Sunday, September 21, 2008

TV Review #1: True Blood


I never watch television. I'm content with watching nothing but horror films on DVD and taking advantage of my unlimited Netflix capabilities. But every so often a show airs that makes me suck up (no pun intended) the $9.95 a month and order HBO or Showtime On Demand. Of course I cancel it after the season because I'm broke. I was never a huge fan of Sopranos. For me it all started with Six Feet Under. I watched the show religiously and finally understood what people mean when they say they feel like they know the characters personally.

The next show to grab my attention was Dexter, which also featured Michael C. Hall from Six Feet Under, blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Metro PD by day, neat & clean serial killer by night. Season 3 starts soon and that will complete my week with 2 riveting TV series.

The other show that has claimed one hour of my life at 9pm every Sunday is True Blood, from the creators of Six Feet Under - an HBO series that is only 3 episodes deep. I am absolutely hooked on this show. Any mainstream drama that has the nerve to show this much blood, sex, violence (and of course vampires), gets The Big Toe Blog's stamp of approval.

The season kicks off by introducing us to a synthetic Japanese beverage called "Tru Blood," sold in stores down in Louisiana, in a present-day world where vampires not only live among Americans but feed off them in the town of Bon Temps. Religious and government officials have sided with the vampires, and our lead character Sookie Stackhouse takes a similar interest in one Bill Compton who lives up the street. She also has the special gift to read people's minds, but cannot read vampires. This sets the stage for a dark romance between Bill & Sookie that is surrounded by sex & murder, keeping you on the edge of your seat each episode. This is no Buffy - the show is well-written, action-packed, and makes real observations about our current world we live in, difficulties in life and love, and of course . . . death.

True Blood airs every Sunday night at 9:00pm EST on HBO.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Album Review #1: Eaten Back to Life

Metal Blade Records

The gore metal album that started it all for me. I remember being 11 years old and shopping with my Mom at the local outdoor flea market, gravitating toward the music stand where I could browse through the latest cassettes. I pulled Eaten Back to Life from the bin because the cover art caught my eye (which I would discover in later life was by the brilliant horror artist Vince Locke). The guy at the stand was hesitant to sell me the tape and told me the album probably "wasn't for me," but I had to have it. My Mom gave me enough money for two cassettes, and I left that day with NIN Pretty Hate Machine (1989) and of course, Eaten Back to Life.

Unitl then I had bands like Motley Crue and Poison on heavy rotation. The closest I got to horror music was Michael Jackson's Thriller. Cannibal Corpse was unlike anything I had ever heard - they had everything a kid could want - heavy double bass petals, speed metal riffs, muddy bass, and a decomposing zombie ripping out his organs in a cemetery on the front cover. I remember sitting in my room with my headphones on (I was afraid my Mom would hear) and reading along to the lyrics of Shredded Humans, the opening track, about a family mutilated in a car crash and their guts spread out across the highway. The band had an uncanny ability to paint a gruesome and violent picture through sound, transmitted by the gutteral vocals of Chris Barnes. The lyrics read like a horror story. Take this excerpt from Edible Autopsy for example:

Guts and blood, bones are broken. As they eat your pancreas. Human liver, for their dinner. Or maybe soup with eyes. Cause of death, still unknown. Gnawing meat, from your bones. Bone saw binding in your skull. Brains are oozing a human stump. Needles injected, through your eyes. Puiling off flesh, skinned alive.

Too young to rent R-rated horror films on my own, I relied on bands like Cannibal Corpse and my daily dose of Tales From The Crypt comics for my horror fix. After that day I spent a good bit of my life searching for the heaviest, most brutal music I could get my hands on. I later discovered death metal bands like Carcass and Death (Heartwork and Scream Bloody Gore still hold a special place in my heart) and thrash/grindcore bands like Napalm Death. While Cannibal Corpse drew its influences from death metal bands of the 80's, no band could top their disturbing and gory cover art. They took extreme music to the extreme, and continued to push the envelope with every release. Butchered at Birth showed two zombies chopping up babies on a butcher's block, with the carcasses of children hanging behind them on meat hooks. Tomb of the Mutilated showed a male zombie performing oral sex on a gutted woman. These images will be forever scarred in my memory.

The band changed singers in 1995 after releasing a few albums, bringing George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher on board to replace Barnes. Even after changing their front man, the band's popularity was unaffected and they gained a loyal cult following over the years, releasing 10 studio albums and changing the face of American death metal forever. They continue to tour and have remained true to their horror roots. Check out the band's website at:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Movie Review #25: Sleepaway Camp

Directed by Robert Hiltzik

When slasher films were in their prime in the 80's, Hiltzik brought us Sleepaway Camp, a movie that many horror fans still claim has one of the most shocking endings. Our main character, Angela Baker, supposedly loses her father and brother in a boating accident and is forced to live with her deranged Aunt. After attending Camp Arawack one summer with her cousin Ricky, people start to die in the most bizarre ways (my personal favorite is when the pedophile cook falls into a vat of boiling hot water after trying to molest Angela).

I just can't seem to get enough of horror movies that take place at camp. Friday the 13th is definitely one of the most fun. All these camp horror films seem to share alot of the same elements that never get old for me - teenagers doing drugs, skinny dipping, playing pranks on each other, walking in the woods at night, etc. And the directors seem to be in some sort of competition to create the most creative kills, which keeps us all coming back for more.

Speaking of coming back for more, Sleepaway Camp saw several sequels, none of which I liked very much but the Survival Kit (which includes all 3 films with some great packaging) is definitely a cool addition to your collection. In the first film, Angela is last seen on the beach completely nude, dick and balls out in all their glory, holding the decapitated head of her camp crush. Thats right, Angela is really a boy. Sorry to spoil the movie but if you're reading this blog chances are you've seen the film already. And if you haven't you can't really call yourself a horror fan anyway! Matter of fact, as a friend of mine pointed out the other night when we watched this one again, there is entirely too much cock in this film. All the male counselors are wearing really tight shorts rockin non-stop bulge for the full film. In light of all the packages, I still give 4 toes for this one.

Rumor has it a new Sleepaway Camp is slated for a Fall 2008 release, titled Return to Sleepaway Camp. Check it out on Amazon for pre-order here:

Movie Review #24: Cannibal Campout

Directed by Jon McBride

Cannibal Campout is everything a low-budget 80's horror film should be. Four friends camping in the New Jersey woods are interrupted by three insane bloodthirsty mountain men. There are about a million hints that the group shouldn't be camping in the woods, but of course they don't heed a single warning, not even when they are attacked on the road by two of the men before even arriving at the campsite. With barely any camping supplies, the group set up shop in the woods and soon become lunch for the local cannibals. A ridiculously simple concept, chock full of some of the worst acting you've ever seen, with some great gore effects thrown in for good measure, and you have yourself a recipe for a classic. All the gore is drawn out and shot in one long take, so we get to watch the men feast on the campers and crack terrible jokes the whole time. There's nothing scary about the killers - one of them wears a motorcycle helmet. Ohhhhhh scaaarrryyy . . .

The film was shot on weekends when the actors' schedules would permit, with zero budget. This is what makes the movie so great - it proves that anyone with enough will-power can make a movie, especially horror. From Camp Motion Pictures, the same crazy production company that brought us such classics as Video Violence and Zombie Bloodbath, we are treated to cult 80's horror at its best. Highly recommended and I give this film 3 toes (the acting is so bad I had to take off 2 toes). Sorry such a short review but there isn't much to say here - kids go camping, kids get eaten.

Check out Camp Motion Pictures:

Monday, September 1, 2008

Movie Review #23: Schizo

SCHIZO (1970)
Directed by Pete Walker

A famous ice skater named Samantha (played by Lynne Frederick) announces her upcoming wedding in the local paper, sparking the interest of one William Haskins (her late-mother's ex-lover), who travels to London to stalk her. After shacking up in a local Welfare Hostel he begins leaving frightening clues to reveal his presence and stir violent memories of her past (namely flashbacks of a naked woman being brutally stabbed). At her wedding ceremony a bloody machete turns up when its time to cut the cake, but no one believes Samantha's suspicions of the madman until bodies start turning up - her pyschiatrist, her housekeeper's daughter to name a few. Samantha is accused of being neurotic and delusional by everyone including her husband, but even with all the unanswered mysteries it all seems to make sense in her favor.

Director Pete Walker does an excellent job of blurring the lines between reality and hallucination, leading us to believe that Haskins is the killer all along, until the final confrontation with Sam, a bloody climax that blends the past with the present to reveal her as the real murderer (the fitting tag line for the film pokes fun at schizophrenia: "when the left hand doesn't know who the right hand is killing"). Her spilt personality causes her to conveniently forget the murders, creating an un-likely villain who we can't help but sympathize with, even after we discover that as a child she stabbed her own mother to death and Haskins did time for the crime.

Schizo is a classic psychological thriller, and falls right in line with one of my favorite British horror films of all time - Horror Hospital (1973). I give it 4 toes.

Schizo at IMDB: