THE LAST KNOCK presents: Horror Home Invasion

The Last KnockThe home invasion subgenre of horror continues to expand like that Satanic village of lame looking McMansions in that new subdivision. We take a look at the tropes and cliches, and separate the good films from the bad movies like INSIDE, MOTHER’S DAY, FUNNY GAMES, THE STRANGERS, YOU’RE NEXT, and many more. Lock your doors and pay attention…

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS: @inthenightdoc @TimothiousSmith @FriscoKidTX @OgOrangeBlade @BleedingCritic @aicforever @AnnThraxx @JohnRosePutnam @BerganJonah @ElectricStarPub @Theladyphantom @RealJillyG @Mel_McBoutin @machinemeannow @NylaVox @issyblack @RSBrzoska

 

 

 

 

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Thespians of Terror: Christopher Lee

The Last KnockWe pay tribute to the man who not only put Hammer Films on the map and played the role of Dracula more than any other actor, but a man who brought style and coolness to the genre. Come with us as we take a look at his films, his partnerships with the great Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, and we’ll hear some of his amazing quotes about the industry in which he thrived.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS: @machinemeannow @AFiendOnFilm @BleedingCritic @PromoteHorror @DarcWorks @TimothiousSmith @Annie_Acorn @aicforever @RealJillyG @Mel_McBoutin @Netflix @shoutfactory

 

Crash Analysis: Why I Love LIFEFORCE (UK/USA, 1985)

MovieRoom2I hadn’t planned on writing a review (of sorts) about a thirty-year-old horror that’s been much maligned, but Lawrence Roy Aiken compelled me to do so.

Like many horror fans, Lawrence thinks Lifeforce is “awful”, and I admitted that it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Yes, that means I’m admitting that the movie isn’t necessarily spectacular, but for reasons I’ll share, I find the film compelling.

When I went to see Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce I almost walked out before the opening credits. As soon as I realized that it was a Cannon Films and Golan-Globus Productions movie, I knew I should bail. After all, both entities had developed and released a multitude of cheesy, B-movie bombs from Delta Force to Superman IV. (Both companies failed to survive the 1990s.)

Then I saw a couple of things that gave the movie merit: The film was co-written by Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon, with music from the respected Henry Mancini. Furthermore, the man who helped bring special effects to an entirely new level with the original Star Wars franchise, Jon Dykstra, was also the master of effects on this project. Finally, and originally the most important element to me at the time, the movie starred the under-appreciated character actor, Steve Railsback. Therefore, I stayed put and indulged.

Lifeforce is about a UK/USA crew on HMS Churchill, a shuttle following Haley’s Comet. As they approach, they see something gigantic in the comet – a space ship. Of course, they must investigate, and when they do, they unleash an alien presence that could consume the world, starting with the city of London. Based on “The Space Vampires” from Colin Wilson, O’Bannon and Don Jakoby adapted the work. However, Wilson’s book is a total bore. Other than the opening, the remainder of the novel is equivalent to a stage play of two talking heads discussing vampirism. The book had no bite, but at least Hooper and company were set to inject life into the narrative.

Although Lifeforce was a major expense for Cannon Films, and even though Railsback told me that this was the largest production he had ever worked on, the movie has a definite “B” feel. Unlike other movies of that type, John Graysmark was diligent with production design, along with the art department, in helping to create or enhance a multitude of settings: a British shuttle, an alien spacecraft, a church, several offices and other interiors, along with many outdoor shots. Bringing the visuals together is the late, great Alan Hume, who handled cinematography for The Legend of Hell House, The Legacy, and one-hundred more films. The movie also stars a several renowned actors, from Frank Finlay and Colin Firth, to future Enterprise captain, Sir Patrick Stewart.

Why do so many people hate this thing? A couple of the visual effects could certainly be better, but for most who’ve discussed it with me, they didn’t care for much of the jumping around (there are many locations and an abundance of characters). Others think the story got out of hand and ultimately came off as silly.

No, I don’t like the film because Mathilda May is walking around naked almost the entire film (she has completely divorced herself from the movie. From what I understand, you can’t even mention Lifeforce in her presence.) What I loved about the movie is that it was a fun horror full of action and intrigue. Yes, I immersed myself in the story and went along for the ride. I loved Dykstra’s emaciated vampires, Railsback and Firth made for a great buddy team, Finlay crushed it as Dr. Fallada, and I got to go on a whirlwind ride. Plus, I liked the story overall. Simply put, Lifeforce was an ol’ time matinee blast – a real popcorn movie.

Why should you see it? Because it’s fun, dammit. Plus, for Sir Patrick Stewart fans, you get to see him get his first on-screen kiss – at the lips of Steve Railsback. And if you love the vampire subgenre, the tale is certainly different from the typical fair, so feel free to engage in something far removed from the Transylvania legend.

About ten years ago, I purchased an original, mint condition movie poster of Lifeforce for a mere $15 (US). Sure, I felt like I had made out like a bandit, but then I realized that if the movie had been well received, the price might have been through the roof. Still, it hangs proudly in my dark purple living room in a custom frame that cost almost ten times as much…

4.5 out of 5 stars

(Photo from Billy Crash.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Spring (2014)

The Last KnockThere’s been a ton of buzz about Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s horror/romance SPRING. But is it worth a watch, or just disposable mind candy? We’ll take a look at the tale from story to acting, and cinematography to dialogue.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS: @Tammysdragonfly @EscobarGolderos @Theladyphantom @Mel_McBoutin @CirrusProject @RonGizmo @AnnThraxx @RiversofGrue @EmilieFlory @RealJillyG @craigster1970 @FriscoKidTX @sg_lee_horror @BleedingCritic @dixiefairy @JohnnyVeins @deepfocusllc

 

 

 

Crash Analysis: Haunted from Within (2004)

 

hqdefaultEmbarrassing

Women’s murder/suicide leads to a curse against young mothers.

If I could give this unredeemable piece of trash negative stars, I would definitely do it.

This ultra-low budget “movie” has problems on all fronts: The story is extremely weak. Furthermore, HAUNTED FROM WITHIN (aka SPIRIT HUNTER: LA LLORONA) is loaded with “talking heads” and too many people on phones, which is absolutely ridiculous. The directing is god-awful, the acting is atrocious, the editing is third rate, the music is abysmal, the cinematography is shameful, and the lighting is horrendous. Give me a second, and I’ll tell you why the credits are hideous…

As an example of bad storytelling: Detective Luppino (Robin Raedeke) tells a doctor during a scene that he’ll be back in a minute. There is a slight fade out as Luppino exits the room, then a fade in as he returns – and that need for the character to leave is never addressed and serves absolutely no purpose to the story. Was it a way to add a few more seconds to the film? Was it a one take with Raedeke who had to duck out and go to the bathroom? The movie is loaded with these kinds of egregious moments that set filmmaking back almost a hundred years.

Granted, the budget for this thing was roughly ten dollars (maybe less), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give a damn about the work you create. When my parents were poor, survived on welfare, and lived in the projects of Newark, New Jersey, they still managed to keep a clean and presentable homestead. I’ve seen no budget films, such as the incomparable INK from Jamin Wanans, that rocked on every level. And have you seen the green screen cult phenom that is MANBORG? Horror-wise, there are many ultra-low or micro-budget films that come to mind, including amazing ones like Tony Brownrigg’s RED VICTORIA and Lance Weiler’s HEAD TRAUMA, as well as 2012’s amazing RESOLUTION. There’s no excuse for bringing quality – for bringing art – to the screen if you really have talent, passion, and give a damn.

I have only seen one low budget movie worse than this garbage, and it’s GONE THE WAY OF FLESH – which I can’t discuss without my therapist present. Most important, writer/director/producer Jose L. Cruz – who most likely attended the Ed Wood School for Misdirecting – should be embarrassed. Just put the camcorder down and walk away… I know many artists of all types who admit they have much to learn about their craft, but at least they study, grow, and improve. This is what separates those who care about the work they create versus those without talent. Unfortunately, Cruz has picked up the camcorder once more, and continues to bring us pathetic and poorly crafted movies. Hell, I couldn’t even get through the four-minute trailer of SAVING MELANIE without wanting to vomit. Yes, it’s that atrocious.

As for HAUNTED FROM WITHIN, I wouldn’t even use the DVD as a coaster for drinks.

0 out of 5 stars.

(Photo from YouTube.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Author Heather Herrman

The Last KnockAuthor, Heather Herrman says her “…fiction seeks to explore the relationship between body and landscape, utilizing genre as a medium. She believes that American Horror Fiction provides a lens through which we can undress and view the timeless dis/ease of our society.” On the show we discuss her philosophy of horror, the role of women in the genre, as well as her new novel Consumption – and so much more!

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS: @RonGizmo, @419Randall_P, @MuskaGary, @EscobarGolderos, @DarcWorks, @JohnnyVeins, @machinemeannow, @Tammysdragonfly, @FriscoKidTX, @ZedKosnar, @LyndaCoker, and @bethanyhalle.

 

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Gore – What is it Good for?

The Last KnockDoes gore have merit in horror at all, or is it just an insipid extra a film’s narrative doesn’t need? We dive deep into the blood puddle to find out. We’ll look at BRAINDEAD, HELLRAISER, GROTESQUE, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, THE BEYOND and many more.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS: @AnnThraxx, @MartySimms, @loveleov, @FriscoKidTX, @LoudGreenBird, @doubleagent73, @PromoteHorror, @DarcWorks, @GorillaProducer, @BleedingCritic, @dvdinfatuation, @flcamera, @Brianmcse, @Clive_SJohnson, and @NylaVox.

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Author William Galaini

The Last KnockTrampling in the Land of Woe author, William Galaini talks about Hell, how his character traverses said landscape, and what makes horror work. Join us for a lively discussion about the macabre, Alexander the Great, and Confederate soldier making up for a bad existence.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS: @craigster1970, @pindancingangle, @Garvey66, @dixiefairy, @AnnThraxx, @EmilieFlory, @RealJillyG, and @Theladyphantom.

 

Crash Analysis Support Team: Seas of Cheese: The Case for 80s Horror and Why We Should Love It – Guest Post from Randy Brzoska

house-of-the-long-shadows-british-quad-1983-12707-pSEAS OF CHEESE: THE CASE FOR EIGHTIES HORROR AND WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE IT

Jonny and Billy recently did an excellent THE LAST KNOCK podcast about my favorite decade for horror: the 80s. And let me tell you, it got me juiced. I know, I know. You’re thinking: big hair, ALF, Kajagoogoo, Prince movies. Fine. Laugh all you want. But the 80s were more than a punch line. In the midst of all that ridiculousness and excess, there was a lot of serious creative work going on. In fact, I’d argue that in terms of horror, the 80s was the most fecund and inventive decade of the 20th century.

A lot of this was a reaping of what was sown in the 70s. Many of the authors and directors that would dominate the 80s cut their teeth in the previous decade. Punk may have been dead, but its spirit haunted the 80s. In addition, the adventurous and experimental spirit that matured in the 70s crossed into a decade that took the nihilistic excesses of its predecessor in new, more optimistic (though perhaps also, paradoxically, more cynical) directions. All the boundaries exploded in the 70s by films like THE EXORCIST, ALIEN, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, HALLOWEEN and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE were gone forever.

Practical special effects also came into their own, perfected and pioneered by the likes of Rick Baker, Tom Savini, and Stan Winston among many, many others, and filmmakers subsequently became less restrained about showing gore and creature effects. Less was no longer more. More was more! The greater the shock value, the better.

Culturally, here in the U.S, we had to contend with the dawn of Reagan conservatism, the death throes of the Cold War, AIDS, soulless materialism, the rise of corporate power, Baby Boomer nostalgia, yuppies, and Tipper Gore (and that’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg). There was a lot of anxiety for horror auteurs to drill into. And drill they did.

The result was that, for a time, horror could have its cake and eat it, too. The genre was given mainstream cache by the monstrous success of authors like Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, etc… Filmmakers like John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and Wes Craven crafted films that simultaneously didn’t insult the audience’s intelligence and were blockbuster successes—unimaginable in today’s box office environment.

But there was also a lot squirming under the surface, too: a thriving independent subculture ready to take advantage of the audience’s appetite for terror and the burgeoning VHS rental market. Straight-to-video became both a way to make money from cheap, exploitive films and also a way for inventive filmmakers to circumvent the chokehold of the studio film distribution system. Many films found an audience almost exclusively through word-of-mouth and VHS rental.

In short, it was glorious. Of course, by decade’s end cynicism, greed, and irony usurped a lot of the earnest energy the decade had in abundance in its early years. The economy sucked. The fun was gone. And the genre was too self-aware, but lacked the verve and wit to deconstruct and make fun of itself the way Wes Craven would in the 1990s with SCREAM. Everybody yearned for what had been. Nobody was thinking about what would be.

In any case, Jonny and Billy did a great job of highlighting some of the best films of the decade. Here are some additional worthwhiles and their horror cohort (by year) from the decade that brought us DONKEY KONG and Boy George.

EFFECTS (1980): A director may or may not be creating a snuff film depicting his cast and crew being murdered. It’s not perfect, but I think it captures the anxiety people felt upon seeing new special effects that were so good they shocked even the most jaded audiences. You knew it wasn’t real. But boy it looked real. The film is inventive and its conceit is novel. It’s cohort for that year includes: FRIDAY THE 13th, THE SHINING, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, ALLIGATOR, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, THE CHANGELING, MANIAC!, ALTERED STATES, and THE FOG.

THE HAND (1981): Oliver Stone and Michael Caine team up to create a really great bad movie. Goes to show you can come back from anything. Horror cohort: POSSESSION, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE HOWLING, EVIL DEAD, THE BEYOND, and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

ALONE IN THE DARK (1982): Donald Pleasance, Martin Landau, and Jack Palance star in this underrated thriller about a bunch of homicidal lunatics who escape from the asylum and wreak havoc as homicidal lunatics are wont to do. Palance’s character is great and the ending of the film is fucking perfect. Horror cohort: THE THING, CREEPSHOW, POLTERGEIST, HALLOWEEN III, Q: THE WINGED SERPENT, BASKET CASE, and TENEBRAE.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983): Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and John Carradine—the four horseman of the cinematic apocalypse!—are all together for the first and only time in this film. (BTW: I’m writing this on the day Christopher Lee died, an event I was convinced would never happen. R.I.P.) Horror cohort: THE HUNGER, THE KEEP, VIDEODROME, CUJO, XTRO, CHRISTINE, & SLEEPAWAY CAMP.

RAZORBACK (1984): An Australian horror featuring a giant warthog. Don’t laugh. The premise seems ridiculous, but the film is surprisingly effective. Horror Cohort: NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, NIGHT OF THE COMET, C.H.U.D., CHILDREN OF THE CORN, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, and GREMLINS.

THE BRIDE (1985): This is the sort of over-the-top, unintentionally funny film that only the hubris of Really Serious People with Artistic Vision and A Budget can make. What a glorious disaster. Jennifer Beales “won” a Razzie for a performance that pretty much killed her career for a while. Sting at least had a day job he could scurry back to. Horror Cohort: FRIGHT NIGHT, DAY OF THE DEAD, LIFEFORCE, PHENOMENA, RE-ANIMATOR, and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.

APRIL FOOL’S DAY (1986): What a year this was! This low key slasher might be the most underrated of the bunch, but it’s still pretty well-known among horror aficionados. 1986 was loaded. Take a look for yourself: ALIENS, THE FLY, FROM BEYOND, IN A GLASS CAGE, THE HITCHER, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, CRITTERS, HOUSE, LITTLE SHOP OF HORROS, VAMP, and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS.

THE HIDDEN (1987): Kyle Maclachlan hunts down a parasitic alien that takes over dead bodies and makes them experience digestive distress. I’m not really doing it justice. It’s a nice B-movie sci-fi horror and MacLachlan is better than the material…in a good way. Horror Cohort: HELLRAISER, DOLLS, ANGEL HEART, BAD TASTE, EVIL DEAD II, LOST BOYS, NEAR DARK, THE GATE, and RETURN TO HORROR HIGH.

THE NEST (1988) and SLUGS (1988): Both movies are ridiculous and cheerfully revolting, basking in prolonged kills and lots of disgusting effects. They’re crawling with campy pleasures and you’ll find plenty to laugh at (much of it unintentional), but you’ll do it while peeking through your fingers; some of the sequences have held up surprisingly well. Horror cohort: NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, PIN, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, CHILD’S PLAY, MANIAC COP, PUMPKINHEAD, THE BLOB, THEY LIVE, and PHANTASM II.

INTRUDERS (1989) and PARENTS (1989): Clips from both movies are used in Skinny Puppy’s x-rated version of their video for “Worlock”. INTRUDERS is by no means a great movie nor is it a particularly original one. But the kills! The kills are inventive and squirm-inducing. Conversely, PARENTS is a horror/comedy directed by Bob Balaban (!) and starring pre-crazy Randy Quaid about a boy who suspects that what his parents are serving for dinner is Soylent Green before it becomes Soylent Green, if you know what I mean. He takes it upon himself to find out, literally, how the sausage gets made. Horror cohort: PET SEMATARY, SOCIETY, THINGS, THE DEATH KING, THE EXORCIST III, WARLOCK, and TETSUO: THE IRON MAN.

All right, enough for now. I’ve got a novel to finish and the next installment of THE ELEMENTS OF (HORROR) STYLE to write. Got something to add? Leave it in the comments or tweet me at @RSBRZOSKA. Cheers!

(Photo from Twin Lens Film.)

 

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Monster Makers: Rick Baker

The Last KnockThe world renowned special effects makeup master, Rick Baker, began his career by creating masks in his parents’ kitchen. Now, the seven time Academy Award winner continues to bring us great films with his stellar work. We’ll look at his career, and his horror films, from SQUIRM and the INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, to VIDEODROME, THE RING, and so much more.

This episodes SCREAM OUTS: @xanderfilm, @CFAweiss, @theadman40, @JohnRosePutnam, @promotehorror, @badchopsuey2, @RonGizmo, @doubleagent73, @WGalaini, @RealJillyG, @Theladyphantom, @EmilieFlory, @Mel_McBoutin, and @johnnyveins.