Wednesday, April 30, 2008

HATCHET: Movie Review #10

HATCHET (2007)

When a movie claims to be "old school American horror," is the director preparing us for a terrible plot enhanced with unrealistic kill scenes and splattered with enough fake blood to fill Crystal Lake to the shoreline? Apparently so, because in the case of Adam Green's Hatchet, we are blessed with all of the above, and then some . . .

After watching Grandma's Boy over a hundred times, I found it difficult to take lead role Joel David Moore seriously ("Adios terd nuggets!"), but guest appearances by horror legends like Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, who holds down the role of Victor Crowley here), Robert Englund (the one & only Freddy Krueger), and Tony Todd (Candyman) pick up the slack where Moore lacks.

The cast is rounded out by Mercedes McNab (fun fact: also the little Girl Scout from the Addams Family movie) who flashes enough tits in the movie along with her hot brunette sidekick to earn the film an R-rating. Worth mentioning here is Green's brilliant use of gratuitous (and pointless) nudity, taking it to another level by having the girls drop their tops on command right into the camera, with not a single sex scene to justify it.

Plot: a group of friends travel down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and end up on a haunted swamp tour (led by Asian actor Parry Shen and his hilariously put-on down-south accent). After their boat starts to sink, the group is left to survive in the woods of local legend Victor Crowley, aka "Hatchetface," who rips and tears his way through them one by one. My personal favorite is the gas-powered sandblaster to the face - power tools make for such great murder weapons! After all, the use of just a "hatchet" would have been boring, right?

A proper tribute to the 80's slasher genre indeed, Hatchet plays out like it was made 20 years ago, but with the latest gore and camera effects to remind you it's not 1988. Humor laces the entire plot and keeps the film fun, but unfortunately lessens some of the scares. Even the kill scenes are funny - while watching the blood splatter you can tell there is a film crew throwing buckets of blood against the trees from the sidelines (the special features reveal the actual number of gallons of fake blood used in the film). It's truly refreshing to see a director bring back the slasher elements that made the 80's so much fun, and do it properly. We needed a new horror mascot, and while Victor Crowley isn't nearly as cool as Jason or Freddy, it's a step in the right direction, and makes up for the pathetic mess that Leslie Vernon left in Behind The Mask (2006) one year prior.

The special features on the DVD show you a side of film making we rarely get to see - the upfront honesty of a young director and his crew. Apparently the trailer was shot during a day-time tour of a New Orleans swamp, holding the camera low to the water and capturing alligators swimming by, then editing the innocent footage to have a horror feel. The trailer is narrated by a little girl with a slight lisp, which creates an eerie vibe that could never have been projected by a Hollywood actress. The trailer itself left alot to the imagination, and internet buzz caused the film to get picked up and funded. A truly amazing, DIY story for sure, and Adam Green's sincerity in the behind the scenes footage is inspiring to young horror fans everywhere.

The Big Toe Blog rates Hatchet one of the best horror films of 2007.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chiller Convention this weekend!

This weekend at the Parsippany New Jersey Hilton Hotel is the annual Chiller convention! I will be attending on Saturday afternoon before heading upstate for a DJ gig in Albany, NY. I'm going for one reason: to meet the special guest and a childhood idol of mine, Zacherley. OK so I guess I'm a nerd because I'm bringing a poster and book for him to sign, but the guy has had a serious impact on my life and my love for horror. Dinner With Drac was on constant repeat when I was little, Monster Mash was my favorite song and dance, and I've spent the last year or so trying to find as much media on Zach possible. I just finished reading Richard Scrivani's book Goodnight Whatever You Are, an esssential read for any Zacherley fan. Horror hosts have always fascinated me - whether human or puppet - from Zacherley to Uncle Creepy to The Crypt Keeper, I am obsessed with the concept of horror storytelling. Needless to say, Saturday is an important day for me and I will post photos after the weekend.

Goodnight, whatever you are!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

We All Scream For Ice Cream: Movie Review #9

We All Scream For Ice Cream (2007)

I am definitely on a quest to see every horror film ever made that involves clowns. Not because I am, or have ever been, afraid of them, but rather because they bring a real element of fun to a genre so reliant on fear (blood and guts aren't so bad when there's a red nose and rainbow wig involved). Crazed carnivals and twisted big-tops have always been a personal favorite, so this movie was a must.

The Masters of Horror finally struck gold here, with a style reminiscent of the old Tales from the Crypt HBO shows. Buster The Clown, a stuttering ice cream man and "magician," comes back from the dead to destroy a group of friends known as The West Side Bunch, who accidentally killed him during a childhood prank years prior. Now all grown up, their own children are under Buster's spell, walking around zombie-like mumbling about "the best ice cream in the whole world." The ice cream served from the Cheery Time truck is in fact frozen "voodoo" dolls on a stick, and when the kids eat them their parents die. Better yet - they MELT. As they say in the film: "Your kid bites it, you bite the big one." What an amazing revenge concept!

One of my favorite elements is the haunting voice of Buster that echoes through the entire film: I scream . . . you scream . . . we all scream for ice cream, and when he shows up on the screen to say "It's Cheery Time!" The melted ice cream bloody guts puddles are pretty damn cool as well; fog machine overkill and some frost adorns the ice cream truck from Hell.

The only fault of the film is that Buster can be temporarily "stunned" with a little H2O from the sprinkler or a toy water gun - not much of a killer if you ask me. But the water isn't enough to take him out - he finally meets his doom when one of the kids bites off the head of a homemade ice cream bar of Buster himself. The final shot of Buster's mug leaves us hoping for a sequel . . .

The film is short, but fun, and I had no choice but to make myself a chocolate sundae when the credits started to roll. I love ice cream and this movie.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Day at NYC Comic Con

A Day at Comic Con - Javits Center, NYC
My first Comic Convention experience, and definitely not my last. We arrived mid-day and I immediately scanned the booths for as much horror as I could find, dodging the superheroes, Trekkies, and various other socially awkward humans roaming around the Javits Center on a beautiful Spring afternoon. I managed to cover the entire ground in 4 hours, heading home with some really great toys and comics. Highlights of the event included sitting in for 5 minutes of Zombie Survival 101, a seminar about how to survive the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse, and walking out because it was a complete waste of time. The panel was hosted by a few teenagers who obviously have been playing too many video games. Everybody knows how to kill a zombie. Get some sun, fellas. The day was complete when I got to view the prototypes for the Uncle Creepy figure and a sick 25" tall Creature from the Black Lagoon figure coming soon from Amoktime!

Now added to my collection:
  • Count Chocula, FrankenBerry, and Boo Berry bobbleheads
  • Cryptic Art hardcover by Unkle Pigors
  • Two issues of Creepy magazine (1965)
  • Issue #1 of Pigeons From Hell (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Prom Night movie poster (yeah yeah it's a remake but I'm gonna see it anyway)
  • Uncle Creepy t-shirt

Oh yeah and my girl didn't break up with me for being a big nerd so that's a plus . . .

Friday, April 18, 2008

Shrooms: Movie Review #8

Shrooms (2006)
For some reason I am always attracted to horror movies that only have 1 copy on the shelf at Blockbuster. Having heard that Shrooms was like The Blair Witch Project on acid, I had to be the one to rent the only copy of this. Of course there was one on the shelf - who in their right mind would rent this?

The movie is and hour and a half with 5 friends in the woods on magic mushrooms, having violent hallucinations that include a hooded figure walking through the foggy forest, talking cows, brutal murders, and huge slimy piles of frog semen. That alone should be enough to make you want to see this film.

The intro visuals are superb, as is the camera work, which sets a great tone for the psychedelic elements of the picture. The characters are believeable, which is usually a great challenge with people pretending to be high on camera. Paddy Breathnach (director) does an outstanding job of blurring the lines between reality and hallucination, and you find yourself questioning if what you're seeing is real, in turn making you a character in the film as well.

Unlike most horror movies where the killer is defined, and we know who the masked man with the butcher knife is, the killer in Shrooms always seems like an illusion. A campfire horror story reveals some of the story line, about a hospital in the woods where children were massacred by a black order of religious brothers. Otherwise we are left to assume the hooded figure is this same murderer, but are never entirely sure. All of the horror is a foreshadowing - and we see the events unfold before they actually happen, but when they do occur, they are just as frightening as the hallucination. This is an incredible feat on the part of the director. We get scared by the same thing twice. TRIPPY!

All of the scares are quick, using modern camera tactics like The Ring did and leaving alot to the imagination, but they are still effective with very little gore. The entire film relies on the psychological side of horror, leaving the audience to feel like they too are on drugs, which is in turn a hell of a lot scarier than a few people getting hunted down in the woods. After all, hasn't that been done a million times before?

It's always refreshing to see someone take the common horror film elements and tweak them into something totally new and different. That is what Breathnach has accomplished here. Unfortunately, some of the typical genre elements are missing, the most notable being gratuitous nudity. Otherwise the film has it all - drugs, blood, spooky forest, creepy old hospital, axes as murder weapons, and my personal favorite - two backwoods Irish hillbilly forest dwellers that drool all over themselves and eat roadkill for dinner. A fun film indeed, but may not have the same effect for someone who has never dabbled with the magic fungus!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mulberry Street: Movie Review #7

Mulberry Street (2007)

Last year's Horrorfest was, in a nutshell, a huge letdown for horror fans worldwide. I fell for the pitch "8 Films To Die For," horror movies too graphic to be shown in theaters, and rented The Abandoned, vowing afterwards never to peep another Horrorfest film again. The previews looked amazing, but the films failed to deliver on all fronts.

Therefore, I was skeptical when I saw 2007's new films, but after reading the Rue Morgue review of Mulberry Street I decided to give it a chance. The movie was exactly as the magazine described it - low budget horror with high quality impact. It is amazing what a director and team can pull off with only a $25,000 budget. Set in my hometown of NYC, the plot unravels around a group of project residents, whose building is being revamped and their leases re-evaluated. The city falls victim to a zombie rat outbreak, and presents the plague as just another downside to living in the Big Apple - right alongside high priced apartments, cut throat business competition, and awful living conditions.

Most of the actors are not actors at all, but real people living in the city, and after a group of residents refused to have their apartments used for the making of the flim, the crew was forced to shoot all the scenes in the same apartment. After various set changes, it is not at all noticeable. Footage of "riots" and "protests" are actually captured footage of parades and gatherings on the streets of New York, but are convincing when used in the context of a news flash surrounding the rat infestation. Innocent footage of rats scurrying around the streets and sewers is edited in such a way that you are on the edge of your seat the entire time.

The gore is simply awesome, and depicted in darkness - scenes where the rat zombies feed on their victims definitely do the job of making your stomach turn. Who really cares what the plot is after all - the bottom line is people are mutating from rat bites, and terrorizing the city in a style reminiscent of George Romero's films. What more do you really need to know?
My next viewing from Horrorfest will be Crazy Eights - I'll keep you posted . . .

Fright Night: Movie Review #6

Fright Night (1985)

When I was a child, my mother would take me grocery shopping at Pathmark and I would wander up and down the video aisle looking at the cover art for 80's horror films on VHS. I remember the titles like it was yesterday, and when I got older, I went on a mission to see all the movies in the aisle that I was too young to rent at the time. Fright Night, although an awfully drawn out and boring film, bears one of the best works of cover art I have ever seen in the horror genre. It has everything you need - spooky old house, dark clouds swirling in the sky with the face of a demon, and an awesome symmetrical font that screams horror! Pure packaging genius!

The poster beckons: "If you love being scared, it'll be the night of your life." I for one love to be scared, but this movie just didn't have the guts. A vampire moves in next door. No one believes Charlie that his neighbor is a killer. The entire film is Charlie trying to convince people that his neighbor is a member of the undead. Without nearly enough gore, the movie drags on with little action to keep you interested. The only reason I chose to acknowledge such a terrible example of the horror genre is because the artwork is so damn cool. This is one of those films that reminds me why I love Netflix so much - you can rent the worst movies and still not feel like you wasted your money - there will be an equally terrible film or ground-breaking one in the mail two days later. Also check the movie out if you want to see a younger version of Marcy Darcy, before she appeared on Married With Children years later. Otherwise, rent a worthwhile vampire flick like 30 Days of Night or the timeless classic Dracula.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New toy alert!!

Dark Horse Comics Presents: Uncle Creepy

Coming May 2008 is the unforgettable 14" tall Uncle Creepy statue! So cool I'll be pre-ordering several of these figures to add to my collection. Creepy magazine cover art changed my life, along with Tales From The Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear. This tribute to the horror publications of the 1960's was sculpted by Tony Cipriano and the detail is impeccable . . . a must-have for all horror collectors. Check out the Dark Horse site here to pre-order. All the Creepy magazine covers can be found here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008



Arco/Mattel released a toy series called Mad Scientist circa 1987. Monster creations and weird lab experiments conducted by the insane character Dr. Sy N. Tist, along with all the green slime you could handle, was a dream come true for every 8 year old boy in the late 80's. I asked my parents for every single one of these toys, starting with the Dissect An Alien Kit, which was an alien creature filled with guts that you could dissect on a lab mat with a plastic scalpel, displaying all of his guts on the corresponding lab mat artwork. And if that wasn't cool enough, green slime would pour out of him during the operation, and when it was all over you could stitch him back up with a rubber slab of stitches! They were my favorite toys as a boy, but the line unfortunately did not last very long on the shelves. If you're lucky enough, you can grab some relics on EBay like I did.

In April 2007, I decided to tattoo my right sleeve with all of the characters and experiments from this series. I wanted something unique and a tribute to my youth & love for monsters. The sleeve project began on my upper right arm at Empire State Studios in Oceanside, NY. Friend & artist Bobby Chichester and I decided to start with the alien, considering it was the first toy of the series that I purchased - that was one of the toys that started it all! We would then work down the arm, adding additional monsters and lab backdrops along the way.

The photo above shows the alien himself full of guts (pre-dissection) and next to it, 15 hours after I went under the scalpel myself. More photos and updates on this project coming soon!


My favorite skate team is back! As a skater for 14 years of my life, I became hooked on their classic monster look and gory graphics in the early 90's. After searching for old merch online over 3 years ago, I discovered the resurrection of the team, and have proceeded to purchase every product of theirs since. Last week I bought my first complete deck in over 10 years, a limited edition board series called "Zombie Drummers From The Crypt." Some call it a quarter-life crisis - I call it an obsession that never went away.

I also strongly suggest purchasing a copy of the team's Black Metal DVD as soon as possible. Combining classic horror elements with insane street and pool skating, this is the best skate video I have ever seen. It's not everyday that you get to see skaters drop into half pipes in a coffin on wheels! Creature T-shirts, hoodies, caps, stickers, and some of the coolest skate merch ever is available at your local skateshop.
Make sure you check them out online at

The Ruins: Movie Review #5

The Ruins (2008)

According to Stephen King, this is the best horror novel of the new century. As far as I'm concerned, he's a pretty reliable source when it comes to horror. I bought the book at the airport and finished it 3 days later - I haven't enjoyed a book like this in almost 10 years.

I first saw the preview for the film a few months back, and like all new horror flicks, I counted the days to its theater release. I was somewhat skeptical knowing that the plant was the killer (after all Primeeval's alligator was a major bummer, wasn't it?). Horror book to movie projects are usually a letdown across the board, but in this case, I was blown away. Scott Smith is both the author of the book and the writer of the film's screenplay - perhaps the reason why the film was such a fair adaptation. Although the film did not hold to the same psychological horror as the book, the interaction between the characters and the vine was dead on (no pun intended). I have never seen or read horror quite like this. I respect an author and/or filmmaker that pushes the envelope, especially in a genre so dependent on its cookie-cutter elements.

Plot: A group of friends "double date" to the site of Mayan ruins in the jungle outside Cancun, Mexico. They stumble upon a historical place of sacrifice, and are trapped atop the ruins by the local Mayans. They are then held captive by the vine that grows there; they discover bodies within the brush, and slowly start to realize that the vine has taken on a life of its own. It mocks their actions, copies their voices, and feeds off their blood. The vine is even able to penetrate their bodies and eat away at flesh. The details in the book are enough to make your stomach turn, and the gore in the film definitely does this justice. There's something unique about watching a girl peel back her skin with a dirty hunting knife to try to extract the vine slithering beneath the surface. The slow deterioration of the characters' mental states is the most interesting part of the book, but this seems rushed in the film. In light of this, both mediums make the grade for The Big Toe Blog.

Highlights of the film include an arrow to the chest followed by a bullet to the head, splattering Dimitri's brains on the jungle floor. My favorite: Mathias's legs being eaten away by the vine, and Jeff's decision to amputate his legs with the same hunting knife, burning the stumps with a heated frying pan to prevent infection. The contemplation on cannibalism, which makes for a very uncomfortable situation in the novel, is removed from the film, but plenty of gore effects make up for its absence. At any point in the novel you feel like the story could turn into a modern version of The Donner Party. I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the characters coming to terms with their starvation, and remedy the situation by eating their friends. With the movie clocking in at only 1 hour and 30 minutes, there was plenty of room to add this element if Smith had wanted to!

All in all, this was the most impressive book to movie adaptation I have seen in years - not since Pet Sematary (1989) or Christine (1983) have I been able to say that. Pick up a copy of The Ruins sooner rather than later, and take your girl to see the film like I did. And, when you get home, make sure you water your plants. Terror has definitely evolved.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Last House on the Left: Movie Review #4

The Last House on the Left (1972)
I am a huge fan of Nightmare on Elm Street and Wes Craven. As an 80's child, I couldn't help but love Freddy Krueger. I am also a huge fan of digging for obscure films that horror directors made before their big hits. Fully equipped with plenty of blood, violence, drug use, revenge, and even rape, this movie is a must-see - the old school advertisement that instructed you to remind yourself that "it's only a movie" is pure genius. Anything that comes with a warning message is right up my alley. However, I was somewhat let down.

Now I hate to hate on a classic, but I felt like I was watching someone's home videos -- low budget can be alot of fun, but I would have much rathered Craven went the Herschell Gordon Lewis route with his soundtrack. The gore and violence of the film is simply watered down with cheesy circus music and absolutely no suspense. I guess you could consider it a horror movie, although I found myself searching for the horror. Sure, it's terrible what a gang of criminals did to a couple of girls in the woods (and it is supposedly based on a true story) but there was no build-up to the gore at all. I really wanted to be scared but just wasn't.

The movie did, however, redeem itself for a few moments, namely the humor -- the junkie criminal's frog impression (I always have a laugh at drug addicts in films) and the blowjob scene where Momma bites off the guido's you know what. The screwdriver to the front teeth was a nice touch as well, and the brilliant use of the chainsaw toward the end of the film must have paved the way for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 years later. However, I still couldn't help but feel like I was watching a gorier version of I Spit On Your Grave (1978). Check it out because it's a classic, but you won't need to remind yourself that it's only a movie.