coffers. But if you’re seriously interested in learning more about Emilie, TRAUMA DOLLS, and her Icone Label Pictures, just check out the links below. And if you want to invest in what could be an amazing horror film, ask to see the press kit.

And I hope you contact her soon and get a production schedule ready – because TRAUMA DOLLS must be made. Because horror fans are waiting to indulge in Bijou’s story…

Emilie Flory is a screenwriter/filmmaker.

She has, among other things, written and directed PROCESSUS5, a 10-minute futuristic short movie shot in 35mm that was critically acclaimed and screened at HollyShorts in Los Angeles. TRAUMA DOLLS was a semi-finalist at the Shriekfest Screenplay Competition in 2013 and finalist at the Fright Night Film Fest in 2014.







The Last KnockWhether due to pregnancy or birth, or both, the unborn and the recently born have been a catalyst for many a horror. We’ll take a look at evil spawn, alien births, the other, the uncanny and more, from VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED to ROSEMARY’S BABY, and from the under-appreciated GRACE to INSIDE. You may even find some surprises from XTRO and ALIEN. Enjoy the contractions…

Crash Reports: Making of the Bloodletting Trailer

When my novel, BLOODLETTING came out, I was thrilled that I finally accomplished a lifetime goal, but worried about marketing since publishers don’t do that anymore – unless you’ve got a name like James Patterson or Stephen King. After all, there are a gazillion books out there, so how the hell would people find my hard-boiled crime thriller? Okay, this doesn’t mean I didn’t have some semblance of a marketing plan in place, but bugging friends and family like a used car salesman wasn’t high on my list of things to do.

I went to my monthly New Jersey Screenwriters Group meeting at Café Beethoven in Chatham, New Jersey, and soon met up with a wonderful friend, Don Reimer. He is not only an excellent screenwriter, but a filmmaker as well, and he’s won many awards to prove his prowess as a writer, director, and editor. Don had been looking at the reviews of BLOODLETTING and was impressed by the feedback. That’s when he offered to create a trailer for the novel with his company Airworthy Productions.

Now that’s a killer idea.

In short order, Don got to work on a concept with video footage and music as I wrote the copy. However, we still needed a narrator, so I turned to the only person that jumped into my mind: Owen McCuen.

I first saw Owen in the short film, LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW, from Time to Back Out Productions. His performance blew me away, and he soon came on THE LAST KNOCK podcast ( In less than six months, he was on set for the short crime thriller I was directing and producing, CASE #5930, where he was perfect from the word, “Action!” After he agreed to do the narration of BLOODLETTING’s protagonist, Denny Bowie, we chose a version of his audio work out of a handful of variations. (Owen’s quite the impersonator of celebrities and such, if you didn’t know.)

Once Don had the audio, he got a rough cut to me within 24-hours. Two days later, it was done. From concept to finished product, it took less than fourteen days, including color correction, editing, and audio. I wish making short films was this fluid.

The feedback for the trailer has been wonderful, but if it weren’t for Don’s concept and filming, this would not have happened. Sure, we could have gotten a crew together and rushed off to New York with actors to film at night, but with the bitter cold and costs, this would have been a nightmare. Don came up with the best solution that involved his own video, archival footage, a punk rock font to make the words pop, and killer music Denny Bowie would slam dance to.

I hope you find the work of Don Reimer worthwhile, as well as Owen McCuen’s narration. Both men are true professionals with that commitment to quality we often hear much about, but quite often fail to see. I cannot thank them enough for their exceptional work and expertise. I am truly grateful.


Find out much more about both men and their exceptional services:

Don Reimer:

Owen McCuen:


BLOODLETTING can be purchased at:

Amazon Author Page:

Barnes and Noble:

And here’s my Goodreads Author Page:




CRASH DISCUSSION: Macabre Milestone: THE THING (1982)

The Last KnockJohn Carpenter spent three months shooting one of the most intense horror films of all time on cold LA soundstages, and in the better chill of British Columbia. We take a look at the legendary film THE THING, why it bombed at the box office, and how it gained the respect of audiences and critics alike the world over. In addition, we probe deep into the film’s mysteries, themes, and intriguing trivia.

Crash Analysis Support Team: The Elements of (Horror) Style – Guest Post from Randy Brzoska

war-of-the-worldsPART I: In Which the Author Introduces Himself and Asks a Question

“ Horror… Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.” —APOCALYPSE NOW

Long before I pitched Billy Crash for some space on his website, I had originally planned to devise some way to quantify what exactly a horror movie (or book or game) is. I had (and still have) a thesis about what all horror movies are about at their core (we’ll get to that later in the series). And in order to prove it, I wanted to deconstruct the essential qualities of the horror genre and create a way to kind of “check them off” the list in order to determine if a movie was or was not categorically a horror. The Uncanny? Check. Suspense? Check! Extreme violence? Check! And so on.

I knew not long after I started that this was a fool’s mission. The horror genre is a many splintered thing: surprisingly complex morally, thematically, and philosophically. I haven’t fully given up on my original plan or thesis, but I’ve conceded that the path to get there will be a lot longer and convoluted than I originally thought.

So what we’ll have here instead is a series of articles. Perhaps one a month. An itinerant and digressive exploration of the horror genre. And when I say exploration, I mean it. That’s the spirit I’d like to take. Some of the things we discuss here I’ll know a lot about, but quite a bit will be new to me, and the essays themselves will be a “working out” of what a particular concept means and how to understand it as it applies to the genre. The end goal is to get to our checklist. But this is more about the journey than any endpoint.

In any case, I thought I’d use my initial post to take some time to give you some background about me. First, my academic qualifications. I have a Bachelors in English and Masters in Creative Writing. I write and teach college writing for a living. Most of what I write is criticism, though I am also currently finishing a science fiction novel (which hopefully will be done soon). I used to write a lot more, but I have kids now and my wife is the primary breadwinner, so writing time for me is sparse.

I’m a pretty well-read guy with lots of tangential interests, particularly philosophy and science. I’ll pull in a lot of that stuff as well as examples from works of literature in order to discuss things like the camp classic NIGHT OF THE DEMONS. We’ll mix the high and the low in true postmodern fashion.

So I’m an academic and writer in both training and praxis. As far as horror goes, I’ve been a student for life

I’ve been fascinated by the horror genre—and its myriad brothers and sisters (Suspense, Thriller, Mystery, Science Fiction)—since I was a child. As a young reader, I was drawn to the darkness of authors like Roald Dahl and the intrigues of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. As early as five I was devouring Saturday afternoon creature features like THE CRAWLING EYE, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, THE GIANT CLAW, TARANTULA, THE DEADLY MANTIS and THE TINGLER on a weekly basis. Godzilla? Rodan? Gamera? Yes, please! With a side of Mothra, if you don’t mind.

Bad special effects, shitty acting, rubber suits, stupid plots—I didn’t care. What mattered was having my mind blown, my imagination fired up. I wanted to see things I’d never seen before, things you’d never see in some boring old drama. I wanted spectacle. I wanted to be on the edge of my seat. I wanted to be disgusted and scared because when I was scared—even as a kid—I felt connected, stimulated, jazzed.

Being scared got me engaged, got my gears spinning. It got me to ponder the ifs. Got me to question things everyone around me just assumed. I remember vividly one Sunday afternoon at the age of six, the summer before first grade: I had just watched THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) the day before and I was with my mother driving home from church. “Mom,” I said. “If God made us and the Universe and there are Martians, did God make the Martians, too?”

“There aren’t any Martians,” my mother said.

“But what if there were?”

“God doesn’t make Martians,” my mother snapped. “If He did, there would be Martians.” Case closed. The end.

I got this kind of response from adults all the time to the sorts of questions I asked. Maybe you did, too, if you were that kind of kid. Their defensiveness and the dissatisfying nature of their responses perplexed me (and let’s just acknowledge that many intelligent young children like us know a subpar bullshit answer when we hear one, even if we can’t articulate why). Adults, it seemed, were uncomfortable with questions about the nature of life, our place in the universe, death, etc… I found that religion seemed to play a big part in this sort of mental block, this incuriosity, so I quickly dispensed with that silliness in my life. And then, since the adult world provided so few of the answers I sought, I turned back to books and movies, seeking the answers to the very questions they raised. And there were always new questions, new ways to look at the world. It was a journey. And for most of my childhood, I journeyed alone.

And through that entire journey—through adolescence and into graying middle-age—there were always horror movies, horror books, and horror video games. Sure, my tastes have changed, matured. I tend to like films now that are slower, more philosophical, and weighted with subtext rather than the cartoonish splatterfests I liked as a teen (though I do crave that every now and then). Jason and Freddy used to scare me. Now I find them silly. But the kid in me still has a soft spot for creature features and monster movies.

So clearly, for me, there is an intellectual element to watching horror movies that is intertwined with nostalgia. For me, horror, to quote Eugene Thacker is “a way to thinking about the unthinkable world.”[i] It’s also a way back to my childhood. This may be the case for you as well. Perhaps, like me, you like to seek out forbidden fruit, explore the darkness, understand the taboo. Or perhaps you’re a thrill-seeker, looking for new extremes to test your limits. It might be that you watch horror movies because you just love violent spectacle. Or you watch because you’re a low-empathy misanthrope and horror movies help you work out your issues.

Whatever reason you have for loving and watching horror, I’d like to invite you back to this space. But before I go, I’ll leave you with a question. What is it about horror movies that fascinates you? Why the hell do you watch them? Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @RSBrzoska.

The Elements of (Horror) Style is a monthly series of essays that will explore various key elements of horror movies. In short, try to answer the question: What makes horror “horror”?                       

[i] Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1 (Washington: Zero Books, 2011), back cover.

(Photo from American Music Preservation.)