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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Spiders (2000)

Monster movies are my thing. Really, I love them so much. Give me a giant bug or alien rampaging and ringing up a body count and I’m in heaven. So, when I met director Gary Jones at a recent convention and he told me about his mutant spider movie I was interested. When he also mentioned that it was mutated with Alien DNA I snapped a copy right up! I’m a sucker for this kind of thing.

The government has some strange ideas when it comes to science. Like flying spiders into space and injecting them with Alien DNA. What could go wrong? Well solar flares or radiation or something… Basically the spider gets loose and starts to kill. Do they let it burn up in reentry or strand it in orbit? Heck no that is a valuable specimen! They fly it to a secret base in the desert instead. It crashes just in time for a conspiracy loving journalist and her friends to see and investigate. They end up trapped in the underground base after sneaking onto a truck and get caught up in the craziness that follows. The spider kills, eats, grows, and repeats. It gets mighty big. And just when you think it is over things kick up a notch. Good times are had by all, except maybe the people the spider eats…

God, I love cheesy monster movies and this is an excellent example! From the very beginning we are introduced to a mysterious government agent that could give a damn about anyone but his spider. Astronauts? Who cares. Soldiers ordered to capture the spider getting killed? Suck it up. It is a totally over the top example of a genre staple and fits perfectly in the story. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and wants the audience to have the same attitude. Listen carefully when the spider is stalking a couple of people in a web and you might notice a very funny musical choice.

This isn't going to end well for him!
There are times that the low budget shows, especially with some of the CGI. And a couple of the actors aren’t great. The locations are limited to a college campus, crash site, and generic underground base. The first and last are fairly generic. I mean how many times do we need to see a water treatment plant or refinery stand in as a secret base. But I was surprised at how well they pulled off the crashed space shuttle.

The practical makeup effects work is great. Then again once I saw the KNB crew in the credits I expected some quality latex fun. We actually get some on set rubber spiders for the cast to interact with. They look decent and give the movie an enjoyable old school feel. The kills are fairly tame, but we do get an awesome transformation scene towards the end where a spider “hatches” from a person causing them to explode! Toss in some melting victims and lots of pulsing blisters for fun.

I love this movie. Practical effects work, tongue in cheek story, and a director that is in on the joke. This is the kind of silly monster movie that I loved growing up and continue to go out of my way to find. I highly recommend checking out Spiders.

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Savage Jungle: Lair of the Orang Pendek by Hunter Shea

The very first book that I reviewed for the Horror Dude blog was Hunter Shea’s Loch Ness Revenge. That one introduced the characters of Natalie and her brother Austin. Together with a new friend name Henrik they did battle with the Loch Ness monster(s) that killed their parents in exchange for helping Henrik get some revenge of his own. This book is the story of them helping Henrik as the three of them head off to Sumatra to find the Orang Pendek. What is an Orang Pendek? Basically, a smaller version of Bigfoot. Though just as dangerous.

Our returning characters are joined by some heavily armed friends as they head deep into the jungle looking for the creatures that killed Henrik’s father. His father was a famous hunter and he and his mother watched as the powerful creatures tore him apart. She never recovered and he spent his life preparing to go back and kill them all. But when they arrive at the home of the Orang Pendek things go sideways quickly. The creatures are much smarter than they anticipated and lay an ambush. Some of the group die, some are captured, and others find surprising allies. And there are dinosaurs! Henrik comes face to face with the monster that robbed him of his family and gets some payback. But that is only part of the story. So many fun things are happening that I want to be careful not to spoil the fun.

The book is solidly written, much like Loch Ness Revenge. Shea does an excellent job further developing our main characters while establishing some new ones. They all have unique personalities which brings emotional impact when some of them don’t make it home. I also loved how the author upped the ante with this book. We knew that there were going to be some Bigfoot encounters, but then he adds in other prehistoric beasts to the isolated setting. He seems especially fond of the Pterodactyls and uses them to gruesome effect. This one gets rather bloody and as a horror fan I approve. Much human and creature viscera is splattered about in the ensuing mayhem.

In addition to being an excellent follow up Savage Jungle also moves the world building further along. At the end of the book the characters mention that several Bigfoot creatures and at least one lake monster have made an appearance. It seems that between Loch Ness and Sumatra that their actions have “lifted the veil” and that more cryptids are showing themselves to the world. What does that mean? Well personally I hope that means we get more books featuring Natalie and her brother doing battle with creatures unknown. I’m so hoping for a Chupacabra!

I recommend Savage Jungle: Lair of the Orang Pendek. It is an entertaining read that will keep you engaged from the first page to the last. Even if you aren’t a fan of cryptids like Bigfoot the action is enough to make it worth a look.

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

Monday, September 25, 2017

Road Trip to the Canton Palace Theater – Twilight Zone Fest

This is the first time that I’m writing up a trip to the Canton Palace Theater for the horror dude blog, but it won’t be the last. The Palace is one of my favorite places to watch movies and has a wonderful history. Opened in 1926 the Palace has a lot going for it, including still having its original pipe organ. Nothing like seeing a classic silent movie accompanied with live music! If you live in or near Canton Ohio you should really check them out. Their website is http://www.cantonpalacetheatre.org/

I’ve attended many great events, but this is the first Twilight Zone Fest that I’ve attended (might be the first time they have done one). They showed four episodes of the classic series with a break after the first two for trips to the concession stand and the prize raffles. I didn’t win any prizes, but I did get some candy and soda at the concession stand. Not that anyone cares about that. Let’s talk about what they showed.

The first of the night was The Fear. Here we have a city girl who has escaped to an isolated mountain cabin after having a nervous breakdown. The episode starts off with a police officer stopping by to check up on the woman, Charlotte, after she was heard mentioning some strange lights she saw by her cabin. She is a bit of a snob to the officer but as he is getting ready to leave there is a large flash of light. Things start to happen and soon they are faced with the threat of a giant alien who seems to be toying with them. But this is the Twilight Zone so of course everything isn’t what it seems to be.

This is a decent episode that I don’t remember ever seeing before, but I’ve seen similarly themed episodes. No spoilers but if you are a fan I’m sure like me you can think of at least one famous example. What does stand out is the cast. Here we have Peter Mark Richman of Friday the 13th part VIII infamy as the police officer, Franklin. But the real treat was seeing Roger Corman favorite Hazel Court on screen as Charlotte. She is awesome in most everything that I’ve seen her in and this is no different.  Not a bad way to start the evening.

The next episode up was Nick of Time. This is my second favorite Twilight Zone episode to feature William Shatner! Here he plays a newlywed who is on his honeymoon. He and his wife have car problems and end up in a diner waiting for the repair to be finished. While there they find this little fortune telling machine with a devil’s head mounted on a spring. One of those novelty things that you just don’t see anymore. Put a penny in and it dispenses a card that will answer a yes or no question. This being the Twilight Zone of course the thing seems to be accurate! Soon Don, Shatner’s character, and his wife are caught up in letting the machine dictate their actions. Well Don is at least. His wife tries to talk some sense into him.

I’ve seen this one before and I’ve always thought it was a good. Not classic like having a gremlin tearing up your plane, but still good. This episode was also penned by the legendary Richard Matheson so it isn’t any surprise that the dialogue is sharp and the story has a great ending that is both happy and sad. We only get a bit of the “Shatner” acting that he later became famous for. Honestly people forget that he was a solid actor that did a lot of work pre-Star Trek. The lights came up after this one and it was time for intermission.

After fortifying myself with some Good and Plenty as well as a Diet Coke I found my seat and was ready to watch Mr. Dingle, the Strong. Here Burgess Meredith plays a failed vacuum salesman who is given super strength by some aliens as a test. He goes from a zero to a hero overnight. Being a simple man he uses his strength to show off and do tricks, which is what the aliens expected from him. They eventually take his strength away, but don’t worry he is attractive to all sorts of visitors due to being totally unremarkable and below average. The episode ends with Dingle being tested again.

This was the weakest of the bunch. Similar to Shatner in Nick of Time this isn’t the Twilight Zone episode that Meredith is famous for. It is weak in comparison to that classic. Here Meredith barely seems to be putting any effort into his performance and phones in his normal mild mannered weak character. The highlight for me was the little cheer that went up in the audience when Don Rickles popped on screen as one of the bar patrons that tortured poor Dingle before he got his strength. I dig the respect given to a legend! I also had a super nerdy moment when I recognized Douglas Spencer as one of the aliens as being everyone’s favorite newspaperman in the original Thing.

One more to go before it was time to pack it up and head home. They saved a classic for last with Eye of the Beholder batting clean-up. Even the most casual fan of the Twilight Zone probably recognizes the “shocking” ending to this one. The episode follows a woman with her face wrapped in bandages. She is apparently horrible to look at and is in the hospital for one last attempt to treat her disfigurement. If it fails she will have to live in a settlement with the other disabled people. The fact that all of the other characters, doctors, nurses, orderlies, etc. are only seen in shadows should let you in on something. The bandages come off and she is beautiful, but also ugly to everyone else who look like pig people! Get it Eye of the Beholder?

Even having seen this one many times I still enjoy it. It has a clever twist ending and the makeup of the “normal” looking human beings is iconic. There is also the Serling touch, he wrote this one, of making the society in which this happens have a totalitarian feel to it. The loss of freedom and individuality were reoccurring themes in many of the episodes he wrote. I’ve also always found it ironic that they used one actress for the performance under the bandages but then used Donna Douglas, who is admittedly stunning, after they come off. Given the point of the episode isn’t that a little hypocritical? Or maybe that was the point.

This was a great night out at the Palace Theater. I’ve attended many events there and have a couple more planned for October. I feel very lucky to have such a great historic theater that is still in the business of showing movies as well as hosting special events like this. I can’t wait for the next one!

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer