Friday, October 31, 2008

HALLOWEEN: From Carpenter To Zombie--A Not-So-Comparative Review

Well, gang, today is officially Halloween, and I'll quote my Creature-Grrl Frankie and say, Hello, everybody! I can tell you, this has been a ball and a half for all of us in the Monster Shop. Today for our last official post for The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween, I'm going to discuss one of the long-time favorites of this beloved holiday: the movie Halloween.

The horror movie, after being initially reviled in its early years, is now a perennial. From the German-Impressionist-influenced Grand Guignol theatre of The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari to the celebrated and revered Gothic offerings of Universal Studios and England's Hammer Films, to the suspense, shock and terror of slasher films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to today's offerings such as
the Japanese-inspired The Ring and The Grudge and the intricate killing machines of the new Saw series, horror has become a driving force in the entertainment industry and the creative world. H. P. Lovecraft once stated that "the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear," and it is possible that he was on to something.

Though many people watch them any time of the year, horror movies are most popular around Halloween. In 1978, horror fans got their own personal holiday film when John Carpenter released Halloween, a bogeyman story of a killer named Michael Myers who is described as "pure evil" by Dr. Sam Loomis, a psychiatrist who tracks the escaped Myers from the mental hospital where he has been incarcerated since 1963 to the town of Haddonfield, Illinois, where Myers, then six years old, first murdered his older sister Judith on Halloween night. Halloween went on to become one of Hollywood's most profitable independent films,
becoming enthusiastically accepted into horror canon and spawning a number of "slash-alikes" in addition to six sequels and two other films that supposedly "ended" the series, Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later (written specifically for the audience that had "rediscovered" teen horror films thanks to Wes Craven's Scream series) and Halloween: Resurrection. The sequel picked up directly after the events of Halloween, and began a retconning of the Michael Myers character to explain his disappearance--Michael was possessed, it seemed, by an evil cult's curse that drove him to kill his family as a sacrifice.

Last year, Halloween saw a new spawn enter the limelight. Director/musician Rob Zombie, who had made a name for himself in horror with his films House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, was responsible for bringing a new version of Halloween to the screen. The new film has been described as being more of a re-imagining of the Michael Myers legend than a direct sequel to any of the films that have preceded it.

For myself and the Grrls, Halloween is a rather personal film. It has the distinction of being the only film of the slasher genre to be fully approved by the Monster Shop (with the ardent disclaimer that young children should not be allowed to watch) and years after my initial viewing of it, I still find it a scary and excellently conceived film that outshines most of its peers. I was not pleased with the notion of there being a new version of Halloween, nor was I enthusiastic about Rob Zombie as a directorial choice. I had seen House Of 1000 Corpses (or, as I have referred to it, House Of 1000 Texas Chainsaw Massacres) and because of that film I was not moved to view Devil's Rejects at all. I could see that for the most part, Zombie paid more attention to whirlwind, heat and flash than such things as a decent story and discernible plot. By the same token, I was also aware that worse directorial choices existed, such as Eli Roth, whose complete garbage known as the Hostel movies is now part of the horror scene and jump-started the despicable "torture-porn" subgenre of horror. So I would have taken Zombie over Roth any day of the week--at least Zombie loved the original film...

With these things in mind, I have determined to present a look at both of these films and discuss them for our readers here at the Harbinger on this very special day. So let's drag them onto the slab and see what's sticky...

(Warning: there will be spoilers. If you have not seen either film, stop here.)

The Original

The original Halloween tells a simple, uncomplicated story, one that a group of teenage kids might actually have told each other on Halloween night at a get-together. The film opens by showing the murder of Judith Myers by her brother Michael, and we view this through a first-person perspective, which not only adds to the horror but traps us within it: we see what the killer sees. This becomes more clear when the killer dons a mask and we view his perspective through the eyeholes, all the way up to the murder (which, for its time, showed only slight nudity and very little blood, most of it on Michael's hands). We are not given a reason for this murder, and it becomes worse when in the final part of this scene, our mystery killer is revealed to be a six-year-old boy in a clown costume. The shot, of young Michael with bloody hands and bloody knife standing between his middle-class upwardly mobile parents, is not only horrifying but sad, which works well. Horror, at its heart, is a story of tragedy.

Cut to the same neighborhood, 1978, Halloween. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a "good girl" who is being stalked by the now-adult Michael Myers (Nick Castle) who has returned to Haddonfield after his escape from Smith's Grove Sanitarium. Myers, in turn, is being pursued by psychiatrist Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasance) who has had Myers under his care for years, and now describes him as "evil." Because of this, Loomis had planned to have Myers committed indefinitely, but Myers has escaped and returned
to Haddonfield, presumably to begin killing again--which he does, in short order. The ghostlike Myers manages to kill Laurie's friends Annie (Nancy Kyes), Linda (P.J. Soles) and Linda's boyfriend Bob (John Michael Graham) before finally catching Laurie in the house she was babysitting in. Despite Laurie's efforts with a knitting needle, a clothes hanger and a knife, Myers is unstoppable, and Loomis is forced to shoot him six times with a gun. Myers falls out of the bedroom window, and Laurie is saved... but they discover afterward that the body is nowhere to be found...

This film, while very stylistic, is kept simple, and shows none of the excesses or machinations that would precede it or other films in the Halloween series. The film's ordinary settings and continuous first-person perspective contribute to the oppressive feel, trapping the audience within the story along with protagonist Laurie, whose "good-girl" attributes and responsible behavior are a sharp contrast to her peers Annie and Lynda. The murders, while shocking for their time, are relatively low on gore, and the nudity is understated as well (in a key scene, when Michael Myers has just killed Lynda's boyfriend Bob and is appearing before her in Bob's glasses and a sheet, the camera actually moves away from P.J. Soles' bared breasts). The score, written and performed by Carpenter himself, is now as familiar to us as Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" from The Exorcist and contains many jarring electronic notes and effects. The elegance and quietness of this film would sadly suffer in later sequels, but despite the gimmickry and additional gore of these later films in the inevitable Halloween series, the original film still retains a status of mastery among horror fans and students of horror filmmaking.

The Remake

In June of 2006, it was announced that metal musician/horror auteur Rob Zombie would be directing a new Halloween film, a remake of the original 1978 film. Zombie announced that the film would not be a "remake" in the sense of Gus Van Sant's ill-fated shot-for-shot-recreation of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, but instead would combine elements of prequel and remake, delving deeper into Myers' back story and revealing the reason why he wears the mask.

This all looked great on paper. The actual film itself comes across as a strange and sometimes wrongheaded hodgepodge of elements that in many ways seem vastly over-stylized when compared to the simplicity of the remake. Zombie's new film begins by revealing the home life of the young Michael Myers, played by newcomer child actor Daeg Faerch. Instead of the middle-class upbringing we see in the original film, Michael is the product of a white trash family, including Deborah, his
loving but helpless mother who works as a stripper in a bar (Sheri Moon Zombie), her disabled, abusive boyfriend/stepfather figure Ronnie (William Forsythe), and his slutty and equally abusive older sister Judith (Hanna R. Hall). The only person in the family that Michael loves, apart from his mother, is his little sister Boo, who (in this film) will eventually grow up to be Laurie Strode. Michael's emotional detachment from the world finally explodes into full-blown psychosis when he brutally murders a classmate who bullies him about his mother's occupation, then kills Ronnie, Judith, and Judith's boyfriend Steve on Halloween night. None of this pays any attention to the fact that the Michael Myers character has already been established in the original film as the product of rather straight-laced whitebread parents, and most of it seems to come from Zombie's apparent obsession with white trash (witness both House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, both of which prominently feature these character types as main characters).

From here, we see an attempted rehabilitation of Michael by Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who first appears as an oddly hippie-like figure, then gradually becomes... well, Malcolm McDowell. During this part of the film, Michael is taken to Smith's Grove Sanitarium, where he begins to internalize himself on a cue from a well-meaning orderly (Danny Trejo) who tries to help him survive his incarceration. Dr. Loomis and Deborah try desperately but unsuccessfully to reach Michael, and Deborah finally commits suicide after witnessing Michael's murder of a nurse who insults him.
Over the next fifteen years, Michael grows into an enormous hulk of a man (professional wrestler-turned-actor Tyler Mane) who constantly wears various homemade masks (some of which look like wrestling masks--if this is supposed to be an in-joke, it's not funny) and will not speak to anyone. Dr. Loomis gains some fame and notoriety off Michael's case, but eventually he throws up his hands and closes the case, as he cannot reach Michael. Everything goes south in a hurry when Michael, during preparations for a transfer to a maximum-security cell, explodes and kills the sanitarium guards, and later a truck driver to obtain his clothes (which is meant to be an exposition on how Michael got the now-famous coverall). Most of these victims are played by the cast of former '70's grindhouse stars that Zombie had utilized for his last two movies, among them Leslie Easterbrook and Ken Foree, who plays the trucker. On Halloween, Michael shows up in Haddonfield and breaks into his now-abandoned former home, recovering the knife and Halloween mask (you know, the mask) from the night he killed his sister.

After this
potentially promising but shaky exposition (I mean, c'mon, Rob, you've really got to get over this thing with white trash), it all becomes mainly the story of Halloween as ciphered through Zombie's viewpoint, which is unfortunately probably the same viewpoint he used when he was a teenage kid watching this movie. Laurie is shown to be without innocence, which ends up polluting the whole theme of good versus evil in the original and traps it in the same milieu as modern "torture-porn" horror, making all the characters reprehensible and leaving the audience with nobody to root for. Her friends Annie and Lynda are without individual personalities, which was also not true in the original, and all of Michael's victims, who were simply killed in the original, are not only killed but psychologically tortured, which is too complex a response from a psychopathic killer who is presented as being almost an automaton. Much of the elements that made the original so completely creepy and supernaturally tinged are screwed up because of Zombie's obsessions with grindhouse film and 1970's trash cinema; the missing tombstone from the graveyard, which added an eerieness to the original film, is marred by Zombie's decision to replace the missing tombstone (which had no replacement in the original) with a totem cross wrapped in the corpse of a dead dog. The scene where Michael kills Annie is a literal aping of the first murder scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, all the way down to the sliding door. There is also a lot of what I refer to as Drunken-Monkey-Cam going on in the final third of the movie, which I suppose is meant to heighten the fear, but mostly causes nausea.

In the final scene where Laurie attempts to hide from Michael, she crawls into the wall of the house, and the first word which came to my lips was Saw. This was where the movie fell apart for me completely; there had been numerous and sundry cracks all along, but the whole thing just went belly-up right here. It's one thing when you take a favorite movie (not just your favorite, but one that's everyone else's too) and attempt to remake it into something of your own vision, but it's another thing entirely when you start quoting modern horror movies within it. Plus, Rob Zombie has this weird, weird thing about women crawling on their hands and knees. It happens all through this movie: in the first part where Michael kills his sister, in nearly all the murders of the other female characters, and in this last scene.

Final Conclusion

There's no question about it: the remake is pretty much as bad as the remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, which I haven't ever viewed, actively boycotted when it was released and still won't watch to this day. It is not worth your time, especially on Halloween, and I would either rent or buy the original or watch one of the hundreds of other, better movies out there, some of which the Grrls and I gave you to play with in our posts this month. But if you don't believe me, here's the opinion of a professional. I had an email communication with Southern mystery writer Carolyn Haines about this movie when it came out, and was given this personal review, which is probably the most damning statement of all:

"I went to see that movie, and my response is a big yawn and a roll of the eyes. Zombie has taken a scary movie about a young girl whose psychopathic brother becomes a killer with supernatural power and turned it into a sleazy, boring bloodfest with scenes of murder so repetitive that they are boring beyond belief. In the original, the audience cared about Jamie Lee Curtis. Not so with any of the characters in this re-make. And worst of all, I detected a blatant thread of misogyny in this re-make. Women, all bloody and some nude, crawl and grovel. Every female killed crawls and grovels. Lots of toe jiggling, too. Men's toes jiggle as they die; women crawl and grovel helplessly. Disgusting. Apparently the directors working in this genre today have a difficult time telling a simple horror story. Perhaps they should go back in time to movies like The Innocents or some of the Boris Karloff Thriller episodes. And if a director can't improve on a film, he/she shouldn't be allowed to copy it. You can post this and use my name if you want to--I'm tired of spending my hard-earned cash for a shoddy film."

And so, to quote Mike Mignola's Hellboy, there you go. Now go get the original and see a real scary movie.

Happy Halloween...

Thursday, October 30, 2008


ARROOOOOO!! Hey, you guys, this is Harriet Von Lupin, and check this out: we have only got one day left, and tomorrow's Halloween! Can you believe it? Today, I'm gonna do something a little different for you guys-- I'm gonna talk about some history. Now, I'm not all that fond of history usually, 'cause it's all about past events. But sometimes it's cool to look back and see where something came from, and today I'm gonna tell you about the history of something that's always around on Halloween--candy corn!

Candy corn has been around for about 125 years, and that is like a long time. It's one of the biggest sellers at Halloween, and it's so popular that there are even different kinds of candy corn sold for different holidays, like Indian corn for Thanksgiving and reindeer corn for Christmas. (Hey, even bunny corn for Easter!) But what we're talking about is the traditional orange, yellow and white candy corn that you see around Halloween, and this was created back in the 1800's by a guy named George Renniger, who worked for the Wunderlee Candy Company. The Goelitz Candy Company started producing it in 1898 in Cincinnati, and they're still around, but these days they call themselves the Jelly Belly Candy Company, who make the Jelly Belly gourmet jellybeans.

The recipe for candy corn hasn't changed all that much, but the way people do it sure has changed a lot. These days, computers and machines make candy corn, which means that a whole bunch of it can be made at one time, and all year, too, which is why we have all those different kinds now for other holidays. But in the old days, candy corn wasn't made all year; it was mostly produced from March through November, and a batch of candy corn was made by mixing sugar, water and corn syrup into a slurry in big kettles. It also had fondant (a kind of smooth icing) in it, which makes it smooth, and marshmallow, which makes it soft to bite. All this stuff would be mixed up and then when it was the right consistency, it was poured into big hand-held buckets called runners. Each of the runners held 45 pounds of candy.

Then, a lot of guys called stringers would walk backward with the buckets, pouring the stuff into trays of cornstarch that had little molds for each kernel of corn. They made three passes; one for white, one for orange and one for yellow. This was a lot of work! But people loved candy corn, and the three colors were a big selling
point, 'cause no other candy at the time was made like that. It was called revolutionary, which is a big word that means really special.

And today, candy corn is really special, because every
year people buy so much of it that it's the official candy of Halloween! This year, a bunch of guys called the National Confectioners Association (which is more big words for guys who make candy) say that over 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year! That is like 95 billion kernels! Wow!

And check this out: another bunch of guys called the American Academy Of Pediatric Dentistry (you know, the guys who tell you to brush your teeth) say that as far as causing tooth decay, candy corn isn't any different than a slice of bread. (It's even totally fat-free!) But you should still make sure that you brush your teeth afterward, just like with any other stuff you eat. And one more thing: today is National Candy Corn Day! ARROOOOOO!!!

So grab some candy corn today and enjoy, 'cause you'll be participating in a century-old tradition! And be sure to come back tomorrow for our Halloween Day post! Gee, I gotta go get ready for tomorrow, so I'm outta here! Happy Halloween, you guys! ARROOOOOOO!!!

With much love, Harriet Von Lupin

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Hello, everybody! Gosh, it's just two days before Halloween, and what I'm posting about today is really important for everybody. Halloween is a time of year when a lot of people are out and about trick-or-treating at night, and it's been estimated that the accident risk on Halloween for kids is about four times higher than any other day. The other MonsterGrrls and I (and our Mad Doctor, too) want all our kid readers (and other kids too) to stay safe this Halloween and not get hurt. So with just two days before the Big Day, here are some things you can do for Halloween safety.

First of all, when you're out trick-or-treating, make sure you stick to sidewalks, and stay out of the street. When you cross the street, look both ways and check for cars and trucks. (Parents, if you're with your kids, be sure you help them with this, because sometimes little kids can't cross a street without some difficulty.) It's best to cross the streets only at corners, too, and don't hide or cross the street between parked cars.

Make sure that a child's costume is light-colored or has reflective tape on it, so that it can be seen in the dark. Put some reflective tape on bikes, skateboards and brooms, too (for young witches--Punkin reminded me to specially note this), and put names and addresses on costumes. Use face paint for your face rather than a mask that covers up your eyes, and if you do have a mask, make sure your vision isn't altered. Make sure that all kids know their home phone numbers and have change in case they need to use a pay phone to call. If your children use disposable cell phones, make sure they're fully charged and have plenty of minutes in case of emergencies.

Parents should plan the trick-or-treat route, preferably in a neighborhood you know, and stick to it. Carry flashlights with fresh batteries and bulbs for the big night, and since costumes can be very flammable, stay away from open fires or lit candles and pumpkins.

Visit houses that have porch lights on. Accept your treats at the porch and
do not go to strangers' houses. When you get back home with your loot, have an adult inspect your candy before eating, and don't let very young children have hard candies that they could choke on. Do not eat candy if the package is already opened. A really good idea would be to plan and have a cool Halloween-themed dinner before going trick-or-treating, so that you don't get filled up on candy and can save some for later.

All of these common-sense applications will help you to have a safe Halloween. I got most of these tips from the American Red Cross; if you click my title link above, you'll find more tips from the Pediatrics section at Doing a Google search will help you find even more!

See you tomorrow for The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween!

Frankie Franken

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review Of SCOOBY DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED By Punkin Nightshade

Hey, y'all! This here is Punkin Nightshade, and gorry, we only got three days left on our 31 Days Of Halloween! Today I am reviewin a movin picture called Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. This picture is based on a old spooky cartoon show called Scooby Doo, what is the adventures of a gang of mystery-solvin kids called Mystery Inc., and their talkin hound-dog named Scooby Doo what is plumb scairt of ghosts. There was another movin picture before this one, and this here is the next one after that movie, what they call a sequel. Most sequels ain't as good as the first one, but this one ain't like that.

This picture starts out with Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby Doo, what is
the hound-dog, gettin all honored and such at a museum in their hometown of Coolsville. There is an exhibition at the museum what is a bunch of costumes of all the monsters that they have caught in their adventures over the years, and they are attendin the grand openin. Everthing is goin along until this Evil Masked Feller shows up, cause there is always an Evil Masked Feller in Scooby Doo shows, and the Pterry-O-Dactal Ghost costume comes alive and starts attackin folks. The Evil Masked Feller runs off with the Black Knight Ghost and the Umpteen Thousand Volt Ghost costumes, and this nasty reporter lady starts messin up folks' opinions of the Mystery Inc. gang, usin what they call biased reportin, and makin Fred and Daphne feel bad about theirselves and wonderin if they are doin right. Well, there ain't nothin to do but go find the Evil Masked Feller, and the gang all think Old Man Wickles done it, cause he had done it before in another episode, so they go off to the old haunted house that Old Man Wickles lives in and start snoopin around lookin for clues. Meanwhile, Shaggy and Scooby is feelin bad about theirselves cause they goofed up with keepin the Pterry-O-Dactal Ghost from runnin off with all the costumes, so they are tryin to be better detectives, but they're still goofin up cause they can't much help theirselves. Velma is also feelin bad about herself, cause she has always been the smart one and now she is likin the museum curator, and she's worried that she ain't attractive enough to get him interested in her. This is all examples of what they call dramatic subplot.

Anyhow, they find an old book in Wickles' house what is a guide for makin monsters, and then the Black Knight Ghost shows up. They manage to fight him off and get out with the book, and then some more dramatic subplot happens with Velma dressin up in a rubber catsuit tryin to impress this museum curator feller and Shaggy and Scooby runnin off to a nightclub full of villains, tryin to find out if Old Man Wickles done it or not. The gang starts thinkin that this old mad doctor feller what used to be the Pterry-O-Dactal Ghost is the one that done it, but it turns out that he got himself kilt tryin to get out of prison. Eventually they find out that some chemical is responsible for bringin them costumes to life, and that the Evil Masked Feller has built a machine for doin it. Then some more dramatic subplot happens and it ain't long before the Mystery Inc. gang is goin up against durn near ever bad old ghost they ever faced, includin the Pterry-O-Dactal Ghost, the Black Knight Ghost, the Umpteen Thousand Volt Ghost, a Tar Monster Ghost, a Cotton Candy Ghost,
Captain Cutler's Ghost who is a glowin feller in a divin suit, and even an old Zombie Ghost what throws up all over folk. The rest of the movie is about the gang feelin better about theirselves and savin Coolsville by puttin a stop to all them bad old ghosts.

There's a mess of actors in this movin picture. Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar is playin Fred and Daphne, and the reason they are so good at it is because they are married up in real life. Linda Cardanelli and Matthew Lillard are playin Velma and Shaggy, and you durn near can't tell the difference between them and the cartoons, especially old Shaggy. Neil Fanning is playin the voice of Scooby Doo, but the rest of him is made up out of that computer animation, cause it wouldn't look right if a drawin of a hound-dog was runnin around with live folks. They also use this computer animation to make up some of the bad old ghosts, too. Peter Boyle is playin Old Man Wickles, Alicia Silverstone is playin the nasty reporter lady, Tim Blake Nelson is playin the old mad doctor feller, and Seth Green is playin the museum curator. There was folks what said this movin picture wasn't all that good, but I thought it was a durn sight better than the first one, cause the first one was doin all kind of mess about all these rumors what have popped up about the Scooby Doo show over the years, such as Fred and Daphne sneakin off durin the clue searchin to get up to didoes. You know, just triflin' stuff, what don't help nobody. But this picture don't do none of that, and is more like a big old Scooby Doo episode, which is probly the way it ought to be. Anyhow, one thing I can tell you is that this picture is probly a good fit for your Halloween celebratin, cause pretty near everbody likes old Scooby Doo and his friends, and them trackin down ghosts and spooks. But one thing I can't tell you is who the Evil Masked Feller turns out to be, cause that would spoil the picture.

So I am done here, and hope y'all like it. Y'all come back tomorrow as we start windin up our 31 Days Of Halloween, and blessings be on everbody who's readin this! Happy Halloween!

Petronella Nightshade

Monday, October 27, 2008


A friend of mine watches a late-night news show on Fox News called Redeye, which specialty seems to be extremely weird news and rather juvenile-humored commentary on same. It is hosted by a man named Greg Gutfeld, who is exactly the sort of person you wish someone would throw out of Applebee's so that you can get on with your evening. I do not hold this against my friend, as he is a wonderful person otherwise. And it was through Redeye that I first heard about the book that I'm talking about here; The Zen Of Zombie: Better Living Through The Undead, written by Scott Kenemore.

Yes, I'm serious, and apparently so is he. Kenemore's foray into the self-help/humor arena basically uses the modern zombie as the model for his outlined plan of a better lifestyle. It shows that a true zombie knows what it wants (brains) will forge a clear path to acquire its goal (brains), and by determination and single-mindedness, will eventually achieve its goal (braaaainnns). It lists the 24 habits of highly effective zombies (apparently the living don't work nearly as hard, seeing as we only have seven) and in general, recycles most well-known self-help material for satirical purposes.

Now, my general opinion of self-help books is that if you are buying and reading self-help books, you are most likely in dire need of assistance from a real live person with the credentials to do so. But I am sorely tempted to buy a copy of this, if for no other reason than to annoy the hell out of certain people I know. I'll let you know how it goes, but I am afraid that I'm not eating any brains, as they tend to be one of the fattiest organs in the body. Perhaps someone will write a book called The Vampire's Diet. They always seem to stay thin.

POST-MORTEM: If you're into zombie films this Halloween, you can certainly do better than watching Dawn Of The Dead for the hundredth time. Click here to read a post from a Grrl-friend of mine and learn how.


Good evening, darlings, and thank you for reading. There are only four days left before Halloween, and we are counting down with alacrity! Today my topic for our little 31-day overview of the Ghost Wonderful Time Of The Year is a subject that is actually our least favorite subject: zombies.

Zombies are not well liked by us. For my own part, I consider them either (sometimes) decent staff or target practice, and we in the Monster Shop are not amused by the recent unchecked spate of zombie movies currently clogging the video shelves and mental states of the general public. Nonetheless, we too have our favorite zombie movies (oh, don't go all down the nose at me, everyone does), and my purpose today is to share those with you in order to provide an alternative to the more despondent and apocalyptic diatribes out there, such as the new version of Dawn Of The Dead. (Some people will cling to their tortured post-collegiate kneejerk liberal angst.)

Our first is, of course, the true progenitor of the zombie movie, 1932's White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi. This film is considered the first motion picture to prominently feature zombies, and is a rather simple tale involving a young woman, Madeline Short (Madge Bellamy) and her fiance Neil Parker (John Harron), who are traveling to Haiti to be wed at the plantation of Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazier). Unfortunately for the young couple, Beaumont falls in love with Short and engages the services of zombie master Murder Legendre (Lugosi) to transform her into a zombie love slave. The zombies in this film are true zombies: not the hyperkinetic brain-munching gorehounds of today, but dead bodies that have been brought back to life by evil means who shamble about, eyes wide and staring, unthinking, unfeeling. Those expecting Lugosi to do his usual Dracula shtick will view a master actor at work, and the film itself is a dreamlike foray into darkness. Though White Zombie is not full of scares, it is certainly macabre, and would be a good start for someone wanting to veer off the "eaten path" of the modern undead, as it were. I suggest you shop around for the best version possible, as this film is quite old and has been through several restorations. Do check with your video stores and Netflix for a version released by a company called Roan Group; we hear this version is exemplary.

Next is Hammer's 1966 entry into the zombie arena, The Plague Of The Zombies, which predates the perennial zombie favorite Night Of The Living Dead by about two years. As with most Hammer horror, Plague is Gothic-flavored, and somewhat of a mystery story, which makes for a more interesting if slower and veddy British film. A mysterious plague is killing the residents of a small Cornish village, and medical professor Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell) travels with daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare) to visit former student Peter Tompson (Brook Williams) and his wife Alice (Jacqueline Pierce), who is a friend of Sylvia's. They encounter the brutish and unpleasant Squire Hamilton (John Carson) who more or less runs the town but cannot provide any information for Forbes. Enlisting the aid of the local constable (Michael Ripper), the heroes eventually uncover a terrible plot by Hamilton, who is raising dead villagers as zombies to work in the abandoned tin mine on his property. While this all may seem a bit Masterpiece-Theatreish for newcomers to this film, the scene where a zombie rises from its grave in the local churchyard is as chilling as any shambling Bosco-chocolate-stained undead that Mr. Romero ever dreamed up.

Recently the zombie comedy has taken hold of moviegoers' imaginations, and while most of them are far from funny and generally excuses to wallow in gallons of fake blood and latex gore, there are some exceptions. Our last two entries for today's musings fall into this category: Shaun Of The Dead (2004) and Fido (2006). SOTD was written by the British comedy team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, and stars Pegg as the titular Shaun, a slacker whose despondency over the breakup of his girlfriend is interrupted by sudden zombie outbreak. Though unapologetically gory, Shaun shows real wit and excellent comic timing, and may be one of the few films that lives up to the aforementioned genre title. Fido is even stranger, and documents a post-zombie-apocalypse world that has reverted back to 1950's Red-Scare society, where everyone has a zombie in a special tranquilizing collar as a pet, servant or companion (as in the case of one very odd gentleman portrayed by actor Tim Blake Nelson, whose undead female companion proves most unnerving). In the midst of this demented suburban landscape, a young boy named Timmy Robinson (K'Sun Ray) who is rightfully paranoid about zombies receives a new undead friend named Fido, played by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. Since I've actually been in Glasgow on Saturday night, zombified Scotsmen are not new to me, but Connolly manages to create the first true sympathetic performance of zombiedom with his Fido, who must be protected by Timmy after accidentally eating the next-door neighbor, which begins the obligatory ensuing mayhem.

So there we are: four alternative films for the discerning zombie fan. And I'm sure if you speak to the Mad Doctor, he will gleefully plug Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, which features demon-possessed zombies. From my point of view, you could do a lot worse. Do return tomorrow to see what's next in store for our final countdown of the 31 Days Of Halloween, and warm felicitations, as always, to all our readers.

Bethany Ruthven

POST-MORTEM: There is also
a new self-help book based around the lowly zombie. Click here to view the Mad Doctor's post on same. --B.R.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Review Of THE COMEDY OF TERRORS By Frankie Franken

Hello, everybody! Wow, can you believe it's only five days to Halloween? Last night when we were all hanging out at the Mad Doctor's Halloween party, somebody mentioned this film, and I've decided to review it today for our 31 Days Of Halloween post. The Comedy Of Terrors, made in 1964, is one of the old AIP Gothic movies directed by Roger Corman. Most of these were straightforward Gothic horror based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe (a great classic author that we in the Monster Shop all adore), but this film is a departure from those movies, and creates a great blend of comedy and horror.

The Comedy Of Terrors is set in the Victorian era, and tells the story of a hard-drinking undertaker named Waldo Trumbull (Vincent Price) who despises both his beautiful wife (Joyce Jameson) and his senile father-in-law (Boris Karloff). Trumbull has found a unique way to drum up business for his funeral home, which has fallen on hard times. With his ex-criminal assistant Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre), Trumbull sneaks into people's homes and poisons them, then takes on the funeral arrangements to keep himself in business and booze. However, Trumbull's landlord John Black (Basil Rathbone) is demanding rent money, so Trumbull decides to use his new business practice on him and collect all his wealth, despite Gillie's protests. Unfortunately, there's a little problem: Mr. Black won't stay dead, which leads to lots of slapstick efforts in an attempt to put Mr. Black down for the count.

This film is a witty and wacky Gothic comedy with a cast that's a quadruple threat. Rathbone, Karloff, Lorre and Price in the same movie--four of the coolest classic horror actors to ever hit the screen: how could anyone not like this movie? With a great Shakespeare-flavored script by genre legend Richard Matheson, Price very nearly steals the show in his comic-villain role of Trumbull, and Peter Lorre is a great foil for Price as his put-upon sidekick Gillie. If you can catch this one at your favorite rental store, you've got to see it. To quote my vampire Grrl-friend Bethany, this one has my highest recommendation for the Halloween season, and all of the other AIP Gothic movies are cool too, so rent a bunch of them, call your friends and have an Edgar Allan Poe movie marathon!

We're almost to the Big Day, so stay tuned with us for The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween! See you later!

Frankie Franken

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Review Of MONSTER HOUSE By Frankie Franken

Hello, everybody! We've only got seven days left on The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween, and since the Mad Doctor's busy preparing a Halloween party at the Monster Shop, I'm posting on the Harbinger for Day 24! Today I'm reviewing a goofy haunted house movie called Monster House. This one is a computer-animated movie that just might be the first horror movie made for kids!

Monster House tells the story of D.J. Walters (Mitchell Musso), a pre-teen kid who is spying on the spooky old house across the street in his neighborhood, which is owned by the mean and hysterically angry Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi). Nebbercracker, who constantly drives people away from the house and steals kids' toys that are left on the front lawn, finally has a heart attack after one explosive tantrum concerning a basketball that D.J. and his friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) are playing with, allowing D.J. to gain a mysterious gold key. Later, D.J. overhears his babysitter Zee (Maggie Gyllenhal) and her boyfriend Bones (Jason Lee) discussing the house and an often-repeated story that Mr. Nebbercracker did away with his wife. When D.J. and Chowder investigate, they discover that the house is actually alive, and tries to eat anyone who comes near it! It's up to D.J., Chowder, and their partner-in-investigation Jenny Bennet (Spencer Locke) to solve the mystery of Nebbercracker's old house and save their neighborhood.

This film is fast-moving and funny, and strangely enough, it's shot exactly like a horror movie, with plenty of long pauses and jump scares, which is very different for an animated film. Producers Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg and director Gil Kenan have animated this film using performance-capture technology, which was also used in the film The Polar Express. The resulting three-dimensional character construction makes for a thoroughly creepy but funny film-watching experience, though some of the scenes with the house may be a little too intense for very young kids. All in all, this film is a great choice for a Halloween family rental, so check it out!

Don't forget to come back tomorrow as we count down to Halloween!

Frankie Franken

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Review Of TEEN WOLF By Harriet Von Lupin

Hey, you guys, this is Harriet Von Lupin, your roving reporter for The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween, and gang, we are counting down to the Big Day! ARRRROOOOOOOO!! Today I'm doing a movie review, and I've got kind of a weird one for you. This is a movie called Teen Wolf, starring Michael J. Fox.

This movie was a little weird for me because even though it's one of
Mad Doc's favorite films, I wasn't real sure about the werewolf end of it. It's like Punkin felt about that movie The Witches when she reviewed it; this isn't how real werewolves act. I'll talk about that in a minute, but first, my review!

The Fox guy is cast as a kid named Scott Howard who kinda has a sucky life; he plays on a lousy basketball team and wants to date this snotty but pretty girl who doesn't even like him, while he's like completely ignoring the fact that he's got a really cute girl right there, who really likes him. Scott wants to be something special, and eventually he finds out that he is; he's a werewolf, in a family of werewolves because his dad's one too. (The scene where Scott's like transformed in the bathroom and then opens up the door and sees his dad there, who's transformed too--that was funny!) Anyway, Scott tries to control the transformation, which doesn't work (I coulda told him that) and his whole school ends up knowing he's a werewolf. He ends up being real popular and stuff, and he gets the snotty pretty girl, but he finds out that there's kind of a price for all this popularity.

Now, like I said, this isn't how werewolves act. We don't have this whole problem thing going on when our Change first hits; we have parties and invite the family. (Sometimes, because werewolf Clans are so big, those parties last for days.) Also, a werewolf wouldn't use his abilities to get popular, which is what Scott does, and he even has this other friend selling T-shirts and stuff for him. This was the stuff that made me, as a werewolf, not like this movie. But there is a really cool message in this movie about being yourself and being true to what you really are, and that was something I did like, 'cause that's what being a werewolf is, and you should always be true to yourself, even on Halloween when everybody's dressing up! (Plus, I'm sorry, makeup dudes, but you got it wrong, 'cause Scott looks more like a Wendigo than a werewolf. I've seen 'em and I know what I'm talking about.)

So if you're looking for a cool werewolf movie for Halloween... well, I hear that Wolf Man thing is good. But like I said, this movie has some pretty good stuff anyway, even though it's not actually a werewolf movie, in my opinion. But hey, that's me. So try it and see. (Hey, that rhymes!)

Love to all you readers, and see you soon for more 31 Days Of Halloween! OWW-WOOOOOO!!!

Harriet Von Lupin

POST-MORTEM: I heard there was like a cartoon show made from this movie, and there was an episode of it on that Youtube thing that Mad Doc likes. It was kinda cooler than this movie, in my opinion. --H.V.L.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Good evening, darlings, and thank you for reading our 31 Days Of Halloween. Recently I posted an overview of the Big D (also known to humans as Count Dracula) as he has appeared in films, and someone who is a newcomer to our little Halloween soiree asked me why I had not included The Fearless Vampire Killers (1966) in my list. Simple; the Big D is not in this film. The main vampire in FVK is Count Von Krolock, who reminds me very much of a head waiter I once met while traveling in Prague, oh, years ago. But I digress.

The Fearless Vampire Killers is personally satisfying to me for two reasons; first, it reveals many "vampire hunters" for the
annoying and slipshod vigilantes that they are*, and second... well, not to reveal too much about the movie, but the vampires get to unlive instead of being staked off. The film opens on our two "heroes," the doddering Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his shy, rather put-upon assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski, who also directed this film) as they enter a small Central European village where the locals perform regular rituals to ward off Those Nasty Vampires. (Honestly, if I had a dime for every time I went into a Central European village and some waiter in a restaurant tried to serve me chicken in garlic sauce... you just can't have a decent vacation in a small town anymore.) Staying at the inn, which is run by the lecherous Shagal (Alfie Bass) who has naughty designs on his busty tavern help Magda (Fiona Lewis), Alfred takes a liking to Shagal's daughter Sarah (Sharon Tate), who immediately becomes the not-so-unwilling victim of Von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne). Krolock also turns Shagal into a vampire minion, which leads to the funniest line in the film: when Shagal tries to turn Magda she attempts to ward him off with a cross, which leads the very Jewish Shagal to laugh, "Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire!" (Memo to any would-be vampire hunters: know your holy objects and how to use them.)

I also enjoy this film for its delightful atmosphere, which echoes the best of the Hammer horror films, and the farcical elements played against the lavish background provide an interesting contrast. The cast performs excellently as well, and despite my dislike of vampire hunters, Polanski's Alfred is a likable character who is a great straight man for MacGowran's clueless and obsessive Professor Abronsius. The film also does a good job of parodying the more foppish aspects of vampires, as noted in Mayne's aristocratic, patronizing portrayal of Von Krolock and also in actor Iain Quarrier's portrayal of Von Krolock's son Herbert, who has a few designs
of his own on Alfred (and I'm not telling, because it's very naughty). One more reason I like this film: it is the only vampire film in existence to have a vampire named Herbert. Good, solid Anglo-Saxon name; none of this over-umlauted Vladivostolikus Transyl-wanian Gothic nonsense. And of course, we are treated to the innocent beauty of the lovely Sharon Tate as Sarah. This charming actress unfortunately met her end at the hands of the Manson "family" four years after this film was released, and through her portrayal of Sarah one is reminded of what a pity it was that she was taken from us so cruelly and soon.

The Fearless Vampire Killers is my personal pick for the Halloween season for anyone who likes a few laughs along with their scares, and has my highest recommendation. Incidentally, I showed this film to a few acquaintances of mine who are vampires, and they didn't get it. (Pedants.) But of course, they never understood why I laughed all the way through the film version of Interview With The Vampire. To each his own, I suppose.

Wishing all of our readers warm felicitations for the Halloween season as always, and do return tomorrow as we continue our countdown for The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween. Tally ho!

Bethany Ruthven

*Seriously, if you'd ever woken up from a pleasant day's sleep to find a grubby collection of superstitious peasants
with a bunch of crosses and stakes being led by a great swaggering git in leather armor all standing over you, you'd know why I'm adverse to vampire hunters. But thankfully, those are old days gone by. --B.R.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Review of TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE By Punkin Nightshade

Howdy! This is Punkin Nightshade writin new postins for The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween, and we done started countin down to Halloween! Today I am speakin to you about a movin picture that is not only a good one for Halloween, but also right interestin. It's called Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, cause Tim Burton was the feller what directed this movin picture, and it was based on an old folktale about a feller what ended up married to a dead lady. The interestin thing about this movin picture is that it is not made with human actors, but instead a bunch of little puppets usin stop-motion photography. It is also a musical, which means that ever now and then they sing a song about some of the story goin on, and is not like an opera where they sing it all the way through and sometimes in another language.

This picture starts out bein about Victor, who is a nervous kind of feller who's goin to get married to a girl named Victoria. His parents and her parents have set it up, cause Victoria's parents are floocy folks what don't have no money, and they figure if they marry up Victoria to Victor, whose parents are common folks that does have money, then everbody in both families will be set, cause this picture is takin place in the Victorian age where havin both money and social status was desirable, which is kind of like now. Anyway, Victor ain't wantin to get married to someone he don't even know, but once he meets Victoria he takes a shine to her, and she to him. They start rehearsin on the weddin, and cause both the parents are meddlin with everthing in the vows, Victor gets so wound up he can't say his vows properly, and durn near burns up Victoria's mama's dress, and the pastor kicks him out the church and tells him to get them vows or don't come back. Victor goes out to the woods to practice, and finally says the vows right after he puts his weddin ring on an old tree root, what looks like someone's finger. Only it ain't no tree root, and after Victor says the vows that tree root grabs hold of him and somethin starts comin out of the ground, and this was where it got interestin for me cause I ain't never seen no puppet show what had folks comin out the ground before, and the one that comes up is a dead bride named Emily, who is the Corpse Bride from the title. She kisses him, and they get whisked off to the Land Of The Dead.

The Land Of The Dead in this movin picture ain't nothin like you'd expect, neither. It's real colorful and bright, and everbody's mostly skeletons, and always goin down the pub cause since they're all dead, they ain't got nothin to worry about overmuch. Victor learns that Emily was kilt on her weddin night, and that she has been waitin for her true love ever since. Victor don't want none of that, cause Emily is dead and he's livin, so he runs off, but Emily finds him and gives him a weddin gift, which turns out to be his old dog Scraps from when he was a little boy. Scraps is uncommon well-named, since he is now a skeleton. Victor tries to trick Emily into goin back to the Land Of The Livin, cause he is really in love with Victoria, though Emily is fairly nice for a dead person. But it don't work, and Emily snatches him back to the Land Of The Dead in front of Victoria. And that's where the plot starts thickenin, cause Victoria's parents decide she's gone crazy in the head and start plannin to marry her up to this evil lookin, snidely kind of feller named Lord Barkis Bittern, who's been hangin around the weddin party ever since the movin picture started. Meanwhile, Victor has decided he's fallin in love with Emily, and he starts figurin out how to be dead so he can marry up with Emily, until it is revealed what's really goin on. The rest of the movie is about Victor tryin to save Victoria and work out this whole mess.

All the puppets in this picture had a live actor doin their voices. Johnny Depp plays Victor, and he has done a mess of other pictures with Mr. Burton, such as Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow. Mr. Tim Burton's main squeeze Helena Bonham Carter plays the dead Corpse Bride Emily, and Emily Watson plays Victoria. Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehouse play Victoria's parents, and Joanna Lumley and Albert Finney play Victor's parents, and all of them is British and are real well-known in England and such. Richard E. Grant is another British actor who is doin old Barkis Bittern, and he has been in a picture called The Little Vampire that's right good. And there is a couple of other older British actors named Christopher Lee and Michael Gough, who done durn near just about everthing there is to be done, and they're playin the pastor and this old codger skeleton in the Land Of The Dead who is tryin to help out Victor and Emily. This here cast is a crackerjack.

All the music and songs in this film was writ up by Danny Elfman and John August, and Mr. Elfman is doin the voice of Bonejangles, who is a singin dancin skeleton what leads everbody in the pub in a dancin and singin routine. Old Mr. Tim Burton has made some mighty strange but very interestin movin pictures, and most any of his pictures like Beetlejuice or Mars Attacks would be good for Halloween. If you're interested in a love story along with your spooks, then this one is a good one right here.

So I am done here, and blessed be to y'all. Be sure you come on back tomorrow for our 31 Days Of Halloween, cause we're countin down towards Halloween time!

Petronella Nightshade

Monday, October 20, 2008

FRANK TALK By Frankie Franken

Hello, everybody! This is Frankie Franken with more of our 31 Days Of Halloween. Today I was thinking about Bethany's post on Dracula, and I considered that maybe I should write something about Frankenstein. Even though the Mad Scientists' Guild has largely labeled Mary Shelley's novel as an inaccurate and unscientific account of the First Experiment (which is, basically, making a Creature like me), the book is one of my favorites. Plus, I'm kind of wondering if the Guild understands that it's actually a novel, and not a scientific text. But that's neither here nor there.

Since Bethany listed a lot of films in her post, and since everybody likes to watch scary movies around Halloween, I thought I would list some of my favorite films about Frankenstein--some that I think are some of the best. So here we go!

Frankenstein (1931). This is the first widely popular Frankenstein film, and the one that's really set the tone for all other Frankenstein movies. Boris Karloff's portrayal of the Creature has been the defining and iconic performance for many others. Even though the movie isn't really close to Shelley's story, this film is still cool, and Jack Pierce's makeup (which is another icon in history) is fantastic for the time.

The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935). This was Frankenstein's sequel, and it does carry on a plot thread from the original novel, which is the monster's desire for a mate. For my part, while this film is cool, I think the ending is very sad, and I also think that the director (James Whale) missed a great opportunity to make a more tragic film than it was. However, I did get a groovy hairstyle out of it!

The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957). A studio in England called Hammer Film Productions made this film, which, along with the international hit Horror Of Dracula, returned the story of Frankenstein to prominence. However, the Creature doesn't get a lot of screen time in this film; instead, it concentrates on Dr. Frankenstein, who is played with great verve by a wonderful actor named Peter Cushing. This film, like Horror Of Dracula, was also a hit, and spawned a number of cool sequels with Cushing returning as the good doctor.

Dan Curtis' Frankenstein (1973). This is a made-for-TV film that is probably one of the closest adaptations of the original novel that's ever been done! Bo Svenson plays the Creature, who even looks like Shelley's description. No box head in this one!

Frankenstein--The True Story (also 1973). This British film came out the same year as Dan Curtis' Frankenstein, and ended up overshadowing it. Though it has great atmosphere, the film is only like Shelley's original novel at the end; for most of it, the Creature and Dr. Frankenstein are good friends until the Creature begins to deteriorate.

Young Frankenstein (1974). This film is one of the coolest and funniest Frankenstein movies out there, and it's also the movie by which all parodies of Frankenstein must be judged. Instead of parodying Shelley's novel, director Mel Brooks wisely went for the old cliches of the 1930's Universal Monsters films, making this a farce and a loving tribute. And in this one, the Creature gets to tap-dance!

The Bride (1985). People say that this is supposed to be a remake of The Bride Of Frankenstein, but in this one the pop singer Sting is playing Doctor Frankenstein, and the whole look of the movie reminds me of the Hammer Frankenstein films. This, in my opinion, is the movie that James Whale should have made, and I love the ending.

Frankenstein Unbound (1990). This was made by Roger Corman, and it's really cool, but it's also really weird. In it, a scientist's attempts to develop an energy beam open a rift in time and send him back to 1817 Switzerland, and right in the middle of the original Frankenstein story, which in this movie really happened. Amazing.

The Monster Squad (1987). Even though this really isn't a Frankenstein film, I included it because the Creature plays a very pivotal role. Bethany reviewed this film a while back, and she loved it. I did too, and it's a perfect film for Halloween.

Van Helsing (2004). Many people really hated this film when it came out, but I love it, and since it's another monster-mash movie like The Monster Squad, I included it here. Shuler Hensley, who played the Creature in this film, would go on to play the Creature in the musical stage adaptation of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein on Broadway! Talk about getting stuck in a part!

Incidentally, speaking of musicals, I'm going to end this post with a couple of neat websites for you to check out. Authors Mark Baron, Jeffrey Jackson, and Gary P. Cohen have written a musical adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein that was performed off-Broadway in New York, and drew a devoted fan following! See it here and hear the music at You can even buy the original cast recording, too!

And of course, there's my favorite Frankenstein website, the Bakken Library's Frankenstein Exhibit, which has an online virtual exhibit showing the original laboratory that Victor Frankenstein would have used, information on Mary Shelley herself, a view of an 1831 edition of the novel, and even a link to the complete 1818 text. The Bakken Library is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota; if you're a resident or happen to be in the area, visit the Library and see this cool installation. Visit it by clicking on the link above.

So that's my post on the Creature who may or may not have inspired my creation. After all, Dad says he's never really read the book Frankenstein, but there's a copy in the castle library so it must have made some impression. For some reason, he's started keeping it next to some books on raising a teenager, which could mean anything.

Anyway, be sure to check out all these groovy films and websites, and be back tomorrow for more 31 Days Of Halloween! See you soon!

Frankie Franken

Tomorrow: The Countdown Begins--10 Days To Halloween!