DNA Podcast 039 – Bad Movies We Love

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In this episode, Don and Rob are joined by their friend Chad to talk about the movies that they know are awful, but can’t help but have soft spots in their hearts for. This journey takes the trio from classic 50’s monster movies, to the heights of 80s cheese and the depths of Asia’s cinematic vaults. Thrill to Chad’s love of Ed Wood! Stare in shock at Don’s encyclopedic knowledge of 80’s horror! Wonder at Rob’s passion for backwoods monsters! All this, and Don’s dramatic twist surprise that Rob and Chad didn’t see coming, are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

DNA Episode 027 – Horror Hosts with Michael Monahan

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In this episode, Rob and Don sit down with Michael Monahan, author and co-producer of the documentary American Scary, to talk about Horror Hosts. We delve into the origins of the Horror Host phenomena from its early days with Vampira to the megahit Ghoulardi and the modern incarnations which still stalk the airwaves. All this, and why Bob Wilkins is a name every scifi fan should know, is coming to you in this, the 27th episode of the Department Affairs!

Don’t know what Horror Hosts are? Watch the short video below for a quick primer of a few of the more famous ones in action.

 

Five Nights at Freddy’s

While I’m not a gamer, I do enjoy watching play-throughs by other people from time to time because a good game really is a work of art. Case in point is Five Nights at Freddy’s, which is a jump-scare independent horror game that manages to be really good at what it does. The short version is that you’re a night-watchman at an animatronic-filled restaurant where the robotic entertainers get a little…mobile…at night, and if they reach you then well…Why not watch this playthrough by Youtube gamer Markiplier and find out?

Not safe for work language, and if you can’t handle jump-scares you might want to pass as well.

Rob

 

Hammering Home the Horror

I’ve always had a fondness for oldschool horror, especially the Hammer Horror films from England of the 60’s and 70’s. They used to show them on Saturday afternoons when I was a kid, and I found them annoying because they were displacing my favorite movies involving giant monsters. However, as I’ve grown up, I’ve also grown to appreciate the contributions Hammer made to horror and film in general. If for no other reason than bringing Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee into the popular culture!

Today my friend Richard pointed me in the direction of not one, but two documentaries on YouTube about the history of Hammer. The first is written and hosted by Sherlock writer/actor (and Hammer Horror fanboy) Mark Gatiss, and is from a BBC documentary series on horror he hosted.

The second is an older documentary on Hammer Horror called Hammer- The Studio that Dripped Blood!, which was done by the BBC in the late 80’s. The quality isn’t the best since it’s transferred off videotape, and it’s been chopped into parts, but if you’re interested in the subject it makes a nice companion piece to Gatiss’ show.

Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

So, I just watched Tucker and Dale vs. Evil– a deconstructionist horror/comedy in the same vein as The Cabin in the Woods. This is not to say that it’s as good as Cabin, which I’d argue is actually a masterpiece, but it tries to cover some similar territory. The basic premise is that two scruffy but likeable hillbillies are being terrorized by a typical bunch of college kids who think the hillbillies are psycho killers due to a series of misunderstandings. It’s meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reversal of the typical college kids are hunted by crazy rednecks movie, and is played more for laughs than horror.

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It’s a cute movie, with a nice premise, but if I had to use a word to describe it, I’d use the word “timid”.  I know that’s an odd word to describe a horror movie, so let me explain by giving an example of an early scene in the film. (minor spoiler, but it won’t ruin much)

There’s a scene early on where Dale and Earl are driving along in their truck and drinking beer. They spot a cop behind them with its lights on, and Earl (who is driving) fumbles his beer, trying to figure out where to stash it and spills it all over himself. Dale, being the nice guy he is, leans over from the passenger seat to try and clean it up, but his shirt collar gets stuck on Earl’s belt, and so his head is stuck bobbing in Earl’s lap as Earl pulls over for the cop.

What we have here is the classic awkward humor shot of the cop walking up to find one redneck who looks like he’s getting oral sex from his buddy. A nice uncomfortable situation for everyone involved, and some nice squirming humor for the audience, right?

Nope.

As they pull over, Dale unbuttons/rips open his shirt and sits up, bare-chested. The cop never sees the implied oral sex, and while there are suggested gay humor overtones to their conversation, it doesn’t actually amount to anything. No squirming humor, just a mildly amusing situation.

And the whole movie is like this.

They spend the whole film almost doing something neat with a character or situation, but almost always pull away at the last moment to give us something cute instead of actually pushing it to make us laugh or squirm. This is especially weird since there’s a scene of a classic horror movie massacre (historical flashback) that’s quite gory and almost over the top, but it’s one of the only things in the movie that is. The two rednecks aren’t quite rednecks, the college kids aren’t quite college self-absorbed or jerks, and the whole thing feels like a collection of neat ideas that they just didn’t take to the next level.

I guess that’s why I’m writing this. The whole film to me felt like a missed opportunity. If they’d just been more over-the-top with it and pushed things a bit more, it could have been a great film, but as it is, it’s just a cute one.

I rated it 3/5 on Netflix, and I’d say that’s just the right rating for it. If you’re in the mood, it’s a fun watch, but don’t expect it to quite live up to its premise.

A Short Film Festival

I’ve been going through (very) short films this week for school, and I thought I’d share a few of the best ones I’ve found. My requirement was that they each be around 5 minutes or less. Enjoy! 🙂

The Black Hole- a nearly perfect short film.

Kung Fooled- Perception is Everything!

2+2=5 – Power is Knowledge

Mama – The short that inspired the horror movie of the same name.

Hosting Horror

To me, as a kid, Saturday afternoon was a sacred time. I spent each Saturday from 1pm until 6pm watching Superhost Marty Sullivan show old horror and sci-fi movies from Cleveland, OH. In fact, I dare say it was a more religious experience to me than my Sunday mornings at church!

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As such, I have a great fondness for Horror Hosts and the Creature Feature programs they hosted. According to what I read, they were the result of packages of old B-Grade Horror Movies being sold to small and independent stations back in the day to pretty much act as filler content during lulls in programming. The problem was that these movies were all of odd lengths, and generally needed to be fit evenly with commercials into 2-3 hour blocks. So, they created Horror Hosts like Vampira (the first horror host was actually a Host-ess!) to fill in the gaps or occasionally narrate around edits for time when things needed to be shortened.

This evolution was chronicled in the documentary American Scary, which you can watch in full here:


American Scary by filmow

Each Horror Host had their own schtick and style, and there were a lot of them! Superhost was the one I actually watched on a regular basis because of his fondness for Japanese Giant Monster Movies, but I did occasionally watch Sir Graves Ghastly from Detroit if there was something he was showing I thought it was worth staying up for.


Most Hosts did extra comedy skits, and many of them became very famous local celebrities, often appearing at special events and doing charity work.

Oddly enough, Cleveland (which is right across Lake Erie from my own city of London, ON) was a hotbed for Horror Hosts, and the producer of one of the most famous- Ghoulardi. Ghoulardi was way before my time (1963-1966) but was so influential and popular that there’s even a convention in his honor held every year which attracts many fans of the genre. There was also an Emmy award-winning documentary made about him called Turn Blue, which you can also watch on Youtube…


Sadly, Horror Hosts seem to have been a uniquely American phenomenon (here’s a list of the Top 12), with the only non-American host I’ve been able to find being one in Australia. I tried to find examples of Canadian ones, but we don’t seem to have had any true ones. (I have heard there might have been one in Montreal, though.) They’re a cultural artifact which has mostly passed into history, as there are only a tiny handful of them left, mostly on local public access TV channels in the US. I’ve also heard there are a few modern Horror Hosts doing their thing on Youtube, but haven’t found any yet.

I’m not sure why they interest me so, I guess it’s just nostalgia as I get older. They’re an artifact of my childhood that I wasn’t aware was different while I was growing up, but are gone now that I’m old enough to appreciate them. Yeah, there’s Rifttracks and MST3K, but it’s not the same. I guess you just had to be there! 🙂

Stay Sick!

A few sites with more information:

http://www.horrorhostgraveyard.com/

http://myweb.wvnet.edu/e-gor/tvhorrorhosts//

http://www.horrorhostmagazine.com/

On the Hunt for Surivival Horror

After talking about Fatal Frame with some students earlier this week, I decided this weekend to go check out some Survival Horror games- games where the focus is on the psychological/mystery side of things instead of just shooting at monsters.

Unfortunately, Fatal Frame isn’t available for PC, and I didn’t want to spend much money, so I decided to see what was out there for free. There are a number of free indie horror games, and so I thought I’d check those out. Unfortunately, it may be a case of getting what you pay for.

The first game I tried out was Slender: The 8 Pages.

This was a “short”, experimental horror game someone did based on the made-up urban legend of the Slenderman. Basically, you’re in an abandoned forest/military base looking for 8 documents while being stalked by the Slenderman monster. The horror element comes from the fact that if you look at the Slenderman too long, you’ll die, so you’re being stalked by something you can’t look at even to see where he is. It does make the game a bit unsettling.

Unfortunately, I found it pretty tedious as well. There’s nothing but trees and buildings in the game, and after an hour of wandering around without finding a single page I got frustrated and turned it off. Yes, it was creepy, but there needed to be something a little more to it to keep my interest.

The next game I tried was DreadOut, which is basically an Indonesian clone of Fatal Frame.

The actual game isn’t finished, I think, but the demo is a full demo and it’s free so I gave it a shot. For an Indie game the production values aren’t bad, and it has nice atmosphere, but my god are the controls for the game annoying and frustrating. The 360 degree camera around the character is hell to control, and the character moves in relation to the camera, not the world. After dying and then maybe chasing away a ghost on my second time, I just gave up because I couldn’t take those controls any more.

Then I found the trailer for a new upcoming horror game by the creator of Resident Evil, called The Evil Within. Damn….Now THAT is survival horror! Hell, it’s terrifying just to watch, much less play!

The quest continues!

Rob

The Sleepover

Sigh. New kid.

Greatest 60’s Monster Movie Themes

The Words Get Stuck in My Throat from War of the Gargantuas (Oh, the irony!)

Beware of THE BLOB! (This one’s been stuck in my head since I was a kid!)

Hail to the King, baby!

This is probably the best 60’s monster movie theme ever! GREEN SLIME!

BONUS!

I like this man’s style!