Friday, October 24, 2014


Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and this is your Mad Doctor.  Today we're introducing what we hope will become a new regular feature on Cheapskate Horrorshow, featuring reviews and overviews of favorite horror films including those in the categories of the weird, the wonderful, and the wacky.  Today we'll start with a film that was remade recently (much to our consternation): Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.

Something's in the cellar with Cheryl
I can't fully explain to you why I love The Evil Dead. It's a gorefest of the first order: a violent, insane, raving, incredibly ghoulish film with much blood and horror, which usually isn't my cup of tea. But there is something about this film that makes it one of my favorite horror movies. Perhaps it's the simplicity of its story. Perhaps it's the fact that its characters were different from other horror movie characters of the day, in that they were not just cannon fodder; instead, you cared about what happened to them even after the mayhem started. Perhaps it was the cool stop-motion effects shown at the end, when all the zombies started decomposing really fast. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I grew up in the eighties, where serial killers, slashers and gore were the order of the day in horror movies, meaning that as a committed fan of classic horror and Universal's Big Seven (Frank, Drac, Wolfie, Mummy, The Bride, Phantom, Invisible Man and Blacky Lagoon), I was usually left out in the cold or forced to watch the same stuff others were watching. Yeah, I saw Freddy and Jason and a good many of their sequels just like the rest of you, but it doesn't mean I liked them. I was often left unsatisfied by these movies, or feeling as though something was generally missing. Like fun, for one thing.

Raimi and Tapert: A fruitful partnership
But The Evil Dead is different. For one thing, it was made on probably the shoestring budget to end all ($375,000; not even pocket change these days by Hollywood standards) by people who had very little idea of how to do some aspects of moviemaking correctly, in the worst conditions possible. The film's director and star, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, had been friends since their youth and had made Super-8 films together. In college they teamed with friend Robert Tapert (who is now Mr. Lucy Lawless and head of Renaissance Pictures, producers of Xena, Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and... The Evil Dead movies), and after making a short film, Within The Woods, they were able to secure funds to create The Evil Dead. Filming began in a small cabin in the woods of Tennessee and continued over the next four years. The madness of this process has now become legend: during the time it took to make this film, many of the cast and crew abandoned the production, forcing Raimi to use stand-in actors as replacements.

Upon its completion, the film struggled to find distribution due to its graphic violence and gore, and the MPAA slapped it with an NC-17 rating. It was widely banned in several countries including Ireland and Germany, but a showing at Cannes caught the eyes of both Stephen King and John Bloom. The latter, in his persona of drive-in-movie reviewer Joe Bob Briggs, promoted the film with foam-mouthed aggression, and King gave it a glowing review in the November 1982 issue of Twilight Zone. It has since gone on to become a cult classic and a direct inspiration for many of today's horror filmmakers, sort of on a par with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (though, in both production values, story and character development, Evil Dead is the better of the two).

The Book
The story of The Evil Dead is pretty simple: five young people go on a weekend jaunt to the woods, planning to camp in a cabin. Upon arriving, they discover a tape recorder and some archaeological artifacts, one of which is an odd-looking book with a screaming face for a cover. Playing the tape, the group hears the recorded journal of a professor, which explains that the book is Norturum Demondo, an ancient Sumerian text with rituals for raising the dead. Of course, this journal features a recitation of some of the book's incantations, which is never a good idea. (Handily, it also tells how to get rid of what is let loose by your messing around with Stuff You Weren't Meant To Know—but more on that in a minute.)
Ash (Bruce Campbell) gets ready for business

Cue supernatural mayhem. One by one, various terrible things happen to the five. A girl is driven out into the woods and attacked by the woods, then possessed. The others become possessed by turns, and with their souls destroyed by the evil forces that have been unleashed by the tape, the resulting corpses are then reanimated into zombies—and not ordinary zombies, either. These are not the doddering brain-hungry zombies of Night Of The Living Dead, or even the fast rage-fueled hyperdrive models of 28 Days Later; instead they are lucid, squirming, scrabbling, ranting demon-possessed zombies who want someone's soul on a platter. The survivors of the first initial assault slowly realize that the rest of the information on the tape is true; to kill these zombies, the corpses have to be dismembered completely before burial. One by one, the group perishes until only one is left alive—Ash (Bruce Campbell), the nice guy of the group, who spends the rest of the movie being driven bananas by the demons, and must survive until daybreak.

This is probably part of why I can get onboard with The Evil Dead. It has a supernatural element, which is something that is missing from most modern horror. Many of today's horror films talk a good game about paranoia, terrorism, technology and other fears of today being the driving motive of their films' plots, but more often than not the plots seem to be constructed around the phrase shit happens, which in my opinion makes for lousy filmmaking. To suggest that there is something bigger than humans, such things as true good and true evil, or that we may not be the only beings in this universe can usually get you laughed out of the horror show these days.

Evil Dead doesn't buy into this notion, which makes it, the Re-Animator films and most of the Full Moon/Charles Band/Empire Pictures oeuvre the only horror films I could really get behind in the eighties. These movies don't rely on some colorful serial killer/anti-hero; instead, they're about monsters. This movie is satisfying to me because the evil dead really are evil dead, instead of being nihilistically charming comic-book villains who crack jokes and caper about, or silent unstoppable killing machines without a grain of character. If the zombies in The Evil Dead got into a fight with the Living Dead zombies they'd not only win, they'd also eat the losers.

And that's it for our first Cheapskate Horrorshow.  Join us tomorrow on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween for more discussion of mayhem and monsters, including that one behind you.  Made you look!

Thursday, October 23, 2014


#9: Bethany Ruthven
The poster
Good evening, darlings, and thank you for reading.  The season is upon us once again, and may I welcome you to today's installment ofThe MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween.  Today we shall have a look at an interesting little slice of horror filmmaking that comes to us all the way from London's East End: the pleasantly surprising Cockneys Vs. Zombies.  As has been mentioned before in previous posts, we here at MonsterGrrls HQ do not care much for zombies, but the round of zombie films in recent years has given way from the standard unpleasant gore-laden retreading of Night Of The Living Dead to some surprisingly well-executed takes on the zombie film, and Cockneys Vs. Zombies is one of these.

Brains, beauty, and big guns
Opening in an East End construction site, the discovery of a 17th-century boneyard that has been sealed on orders of Charles II releases zombies into modern-day London.  Meanwhile, local lads and ne'er-do-wells Terry McGuire (Rasmus Hardiker) and his younger brother Andy (Harry Treadaway) are set to pull off a bank heist to rescue their grandfather Ray (Alan Ford) from a retirement home that is about to be razed to make way for new construction (of course, it's being done by the same construction company that released the zombies).  Joining their compatriots in crime are the smart and sharp-tongued Katy (Michelle Ryan, who rather reminded me of me), near-useless Davey (Jack Doolan) and total nutter Mickey (Ashley Thomas).  Upon reaching the bank, the group finds that their simple heist has landed them in the middle of a massive embezzlement scheme by (yet again) the same construction company that released the zombies (which ties things rather neatly together).  Things go completely spare at this point (courtesy of Mickey), and the group is forced by Mickey to take hostages to get out of the bank, where they discover that the police are all dead and that zombies are feasting on their remains.  After some harrowing dodges of zombies and the dispatch of Mickey by zombies and a handy grenade (which is another interesting idea since it's usually the complete bastard who survives to the end in this sort of thing), Terry decides to save the retirement home, which is already under siege by zombies, who are being held off (not without difficulty) by the tough-minded Ray and his friends.

Not your grandfather's zombie hunters... or maybe they are
While American horror films seem determined to showcase only the young, Cockneys Vs. Zombies has no qualms whatsoever about showcasing some of the brightest and best of its older generation, featuring not only Alan Ford (who has starred in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels) but also Honor Blackman (alumnus of the James Bond oveure and a former star of the much-loved The Avengers) in strong character roles that give them quite a bit to do.  It's rather refreshing to see a group of pensioners involved in a cracking bullet-strewn standoff with zombies, and the themes of family commitment and responsibility (even under duress) make Cockneys Vs. Zombies a unique entry in the zombie-film crop.  If you'd like to skip the usual zom-nom this season, stick this one in your DVD rotation for a pleasant Halloween evening.

So with that, it's felicitations of the season from me.  Do join us for the next installment of our little holiday party tomorrow, as we'd be delighted to have you along.


Bethany Ruthven

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


#10: The Mad Doctor
So it's the fourth day of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and today we're taking a look at a rather fun little movie from 1986, Night Of The Creeps, directed by Fred Dekker, the same man who made the now-hallowed movie The Monster Squad.  Combining a bit of alien invasion with zombie movies, NOTC is the E.C. Comic to MS's Famous Monsters Of Filmland.

In this case, dead people aren't cool
Opening in 1958, NOTC starts with two aliens trying to stop the release of an experiment, which fails and lands on Earth.  A couple on a date investigate, and the boy becomes the recipient of the experiment--a small slug-like alien creature.  Twenty years later, would-be frat pledges Chris (Jason Lively), a lovelorn sort who hopes to find a love connection with down-to-earth sorority girl Cynthia (Jill Whitlow), and his disabled but supportive buddy J.C. (Steve Marshall) are given the task of finding a cadaver to place on the steps of a sorority house.  Chris and J.C. find one in a secret room of the local cryogenics lab (which is de rigeur for all colleges, natch), and it just happens to be the corpse of the Boy Who Swallowed The Slug From 1958... which tries to grab them.  Things go mightily awry from there, and when the corpse manages to make its way to the sorority house and release its payload of amassed slugs, supernatural highjinks are bound to ensue.

A view to a thrill
From there, the movie becomes a rip-roaring, rollicking tribute to old-fashioned B-horror movies that mixes lost love, new love, film-noirish attitude (courtesy of Tom Atkins, whose heavy-drinking police detective character is a hard-as-nails Broderick Crawford acolyte), zombie apocalyptics, sexy college girls and flamethrowers
Sorority girls, zombies, shotguns and flamethrowers:  what's not to love?

into a fantastic gore-flecked stew that is lovely to behold.  NOTC is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray, and of course we at the Monster Shop had to have it for our collected archive.  Horror nerds will enjoy picking out the names of their favorite horror directors throughout the film, as every character in the movie is named for a noted horror director.  Plus, the action takes place in and around Corman University, after B-movie king Roger Corman.

The return of this film to availability on DVD makes it a wonderful Halloween treat, and an even better double feature when paired with The Monster Squad.  Get them both and have your own Double-Dekker Movie Night for Halloween.

Join us tomorrow on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and don't worry about what's standing behind you... it's probably just reading the blog over your shoulder.  Of course, I could be very wrong...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


#11: The Mad Doctor
So everyone likes free stuff, especially during the Halloween season.  In fact, several blogmates and FB fiends of mine have mentioned finding wonderful deals and freebies this season at garage sales, Goodwill stores and so on.

Free Halloween Music here!
If you're throwing a Halloween party this year, no doubt you will need music to provide a soundtrack or background for your haunt.  Well, we at the Monster Shop have been alerted to a Tumblr blog called 31 Days of Halloween, that is posting completely free 10-song compilations of all kinds of music for the Halloween season.  There's a new compilation each day, and all downloads are still active, so you can obtain past as well as present for each day of October.  And in a wonderful show of Halloween spirit and generosity, the compilations from last year are available as well as this year's round.  (The 31OH administrators only ask that you follow the blog on Tumblr and give credit before reposting, if you choose to blog about this.)

Don't miss this opportunity to collect some great Halloween music.  All genres of music are represented, so you can collect your favorites as well as find some new ones.  Get yours today!

In the meantime, join us tomorrow for the next installment of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween!

Note:  All files come as zip files and must be unzipped using Winzip.  When the download is complete, the program will offer the option to open the file using Winzip.  Select this option and extract the files to a folder on your desktop.  Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 20, 2014

WITCH'S NIGHT OUT By Punkin Nightshade

#12: Punkin Nightshade

Well, hey there, y’all, and Happy Halloween to you!  This here is Punkin Nightshade, what am a witch and Adept, and welcome to The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13een For Halloween!  Today I am speakin to you about somethin what just come out on that DVD gadget, called Witch’s Night Out, and as I am a witch and can be considered an expert on witchly didoes, I am goin to tell you about it.

This here is the DVD cover
This here is kind of interestin.  Witch’s Night Out is an old Halloween special that was only showed on the television once, back round Halloween 1978.  It was made up in Canada, and it had a very famous actress named Gilda Radner what was doin the voice of the witch.  Once they showed it, they didn’t never show it again until round 1983, when the Fox Network and that Disney Channel started showin it right regular ever Halloween for a little while.  Our old friend the Mad Doctor remembered seein this show from when he was a little ‘un, and he liked it, so as it is a Halloween special and what he also calls an interestin piece of animation it is natural that we are talkin about it here today.

The witch, bein all in a snit
The story is about a witch who’s a bit down in the dumps ‘cause ain’t no one round where she lives doin much to celebrate Halloween.  Well, almost no one, ‘cause a couple of young’uns named Small and Tender are runnin round trick-or-treatin and tryin to scare folk, and it’s natural all in fun cause it’s Halloween, but ain’t no one scared of them and everbody knows who they are.  Now the grown up folk round the neighborhood, what consists of some straight-laced sorts named Goodly and Nicely and some ugly nasty folks called Rotten and Malicious, are wantin to make Halloween into somethin that ain’t rightly Halloween, to my mind.  (Mad Doc said 
that this here was satirizin the community effort what was prevalent in the 1970’s, and I ain’t rightly sure what that means, but if you listen to them talk about what they’re doin for Halloween you just know they doin it all wrong.)

They's scary, but they's nice too
Some kind of community effort and such
So anyway, they all run up to this old mansion and start havin this party, and it ain’t rightly no Halloween party cause ain’t a single one of them even dressed up in a costume, and the witch is rightly upset cause they havin it in her house and ain’t even acknowledgin that she’s there, and them Rotten and Malicious folk done brought some of the nastiest party food there is, so it ain’t no Halloween party of nohow.  Meanwhile, Small and Tender are at home with their babysitter Bazooey, who’s a good-natured sort and tryin to cheer them up about Halloween.  Small and Tender natural want to be scarin folk, and they end up summonin the witch, who uses her magic wand to turn them into a ghost and a werewolf like they was tryin to be for trick-or-treat, and turns Bazooey into a monster what’s like my friend Frankie, except it’s a boy monster.  The witch takes them back up to her house and sets em to scarin folk, and they all run out of the house and in the resultin flapdoodle the witch loses her wand, so she can’t change the young’uns back to theirselves.  (This right here is how come real witches don’t use no wands or nothin.)  They run off to find the wand, but them Rotten and Malicious folk have got it, and they don’t know how to use it, so there’s a lot of highjinks and such afore everythin gets straightened out.  If you ain’t never seen it I don’t want to tell you what happens, but let’s just say that everbody learns the true meanin of Halloween, which is that it is a happy time where folks get to be what they want to be, if just for one night.

The DVD that this is on also has about nine more old cartoons on it, which I guess was put on there so that they could kind of fill out the space and not waste nothin.  There ain’t no special features much because there just ain’t much information out there about this show or them what made it, but the art and such is pretty good, kind of like a children’s picture book, and the place that it shows in the story is all its own original world and ain’t based on nothin what was already there, like that Charlie Brown show or such.  These same folk had also done another special for Christmas, called The Gift Of Winter, and that there will be out pretty soon on a DVD too.

So that is Witch’s Night Out, and if you are lookin for somethin interestin to look at on Halloween that ain’t nobody seen much of, why then you can watch this right here.  I hope you will be back tomorrow for the next postin of The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, cause we is just gettin started and there’s a whole lot for us to do.  Blessings be on you!

Petronella “Punkin” Nightshade

Sunday, October 19, 2014


#13: The Mad Doctor

Welcome, one and all, to the 2014 edition of The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween!  We took a year off, but as they say, we’re back from the grave and ready to party, and this year we’re kicking off the Ghost Wonderful Time Of The Year with a bit of total weirdness: the new comic series Afterlife With Archie.

Night Of The Living JugDead
While some may argue that the world really doesn’t need an Archie zombie comic, or that Archie Comics is jumping on an already enormously crowded bandwagon, there is no denying that ALWA is giving Archie Comics a much-needed zap of creative energy.  Archie has been a teenager for some 73 years now, and while Archie has played with horror before (such as the introduction of teen witch Sabrina Spellman, who serves as a catalyst for ALWA, and Filmation’s Saturday morning Archie spinoff Sabrina and The Groovie Goolies), ALWA is Archie’s first foray into full-blown horror.  Inspired by an alternate cover for the Life With Archie magazine edition by regular ALWA artist Francesco Francavilla, the series has gone on to serve as both a fascinating addition to the Archie Comics universe and a straightforward horror comic in the classic mold.

It begins
ALWA begins with the death of Jughead Jones’ beloved Hot Dog, run over by a car.  Jughead goes to Sabrina, begging her to use her powers to save Hot Dog, but Sabrina’s aunts tell him that it is already too late.  Determined to help her friend, Sabrina goes against her aunts’ wishes and uses the Necronomicon to bring back Hot Dog, who comes back from the grave… and comes back wrong.  Hot Dog’s reanimation sets in motion events which spell doom for the town of Riverdale and end with most of the main Archie characters trapped in the Lodge mansion, seeking escape from the zombies who have spread their contagion through Riverdale.

The Doom That Came To Riverdale
Not completely bloodless horror
While there will be some inevitable comparisons to Image Comics’ The Walking Dead (which can now be considered a modern classic and a template for zombie comics), ALWA does a good job of fitting well-known Archie characters into a zombie apocalypse setting.  Eschewing the usual hallmark Archie-cartoon style for a realistic style with a slight E.C. comics feel, ALWA presents a serious and straightforward version of the Archie universe, evoking as much horror as possible from its characters and situation.  At the same time, the series seems to have set its own limits on gore: there is blood and graphic content, but artist Francavilla and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa seem to instinctively understand that what is not shown and evoked in the imagination can be just as horrific without completely going over the top.

Things to come
The first four issues have sold out, but ALWA’s initial five issues have been collected into a handsome paperback edition that collects issues 1-5, as well as a showcase of all alternate covers including the Life With Archie #23 cover that began the horror.  It can be found here. If you’re looking for some good horror comics, or want to get started, Archie has provided both a familiar group of characters and the beginning of an excellent horror saga.  Plus, ALWA has spawned a just-released sister series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, also headed by Sacasa.  Though we in the Monster Shop are quite selective in our zombie viewing, we can say with certainty that ALWA is shaping up to be a fun ride.

Join us tomorrow for our next installment of The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, and come see what’s on the slab…