8/30/2017

In Memory of Tobe Hooper, the Master of the Chainsaw

On Sunday, August 27, I woke up to the heartbreaking news of the passing if yet another master of horror, the great Tobe Hooper. He was 74.

The news hit me hard. He had, after all, made several movies that I love. Two in particular, also his two best known films, had a huge impact on me and my life: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Poltergeist  (1982).
Chain Saw, in particular, was a huge influence on my desire to get into film. I remember renting it one day and being terrified as I watched it. It is without a shadow of a doubt, the single scariest movie ever made. TCM's power lies in the horrors you do not see. Despite, there being little onscreen gore, it feels like you are seeing more than you actually do. It is intense and deeply nightmarish, an assault of both the visual and aural kind. Hooper kept a realistic feeling throughout, topped off by its gritty and dirty look.
The movie was a huge, and at times controversial, hit. It's influence can be felt to this very day, and is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest and truly scary horror movies ever made. Aside, from the obvious influence it gave birth to the iconic character of Leatherface, a simple minded, cannibalistic maniac who wore a mask made of human flesh, a clear influence of real lifer serial killer Ed Gein. The character, along with different incarnations of his family, would appear in sequels, remakes, and prequels of varying quality. But, even the best in the series never came close to matching this classic's power.
Before I start talking about Poltergeist, we are not getting into the did he or Spielberg direct the movie. It is not fair or respectful to Hooper. This is not time to get into that bullshit. Anyway, Poltergeist is, to put it bluntly, is the greatest haunted house movie ever made. Most of the times showing the ghosts in movies hurts it, but somehow despite the abundant use of special effects this classic works. It has endured and been ripped off for years because not only is it an amazing and jaw dropping experience to view but because there is a lot of heart to it. The later is something none of the ripoffs of it could ever get right.
You care and love the Freeling family. Never do they become annoying or do you wish them dead. Not even the kids come off as pains in the ass. Jo Beth Williams is one of the most ass kicking moms in horror history, and she also happens to be one of the hottest. Despite, the PG rating the movie pushes the rating with it's imagery, including a graphic face peeling scene. While, the climax filled with rotting corpses is exhilarating, fun, and scary. Actually that also sums up the whole movie. In short, it is a perfect classic in every sense of the word.
The other film of his that I absolutely adore is the bat-shit crazy Lifeforce. A box office bomb at the time, the movie has gained more and more favorable reviews and fan love. These days it is considered, and rightfully so, a cult classic and one of his best works. When, I first saw it, as a teen, I thought it was silly and just OK. Though, I was fascinated and in love with the film's beautiful and mostly nude lead Mathilda May.
Years later, as its cult status grew, I felt I needed to revisit it. When, I finally got the superior director's cut on Scream Factory's superlative Blu-ray,  and did just that. I adored the movie this time around! The characters, the score, the gore, the FX, the cast (including Patrick freaking Stewart!), the climax, everything works! It is a wild, original, fun, and sexy sci-fi horror movie. And, of course, there is May, one of the most beautiful women to ever grace genre and here giving us some of the finest nudity ever!
 
These three, in my humble opinion, are his finest work. But, they are not the only ones worth seeing. I also like his following movies:

Salem's Lot (1979)- I actually saw this quality Stephen King adaptation when it first aired on TV. The image of the floating vampire kid was seared in my memory, as it is terrifying. One of the best, if not the best, made for TV horror movies, ever.


The Funhouse (1981)- An enjoyable, likable, and, at times, scary monster meets slasher movie. Rick Baker's makeup FX work is phenomenal. The climax is nerve-jarring, and the film plays wonderfully in repeated viewings. Also, bonus points for having one of the few nude final girls in Elizabeth Berridge!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)- This sequel was panned and hated at the time of its release, but over time it has garnered its own classic status. I have always enjoyed it, but I do find it flawed. It certainly is not on the level of the first movie. That being said, it ops to be funny and bloody, instead of grim and scary. The characters and acting are great, and the lines quotable. Bill Mosley's Chop-Top outshines Leatherface, at times. And, the sexy as fuck Caroline Williams as Stretch is one of the best, and yummiest, final girls ever. I had a big crush on her and totally got, and loved, that so did Leatherface! Also, I love the ending!
Toolbox Murders (2004)- A sort of remake of the infamous late 70's slasher, this was a return to form for Hooper after countless of misfires. It drops the misogyny and sleaze of that flick and goes for a more supernatural and fun approach. In some ways it is a better film that the original, but then they are so different, that I don't think comparisons matter or make sense. If you never seen this one, be sure you do! It has some great acting by May's lovely Angela Bettis, and you can catch the gorgeous Sherri Moon Zombie in a rare non-Rob Zombie role!
I actually had the pleasure of meeting of meeting Tobe Hooper back in 1995 when he did a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. He was promoting The Mangler. Said, King adaptation was pretty bad, but meeting him was awesome! I remember him as being a quiet and polite man. He didn't and wouldn't do a lot of conventions, so I consider myself lucky to have met him. He signed an 8x10 publicity still of the aforementioned movie, and I got a pic with him (all for free as cons tended to be back in the day).
 
And, so it is with heavy heart that I say that you will be missed Mr. Hooper. And, I thank you for the kick ass movies you made, and the influence they had and still have on my life. May you RIP.

8/28/2017

(Video) Interview with The Twisted Twins: Jen and Sylvia Soska at Monster-Mania, Aug. 2017

Last weekend, at the August 2017 edition of Monster-Mania, I got to catch up with the always awesome, multi-talented, and beautiful Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska. It had been a few years since I last see either of them. As such, I was ecstatic as soon as I found out that they would be at this convention. This would be their East-Coast horror convention debut (previously they had only done New York Comic Con). On the day of the con, I had the pleasure to conduct a brand new, little interview with them. They talked with us about the AVN Awards, their involvement in helping cast Axel Braun's upcoming Deadpool XXX, their own upcoming remake of David Cronenberg's Rabid, Hellevator, and more.
You can see it in the video below:
 
 

And, for more of my Monster-Mania Aug. 2017 coverage, be sure to go here: http://themastergio.blogspot.com/2017/08/monster-mania-aug-2017.html

Camera work by Freddie Loguidice
Video editing by Negative Pop
Photography by myself

8/27/2017

The Devil's Candy (Review)

Title: The Devil's Candy
Writer/ Director: Sean Byrne
Cast: Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Kiara Glasco, Tony Amendola, Craig Nigh
Year: 2015 (Released 2017)

Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry) is a struggling artist, with an affinity for heavy metal music, which his young daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) also shares. The two of them, along with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby), move to a countryside house. They reluctantly choose it after the realtor tells them both that two deaths occurred in it. After the family settles in, Jesse begins to hear voices which inspire him to paint images that are nightmarish and hellish in nature. The worst part is that he shares these voices with Ray Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince).
Ray is a creepy overweight man who deals with the voices by playing loud music on his guitar and, also, by killing kids. One night he pays the family a visit and tells them that his parents died in the house. It doesn't take long for this creeper to take an interest in Zooey. In fact, the next day he gives her his flying V-guitar. Understandably, Jesse isn't very happy about any of this, and becomes vehemently angry. Although, Zooey does eventually manage to convince her dad to keep the admit ably awesome guitar. Jesse continues to get more consumed by the voices and paints continuously more horrific images. But, in the meantime, Ray is determined to kidnap and kill Zooey.
After Sean Byrne's feature film debut, the superlative The Loved Ones, how does his follow up film, The Devil's Candy fare? The answer is simple: it is one of this year's finest films, horror or otherwise. Creepy and wonderfully acted this movie is not just a great genre flick, but a loving letter to heavy metal music.
Bryne  achieves the honor of being the scariest film of the year, by keeping much of what happens grounded in reality. While, there are supernatural elements, most of it is founded on very real fears that any parent would have. This is driven home by the character of Ray, as he is excellently portrayed by Pruitt Taylor Vince. He is so creepy that anytime he is onscreen there is an uneasy and unnerving feeling that immediately creeps under your skin. You truly fear for the safety of Zooey anytime she is in his presence. You see, unlike boogeymen like Freddy or Jason, he, for the most part, feels very much real.
Zooey is wonderfully bought to life by Kiara Glasco. She is a realistic and likable girl, that we immediately connect and care for. And, her relationship with her dad Jesse is at the heart of the movie. Ethan Embry is equally excellent in that role. Their love for heavy metal music, brings them closer and makes us metalheads connect with them. And, even if you are not a fan of the music, you will undoubtedly want to cheer for them.The cast is rounded out by the beautiful Shiri Appleby as the mom. I have long been a big fan of Ms. Appleby and as such always wanted to see her in a quality horror flick. I am glad to see that finally happen. Her acting is filled with pathos and heart adding to the loving and likable family quality at the core of the movie.
Bryne's love for heavy metal is a driving force in the film. The music plays a big part in the story and in the characters, as they talk about and show their love for the music (watch out for Metallica and Slayer T-shirts, as well as a Metallica bobble-head!). The soundtrack also rocks hard with blistering music from the aforementioned Metallica and Slayer, as well as Pantera and others.

The onscreen violence is realistic and graphic. Bloody squibs and bludgeoning are among some of the unnerving acts of violence that hit you the viewer. Sure the overall body count is kind of low, but when the movie hits, it fucking smashes. Byrne builds to a tense and violent climax, which will have you clenching your seat as your nails dig into it's handles. It all leads to an ending with a coda full of pathos.
The Devil's Candy is a another masterpiece from Byrne. Two movies into his career and he is already leaps and bounds ahead many of his contemporaries. This gets thrown around a lot, even by me, but he is truly part of the future of the genre. He has delivered what is without question the most frightening film of the year. Filled with excellent performances and strong character relationships, it stands head and shoulders above so much of the interchangeable and forgettable genre flicks that lumped on us. Its villain is one of the most unnerving and creepy bad guys seen in a horror film in years. The motion picture is topped off by a profound love of heavy metal music, including it's use in the killer soundtrack. In all, The Devil's Candy is a must see movie, and with it currently streaming on Netflix, there is little excuse for you not to.

 
4 out of 4

8/22/2017

Galactic Empire- 8/6/17- Webster Hall: The Final Shows

One August 18, 2017, I attended two of the last two metal shows from the final shows at Webster Hall, before it would go on to close, just a few days later, for restoration. I already talked about the other show, that I attended that day, Eyes Set To Kill. Now, it's time to take a trip to a long time ago (more like a few weeks ago) in a galaxy far, far away (well not far at all, you're from NYC), when I saw the mighty and fearful power of the Galactic Empire!
Galactic Empire, as the name would suggest, are a Star Wars tribute heavy metal band. They adopt songs from John Williams classic score into technically savvy metal music. The band members all wear Star Wars' members of the Galactic Empire (duh) and bad guy cosplay. They are: Boba Fett on drums, while Darth Vader, an Imperial Guard, Stromtrooper, and a Death Trooper all shred on guitars (they have three guitarists, alla Iron Maiden) and bass.
The concert is a shit load of fun, as they adopt the aformentioned music into metal in a very energetic and ass kicking manner. The fast and highly technical style is even more impressive (or should I say ''Impressive. Most impressive!) when you take into account the outfits that they have on.
Adding to the fun, is Lord Vader who talks before the songs introducing them. He'll say hilarious stuff, that only fellow Star Wars geeks will fully get, like, ''This song is about my love for Padme and hatred of sand.'' or ''This song is about that time that teddy bears beat the Empire.'' He also force chocked someone on stage, among other cool stuff that is inspired by the franchise happened onstage.
In all, this was the perfect, for us geeky headbangers to bid farewell to Webster Hall. Galactic Empire kick a ton of ass (and if you're Rebel scum, then you really best beware!). Fellow fans of metal and Star Wars, I implore you to check them out, or I maybe be forced to tell the Emperor on you! And, you don't wanna piss that dude off believe me!
In all seriousness, thank you Webster Hall for all the memories, this version of you will be missed.

8/21/2017

Monster-Mania Aug. 2017

On August 19, 2017, my good friend, and one of the Master's Minions, Freddie and I, headed over to Cherry Hill for another edition of Monster-Mania!! This was an awesome experience, from start to finish, and, overall, ranks among my favorite con experiences, which is a lot!

The first celeb that I went up to was the beautiful Alison Lohman. I know her best from one of my favorite horror movies of the last couple of years, Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell. She played the lead in it and was great! You may also know her from White Oleander were she looked especially breathtaking as a goth chick, among other roles that she has done. She was so sweet and talkative in person, as she told us about how great it was working with Raimi, and the usage of, mostly, practical FX. She is also so naturally beautiful! Lohman signed my Blu-ray copy of Drag Me to Hell. I was so happy to meet her as she was one of the two that I most wanted to meet for the first time.
The other person I most wanted to meet the most was the still gorgeous Daphne Zuniga. Many will best know this talented stunner from Melrose Place or from the Mel Brooks comedy Spaceballs. But, my favorite role of hers in the oh so fun sequel The Fly II. I actually asked her about it, and she told me that she could talk more about it more at her panel later in the day. But, she did tell me that she was already friends with Eric Stolz before shooting the flick. She is very sweet and seemed to be having a lot of fun at the con, as she was all smiles. I got to get a pic with her.
And, so a little later we did attend her panel, where she talked about being cast in Melrose Place, and how great it was to work with Mel Brooks, how she improved the scene where the laser blast messes up her hair, and more. She also mentioned that John Candy was so nice in person. I asked her about The Fly II, of course, and she spoke of how she got the role, thanks to Brooks, as it was produced by him. She also told us about emoting as Eric Stolz turned into a fly monster, and of how good an actor Stolz is, even, under all that makeup. She mentioned how he liked it with makeup FX, having done Mask, a little before this one. This most also be the first time were she not only talked about those movies, but also the cult flicks The Dorm that Dripped Blood and The Initiation, since they came out, if not ever! But, she looked liked she had a great time answering all the questions and reminiscing about her career.
Later, I went up to Lloyd Kaufman, at the Troma booth. Uncle Lloyd is always such a blast in person! I got Troma's War, which I had finally upgraded to Blu-ray, which he signed. He also signed my copy of Return to Nuke 'Em High Vol. 1, which was already signed by much of the cast. I got pic with him, and, of course, Toxie!
I finally met PJ Soles! Best known for roles in classics like Halloween, Carrie, Rock N' Roll High School, and The Devil's Rejects, she is truly one of the sweetest celebs ever! She liked my Fright-Rags Jaws shirt, which is freaking, no make that ''totally'', awesome! Next, time that she is at a con, I gotta bring my Halloween Blu-ray with me, so that she can sign it.
There was also  more cosplay than I usually see at this con. Here are two of my favorites:
How fucking awesome is this The Shining family cosplay?! This has to be one of the greatest group cosplays ever! LOVE this!!
This Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom couple cosplay is EVERYTHING!

After a couple of years, it was great to see the Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska, again! I got to interview them, and that will be posted when it is edited and ready. Until, then here is a pic of us, from this con.
Finally, I thought I would share with you guys the swag that I got:
Fright-Rags- Aliens socks
Blu-rays- Creepshow 2, Beyond the Darkness, Troma's War, and Burial Ground
Funko Pops- Stranger Things Eleven with Eggos and Masters of the Universe Trap-Jaw.