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  • “CURVED SPACE: THE ADVENTURES OF STELLA STARR” (Book Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-07 19:06:18 by Chris Alexander

    There’s little point in reiterating the massive impact STAR WARS had on pop culture post-1977—but rest assured, it changed everything. And on a very minor level, it kicked open the floodgates for everyone and their brothers to spit out low-budget space operas of every persuasion. Among these lower-rent clones was the Roger Corman-distributed Italian knockoff STARCRASH, a weird, impoverished but very cool bit of camp that had the cult cast of the decade: former child preacher Marjoe Gortner, future KNIGHT RIDER David Hasselhoff, MANIAC-to-be Joe Spinell and a very tasty Caroline Munro (pictured) as laser-gun-wielding galactic goddess and space smuggler Stella Star.

    In fact, it’s the scantily clad Munro as Starr that has kept the picture, directed by CONTAMINATION’s Luigi Cozzi, a permanent fanboy favorite—and writer Richard Dean (who previously edited the PHANTASM anthology FURTHER EXCURSIONS INTO OBLIVION) just happens to be one of those admirers. His new book CURVED SPACE: THE ADVENTURES OF STELLA STARR (from Dark League Press) is a collection of short stories that serve as both fan-fiction mash letters and nifty companions to STARCRASH, taking us on the speculative further adventures of Starr as she romps across the galaxy, both shaking and kicking ass.

    Other authors like Glen Alan Hamilton (“Flesh and Fake Parts”), Thomas Berdinski (the awesome Starr-vs.-zombies tale “You Can’t Keep a Good Robot Down”) and Robin Grenville-Evans (“The Arena of Revenge”) all take their turns spinning fun, zippy little yarns about their favorite femme fatale, but ultimately this tome is Dean’s beast from pillar to post. In his warm prologue, Dean details his first teenage brush with STARCRASH and its lasting effect on his life, and the essay is nothing less than passionate. He even managed to corral both Cozzi and Munro to contribute their own words to get the party started and make the joyously unofficial tales somewhat authorized.

    And while the book’s small-press status means that editorial errors abound, they really only add to the loose, rock ’n’ roll ‘zine feel that suffuses the entire book. STARCRASH (which makes its long-awaited DVD/Blu-ray debut next Tuesday, September 14 from Shout! Factory) was a charming thing made up of spare parts and love, and so is CURVED SPACE. To inquire about obtaining a copy, e-mail darkleaguepress@gmail.com, and hit up the book’s Facebook page for more info.

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  • WildClaw Theatre looking for horror radio play scripts!

    Originally posted on 2010-09-07 18:15:09 by Samuel Zimmerman

    Chicago’s WildClaw Theatre Company has put out a call for scripts for their third annual DEATHSCRIBE Radio Horror Play Festival. Hit the jump for details and info on how to get involved!

    The good folks at WildClaw sent along this message for all you creatively inclined Fango fans out there:

    “Are you a horror fan? Got a creepy idea for a story? Well, listen to this:

    WildClaw Theatre, Chicago’s only year-round horror theatre company, is now accepting radio scripts for its 3rd Annual DEATHSCRIBE Radio Horror Play Festival. Deadline for submissions is October 15, 2010.

    What freaks you out? Bugs? Ghosts? Serial killers? The past? The future? Death itself? How about life itself? WildClaw wants to hear it…and then we want to share it with the world.

    We are looking for 10-minute scripts from horror fans the world-over that are genuinely scary, imaginative, chilling, intelligent, suspenseful, horrific, or downright grotesque. No restrictions as to content or tone, but keep in mind that WildClaw is a Horror Theatre. We take our horror seriously, and so should you.

    Shape your fear into a 10-minute radio play and send it to WildClaw at deathscribe2010@gmail.com. If it freaks us out as well, you’ll see (and hear) it performed live at this year’s DEATHSCRIBE showcase event, a one-night-only extravaganza of live performances of original short radio plays, written by horror enthusiasts from around the globe! With live musical accompaniment, live foley artists, special guest directors, Chicago’s finest actors, and a celebrity panel to judge the best of the fest! (Audio clips from previous DEATHSCRIBE festivals are available on iTunes or right here.)

    So, if you have a dandy little campfire tale to share—and you know you do—visit WildClaw Theatre for submission rules and regulations. Likewise, if you know someone who should be tossing his or her bloody hat in the ring, please forward this info along. Submission deadline is October 15, 2010 at midnight, so everyone get scribbling!”

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  • Fango Flashback: “THE CREEPS”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-07 14:19:20 by Allan Dart

    HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN? HOUSE OF DRACULA? MAD MONSTER PARTY? THE MONSTER SQAUD? Yeah, there are a number of monster mash-up movies out there to choose from. But what other horror picture features Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man and The Mummy…in miniature form? “Undersized. Undead. And angry.” That’s the tagline for THE CREEPS, Full Moon’s direct-to-video 1997 release that brought together four of horror’s most famous monsters, albeit in scaled-down sizes. The once-colossal Frankenstein’s Monster reborn as a three-foot fiend? Hey, it’s the jumbo shrimp of horror cinema! But what else would you expect from Full Moon and the Band family…

    Let’s be honest. The only reason someone rents a movie like THE CREEPS is because of the gimmick of casting “little people” (I’m going to be P.C. here, as most people of small stature oppose the use of the terms ”dwarf” and “midget”) in iconic horror roles. That being said, one of things to THE CREEPS’ credit is that while the filmmakers do indulge in the “minuscule monster” angle, the movie doesn’t sink to a series of tasteless short jokes or repetitive and sophomoric humorless indignities aimed at the diminutive actors. Trust me, I realize that THE CREEPS doesn’t set the watermark for the advancement of little people in motion pictures, but it’s a far cry from the abominable mini-vampire flick ANKLE BITERS.

    So, how do Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man and The Mummy end up in our world as pint-sized terrors?  Well, THE CREEPS doesn’t set the watermark for coherent and logical storytelling, either. Come on, Charles Band directed this film! You know, the guy behind GHOULIES, the PUPPEMASTER films, DOLLMAN, HEAD OF THE FAMILY, BLOOD DOLLS and THE GINGERDEAD MAN. Tiny terrors are this guy’s bread and butter, and you gotta believe that this thought entered Mr. Band’s head: “Hey, what if we brought back Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man and The Mummy, but with a twist… They’re little people!” And you gotta believe that when someone asked him why they were little, Mr. Band replied, “I don’t know. We’ll come up with something!”

    An “archetype inducer.” That’s the preposterous solution. What’s an “archetype inducer,” you ask? It’s the invention of the mad (although not supremely bright) scientist Dr. Winston Berber (Bill Moynihan), who has built this machine that uses the original manuscripts for books based on Dracula (Bram Stoker’s story), Frankenstein’s Monster (Mary Shelley’s novel), The Wolf Man (Guy Endore’s WEREWOLF OF PARIS) and The Mummy (I’m guessing Jane C. Loudon’s THE MUMMY, OR A TALE OF THE TWENTY-SECOND CENTURY) along with the sacrifice of a virgin to “transform mythic, cultural and literary archetypes into living entities” that will allow Dr. Berber to have the “powers of darkness” serve his will and help him rule the world! Uh-huh. Like I said, not the most well-thought-out plot device in cinematic history.

    Berber’s plan, however, is derailed when the kidnapped virgin—Anna (Rhonda Griffin), who works in the Rare Books division of a library—isn’t REALLY a virgin—and is rescued by the part-time video store owner/part-time private eye David (Justin Lauer), whom Anna hired to find the original manuscript of Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN that Berber absconded with. The pair escape with the four manuscripts, and now the shrunken quartet must track them (and Anna) down in order to perform the procedure again and hopefully return them to their full-sized form.

    OK, enough of the plot. THE CREEPS takes a while to get going and only clocks in at 80 minutes (like many Full Moon titles, the running time is padded a bit), and yes, the acting, script and production values leave something to be desired, and yes, the score and the FX are kinda cheesy, and yes, this is another case of an amusing-sounding concept not executed to its full potential, but…I still dig THE CREEPS. It’s not an offensive film, or even a licentious one. Yeah, there’s an unnecessary scene where Anna cuts her foot and takes off her shirt to wrap the wound, but Griffin doesn’t even go topless. The most disturbing (and perversely engaging) scene involves the film’s most disturbing and unnerving character: The Wolf Man. Benicio Del Toro and Taylor Lautner can kiss my tuchus, because I’ve never seen a lycanthrope as bizarrely malefic and frighteningly perverted as this diminutive creature of the night. Part LAND OF THE LOST’s Chaka/part Gary Oldman’s Bat Creature in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, this werewolf is a friggin’ unsettling, sneering, seething sight to behold. And in that aforementioned disturbing scene, he and the Monster strip down and fondle Anna’s strapped-down boss. That’s creepy enough—and then the Wolf Man starts drooling…into the camera…several times! Trust me, when you see it, you won’t forget it. 

    THE CREEPS isn’t heavy on the sex, the blood or the violence—especially when compared to the graphic R-rated fare being released nowadays. There aren’t any scares to be had, either—these dudes move slower than the line at the DMV. I mean, Boris Karloff’s Imhotep looks look Usain Bolt when compared to this shambling lot of little monsters. And maybe it’s ’cause the two prior times I’ve seen this film it was while drinking with friends, but watching it sober and by myself, I didn’t really laugh out loud that much. But I’m glad that THE CREEPS isn’t simply (and crassly) a bunch of short stingers and little people jokes. And even though I’ve pointed out several of the film’s faults, I still smiled and enjoyed revisiting these Universal Monsters in miniature form chasing after and terrorizing their victims. What ridiculous yet loveable Z-movie nonsense! THE CREEPS is a gimmick, but like a good William Castle movie, it’s a gimmick that makes you foolishly grin. And that leads me to my final point: 

    THE CREEPS is moderately successful because it plays these mini-monsters straight. They aren’t in on the joke or going for laughs (drooling scene excepted). They simply want to be returned to their full size. Hey, I know this ain’t exactly high drama, but I give a ton of credit to the main “villain”—and the monster with the only speaking role in the film: Dracula, as played by Phil Fondacaro. I’m a big Fondacaro fan, and if you don’t recognize the name, you might recall the face and some of his credits. OK, you might not be able to pick him out of the 500 Ewoks in RETURN OF THE JEDI, but Fondacaro was the sympathetic Malcolm in TROLL, the fierce warrior Vohnkar in WILLOW, Sir Nigel in GHOULIES II, Vincent in BORDELLO OF BLOOD, Roland in the SABRINA TV series and Chihuahua in George A. Romero’s LAND OF THE DEAD. 

    A Full Moon regular, Fondacaro steals the show in THE CREEPS. He plays the bloodsucking legend as a no-nonsense, proud and determined individual, and while he may be small in stature, Fondacaro’s sober performance looms largest among all of the actors. As far as vampires go, Gary Oldman can kiss my… Wait, he’s pretty awesome in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. Well, Lance Henriksen can kiss my… Wait, he’s pretty awesome, too, in NEAR DARK. Well, Eddie Murphy in VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN can kiss my tuchus! He can’t hold a candle to Fondacaro—although I wish Fondacaro was given the chance to bite someone’s neck, transform into a bat and act with John Witherspoon. 

    THE CREEPS is a high-concept horror flick: little people as memorable monsters. It’s not hard to see, no pun intended, the movie’s shortcomings. But for what it is, it works. And that miniature Frankenstein’s Monster? I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one…

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  • First looks at Dracula in “RENFIELD THE UNDEAD”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-06 23:35:12 by

    The independent fright feature RENFIELD THE UNDEAD, a new take on the Dracula saga, is racing toward completion. And now some lobby card-style pictures have come through that give us a peek at Drac himself from the movie; see ’em, along with a new poster, after the jump!

    “We are down to the wire; the Whitby cut of the movie is due in England for the Bram Stoker Film Festival in one week,” says writer/producer Phil Nichols, who also created the special makeup with Facades FX and plays the title role (as seen in the first photo below). “The world premiere is scheduled to be the opening Friday-night event of the festival. We’ll be launching the movie’s official website and posting the trailer within the week; here at long last are images of our Count Dracula, portrayed thrillingly by veteran stage actor John W. Stevens.” The last pic demonstrates how the vampire’s image will be translated to comics form for an upcoming graphic novel adaptation, illustrated by Melissa L. Nichols. See our previous report on RENFIELD THE UNDEAD, which was directed by Bob Willems and also stars Paul Damon, Keli Wolfe, Roxy Cook, Tyler Tackett and Julin, here.

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  • “IDES OF BLOOD”: Holy Roman Vampires!

    Originally posted on 2010-09-06 19:56:16 by Jorge Solis

    Out in stores now, the first issue of Wildstorm Comics’ IDES OF BLOOD packs a wallop of political scandals, vampire action and mystery (see review here). The series’ writer Stuart C. Paul spoke with Fango about creating a universe where Julius Caesar and vampires co-exist.

    FANGORIA: What was your inspiration for IDES OF BLOOD? How did the story come about?

    STUART C. PAUL: Basically, it came out of my frustration with the vampire subgenre. I’ve never been a very big fan of those stories. I have nothing against them, but at the time I originally came up with the idea—about five years ago—I had yet to encounter one that blew me away. Not that I wasn’t impressed with things like INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE or ‘SALEM’S LOT, but the mythology in general just left me feeling kind of apathetic. It wasn’t until I saw LET THE RIGHT ONE IN that I was truly swept away by a vampire tale. So, I thought to myself, “What would I have to do to make them interesting to me?”

    For some reason, Julius Caesar popped into my head. It’s one of those things where I really can’t pinpoint any logical reason for it. I generally feel like good ideas tend to come out of nowhere, but on the other hand, you can also get kind of Jungian about it, and say that random ideas aren’t actually random at all. In retrospect, this sort of seemed to be the case, because later, once I started writing, the thematic parallels between the Caesar legend and vampire mythology became more apparent.

    FANG: Julius Caesar is the subject of many books, the television series ROME and Shakespeare plays. How did you go about creating your own grandiose version of him?

    PAUL: Grandiose is a good description. The Julius Caesar you see in IDES OF BLOOD is not subtle. He is human ambition personified, even hyperbolized. The first thing I did was research; I read a bunch of biographies on Caesar from both modern times and antiquity. I also consumed as many fictional interpretations of the man as I could get my hands on. I wanted to see what had been done before. I feel most modern interpretations really fail to capture the essence of Caesar’s power. ROME is obviously a huge exception. That show is a masterpiece, and while I took a few pointers from it, I also knew I didn’t want to try to tread over the same ground, since they’d done it so well. That freed me to be more, as you said, grandiose, and to treat Caesar with a bit more hyperbole. Since I was writing a comic, it seemed a natural choice anyway.

    In IDES OF BLOOD, he conquers Transylvania and changes the face of Rome by introducing vampires into society, and aside from the supernatural part, that’s exactly what he did. The key was just taking those traits that were already in his character and applying them to the framework provided by the introduction of vampirism. We’re talking about a man who fashioned himself after the god Jupiter. But what if Caesar discovered other gods with more power than those of Rome? How would that change his plans? From a certain point of view, ambition is just an expression of fear of death. If a man like Caesar encountered a race of beings that had conquered death, that would radically shake his perception of his place in the world. Suddenly, the stakes are higher. The historical Caesar could only hope to gain immortality through the legacy of Roman history, but if vampirism existed, establishing an empire suddenly becomes small potatoes. And when he learns about how Dracul, the first vampyre, gave birth to the Dacian people, he sees in him a kindred spirit. So you can see how shades of Bram Stoker and Shakespeare come together to create this new version of Caesar.

    FANG: In a unique twist, the vampires are the slaves in this Roman society. What is about vampire fiction that intrigued you to explore it in a new way?

    PAUL: It’s the scale of vampires that fascinates me more than the tropes of the mythology. The rules as far as silver, sunlight, stakes, fire, decapitation, etc. are always different depending on who is telling the story, so obviously those are not their defining qualities. It’s really the consumption of blood and immortality—although George A. Romero’s MARTIN is one notable exception of the immortality rule that comes to mind.

    Having the chance to explore the concept of immortality as a social phenomenon was definitely one part of the appeal, but really, I’d have to say it was less about exploring themes than it was just having fun by seeing how I could take the conventions of the sword-and-sandal genre and twist them by adding vampires. You get things like Roman crucifixion as a punishment for crime, and suddenly it gets a whole new meaning when you add vampires, because of the whole weakness-against-crosses thing. In fact, in IDES OF BLOOD, vampires aren’t scared of crosses—just being nailed up on them with dawn coming. And obviously, I had to put in a vampire gladiator match, and we have a lot of fun with what that might entail in issue #3. So it was less about me being intrigued by vampires as it was being intrigued by them in a specific context, and seeing how it would work if we simply treated them as another culture trampled under the boot of Rome.

    FANG: In the first issue, the vampire Valens becomes a sort of supernatural detective. He even shakes down snitches at a brothel to find clues. Tell me about your interests in the noir genre and how they influenced building Valens’ character.

    PAUL: I’m a big fan of noir. The City is always a huge character in noir, and ancient Rome lends itself perfectly to the kind of seedy underworld of shadows that we all love to watch. THE FUGITIVE was definitely a formidable influence, and I was on a bit of a Dashiell Hammett kick around the same time I was writing the comic. However, an early draft of the story wasn’t a noir per se. It was way more of a Spartacus tale, even a little bit GANGS OF NEW YORK, but I wasn’t happy with it. There were already some aspects of noir there, but it was too diluted, and most of the story took place in Dacia—the ancient name for Transylvania and Romania—instead of Rome. It was only when I focused in on the noir elements, and kept all the action in the city itself, that I felt like I had found the story I wanted to tell. With all the political and social intrigue going on, it was important to keep Valens’ goal simple, so the innocent man wrongly accused of Caesar’s assassination going on the run to clear his name and expose the true killers seemed the clearest and most dramatic way to do that.

    The tricky part was that we all already know the ending. I needed another mystery to hang the story on, which is where the Pluto’s Kiss Killer came in—a vampire serial killer murdering mortal aristocrats. In order for the story to work, it became essential to use a noir structure to preserve the sense of mystery.

    FANG: The Pluto’s Kiss Killer is such a creative yet strange name for a serial murderer. How did that come about?

    PAUL: Pluto is the name of the Roman god of the underworld—though he is also sometimes referred to as Dis, which doesn’t sound nearly as cool. Since he’s a vampire who kills by the classic bite to the neck, “Pluto’s kiss” seemed an apt way to describe a vampire bite as the method of execution.

    FANG: There are many layers of metaphor between the characters. There is the political side with Julius Caesar and the Senators. Valens, the detective, is searching for the Pluto’s Kiss Killer, which means he’s a vampire hunting down his own kind. Then there’s the master/servant relationship between Caesar and Valens. With so much subtext packed in the first issue alone, was it difficult keeping track of where these characters were heading in the storyline?

    PAUL: Not really where they were heading, so much as how they would get there, or who would discover what, when and how. I knew that the Caesar/Valens relationship, though we don’t get to see a lot of it before the assassination, was going to be key to Valens’ arc throughout the story. Each issue, he gets pulled away from this sort of false identity he has of being a Roman citizen, and back toward his Dacian roots and his true nature. So from a character standpoint, it was pretty easy to keep track of what the different events in the plot would do to push or pull him toward or away from one of those two polarities. But given the various interested parties with their own agendas and secrets, there were a lot of balls in the air, and sometimes, it did get a bit difficult to juggle them all. Fortunately, the structure of comics allows you to somewhat compartmentalize things from issue to issue…but mostly, I just did lots of revisions.

    FANG: Some writers work closely with their artists, while others stand aside, leaving them alone to do their work. How was your relationship with IDES OF BLOOD artist Christian Duce?

    PAUL: We ended up going back and forth more as the series went on, but for the most part, Christian took the scripts and did everything on his own. When the first pages came in, I was floored by how perfectly he understood what I was going for. He really keyed into the world I wanted to create, and brought it to life in a way I couldn’t have hoped for. He is extremely talented, visionary and collaborative. Working with him has been one of the greatest pleasures.

    FANG: There is so much detail on display in the artwork and dialogue. How much research did you and Duce undertake to create this alternate universe, where the Romans have conquered Transylvania and captured the vampire population?

    PAUL: I can’t speak for Christian, but judging from the authenticity on display in his pencils, I’d imagine he did his fair share of homework. I always do a lot of research, because research is story. If you don’t know your world, you can’t write it. Research on Rome was easy to find, but information about Dacia was tougher to track down. In the end, though, there was an older anthropological work by this guy named Parvan that was very helpful, and a whole book about the role of wolves in Dacian religion.

    My favorite book about the Roman world was called HANDBOOK TO LIFE IN ANCIENT ROME by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins. Every time I had a question, I turned to that book. There are tons of sequences, characters and beats that emerged from the research. I still remember how excited I got when I learned how rich Romans used an underground system of furnace tunnels, called a hypocaust, to heat their homes and baths, because I knew that was going to end up being a setpiece.

    FANG: With the first issue now on stands, what can readers expect in the upcoming issues?

    PAUL: Valens has been warned, and in the next issue [out September 15; cover art pictured right], the Ides of March are coming! In addition to lots of intrigue and action unlike anything you have ever seen, we’re going to see the home of the vampire rebellion; go on a Dacian acid trip; learn about the Dracul’s role in the origin of vampires; find out why Valens is so loyal to Caesar; witness an appearance by Van Helsing; find out what Brutus’ master plan is after Caesar is dead; and discover the true identity of the Pluto’s Kiss Killer. We’ll also get vampire STD’s; vampire gladiator cage matches; more Soothsayer bug-eating goodness; crucified bodies used as weapons; insidious Egyptian necromancy; cruelty against animals; swords inserted into various orifices; and yes…vampire cockfighting.

    FANG: What are you working on now?

    PAUL: Right now I’m doing some work on the film and TV fronts, but what I’m most excited about is my new comic series, BUSHIDO.44. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s another alternate-history yarn but set in modern times, involving the samurai conquest of America. It’s sort of like X-MEN, THE DIRTY DOZEN, THE GOOD, BAD, AND THE UGLY, KILL BILL, YOJIMBO and MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE all blended together into a bloody bowl of sake-soaked, bullet-flavored udon.

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  • Bowling for Boobies with Horror Starlets

    Originally posted on 2010-09-06 18:48:32 by

    Bowling for Boobies might sound like the name of a softcore comedy, but it’s actually a charity event organized for a very serious cause: Los Angeles women battling breast cancer. The sixth annual event will be held October 24, and one team will be comprised of a number of actresses from recent horror films.

    The squad, known as The Horror Starlets, consists of Sarah Butler (pictured), soon to be seen in the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake, Tracy Coogan from ZOMBIE HONEYMOON and this fall’s DARK WOODS, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE’s Ashlynn Yennie, ALBINO FARM’s Bianca Barnett, Brooke Lewis from iMURDERS and SLIME CITY MASSACRE, WICKED LAKE’s Carlee Baker and the winner (to be announced) of the current season of VH1’s SCREAM QUEENS reality show, plus horror journalist Sean Decker, who assembled the team. Bowling for Boobies will take place at Jillian’s Hi-Life at Universal CityWalk in Universal City, CA, with other celebs like the Go-Gos’ Jane Wiedlin and RENO 911’s Thomas Lennon also set to take part. The Starlets are soliciting donations here.

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  • “FEAR OF CLOWNS 2” (Film Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-05 17:25:18 by

    Here’s one of those movies that I might give two-and-three-quarter skulls to if the format allowed. But I’m giving FEAR OF CLOWNS 2 (available as a limited DVD and download at Amazon.com, coming to iTunes this fall) the benefit of the doubt upward because writer/director Kevin Kangas’ follow-up to his previous coulrophobia opus represents a step up from its already entertaining predecessor in a couple of significant areas.

    Most notably, there’s more urgency to the story, which picks up a while after Detective Dan Peters (Frank Lama) put away the evil Doug Richardson, a.k.a. Shivers the Clown (Mark Lassise), who was trying to snuff out artist Lynn Blodgett (Jacky Reres). Told he has only a few months to live due to a rare, incurable brain disease, Dan gets further bad news when he learns that Shivers has escaped the mental facility where he’d been imprisoned, along with a couple of equally nasty fellow inmates. Determined to protect Lynn and put Shivers down for good, Dan concocts a plan to lure the psycho into a trap and calls on some heavily armed pals to assist him. But Shivers’ craftiness and a couple of dirty little secrets may trip up Dan’s attempts to protect Lynn’s life—and his own…

    A killer-clown movie is only as good as its killer clowns, and Shivers remains a pretty spooky one. Buff and bare-chested with freaky facepaint, he’s an imposing and threatening presence as played with few, growly-voiced words by Lassise. As for his new sidekicks, the cannibalistic Giggles (Philip Levine) has a typical evil-Ronald-McDonald look and is prone to cackling fits, but the head-chopping Ogre (former WCW wrestler Clarence McNatt) sports a nifty visual conceit. A towering, bald African-American, he has a big white cyclopean eye painted on his forehead that looms eerily out of the darkness before the rest of his features are clearly visible.

    The performances of their targets are steadier this time too, as Lama and Reres have overcome the shakiness that occasionally crept into their turns in the first FEAR OF CLOWNS. Dan’s determination to tie up the loose end in his foreshortened life that Shivers represents plays nicely against Lynn’s dubiousness over his methods (though under the circumstances, it’s hard to believe she has a problem with his desire to end the villain’s life). Johnny Alonso adds some effective nervous edge as Ralph, the asylum orderly who helps Shivers and co. escape and then has to bargain with them for his own life, and Adam Ciesielski gets a few good laughs as “Hot Rod,” the most prominent of the good ol’ boys Dan calls upon for assistance.

    Although, as touched on above, certain of the scenes are a little too drawn-out, Kangas creates moments of creepy imagery (with the help of cinematographer David Mun, especially in the scenes involving Shivers and his cohorts just after their escape) along with well-staged moments of tension and carnage. Decapitations are the order of the day, and the literal head count has been upped significantly from the original FEAR OF CLOWNS; makeup FX creator Doug Ulrich has been given more to do here, and does it better. The writer/director even throws in a fairly well-staged shootout and a bit of gratuitous full-frontal nudity during a sexual encounter that doesn’t end well for the couple in question.

    Kangas doesn’t entirely avoid the pitfalls of the slasher genre (Lynn runs for safety in the wrong direction a couple of times), and FEAR OF CLOWNS 2 comes to a dissatisfyingly inconclusive ending. All in all, though, Kangas has risen to the challenge of improving on his previous feature, and the sequel should have fans of fearsome funnymen painting smiles on their faces.

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  • Fango Flashback: “WITCHERY”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-05 17:19:03 by Bekah McKendry

    We all have one of those movies—a flick you saw in the past that you can’t remember the name of, or who is in it, or even what it’s about…you can only remember one scene. So you incessantly describe the scene to every horror fan you meet, in hopes that somebody will remember the film’s title so this lone moment stops slowly drilling a deep and bloody hole into your brain.

    For years, I had one such memory stuck in my head. I could only recall this bit where an old woman had her lips sewn shut. She was then strung up inside a lit fireplace and melted. I described this scene endlessly to anyone who would listen. I remembered watching it on my parents’ giant console TV, so it must have been a VHS rental from the late 1980s—but that’s all I could ever remember.

    I was beginning to think I had dreamed the whole thing and just had a really twisted imagination until finally…at San Diego Comic-Con, a fan finally plugged the hole in my brain. Comic-Con was doing this huge promotion for the David Hasselhoff Comedy Central Roast and had been handing out these Hasselhoff masks (I’m not kidding about this) to attendees. Thousands of David Hasselhoffs were walking around Comic-Con. A horror fan came over to the FANGORIA booth with his Hoff mask on, and I asked, “Is The Hoff into horror?” The fan replied, “Well, he was in WITCHERY.” With that single phrase, a mental spark ignited the memory in my brain.

    Yes, WITCHERY! I remembered now! That scene was from WITCHERY! My memory had been recovered, though I think I may have forgotten basic algebra in the process. With that spark, I recalled a few other details about the flick: Linda Blair was also in it, they were on an island and there was a scene of demon rape. Feeling there were some big gaps, I ordered my own copy of WITCHERY as soon as I got back to the hotel room that night, and when I finally got home from San Diego, it was waiting on my doorstep.

    This 1988 flick was produced by legendary Italian exploitation god Joe D’Amato, and although it was released in the U.S. under the WITCHERY name, the screen titles read WITCHCRAFT: EVIL ENCOUNTERS. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, the film was actually made as the fourth installment of the LA CASA series, with part three an unofficial sequel to the EVIL DEAD series, which means this film is a.k.a. EVIL DEAD 4 and has also been titled GHOST HOUSE 2! My head hurts…

    WITCHERY (for the purposes of this article) is set on a small island about 50 miles off Boston. Long ago, many witches were put to death on the island. One in particular was pregnant and chose to take her own life by jumping out a window instead of being toasted on a stake. Thus, the island and its hotel are forever haunted.

    Flash-forward to the modern day…well, the height of the 1980s. Gary (a post-KNIGHT RIDER Hasselhoff) and his weird virgin friend Linda (Catherine Hickland) are camping out in the deserted hotel. Linda is studying witchcraft; Gary is there to photograph the ghostly lights and to convince her in an awkwardly sexy manner that he has a knight that needs riding (I had to work in a reference somewhere). But she resists the Hoff’s unbuttoned shirts and maintains her purity.

    Then enter the Brooks family, who are interested in buying the hotel and includes the bitchy family matriarch, the lecherous dad, the pregnant daughter (Blair) and the young son Tommy, plus a realtor and a renovator in tow. The two parties discover each other just as a crazy storm breaks out and carries their boat away, making it impossible for anyone to leave for the night. Well, gang, I guess we’ll just have to spend the night in this creepy house where a pregnant witch killed herself and still comes back to take the souls of the living! This villainess is joined by a few demonic minions to help her maintain the hotel as a causeway to hell. The satanic group works to get the “elements” into place which will allow the witch to return to Earth by taking over a new human form. Oh, which of our bunch will she choose to possess?

    One by one, the witch starts picking off our group to help fulfill the needed “elements.” Mama Brooks gets her lips sewn shut and melted in the fireplace (ahhh, the scene), the realtor is burned on an upside-down cross, and so on and so on. Linda gets raped by a demon, which fulfills the final needed element of virgin blood. And so the transformation can take place. I won’t blow the not-so-twisted “twist” at the end, but I will say that Blair ends up in a white nightgown with gruesome make-up and teased out hair looking almost identical to her role in THE EXORCIST. This happened a few times in the actress’ ’80s career, a little subgenre I like to call “Blairsploitation.” So yes, Blair ends up in her EXORCIST outfit, but I’m not blowing the ending too much. It’s clearly the film’s central gimmick, considering it’s on the box cover and in the trailer.

    Before I rewatched WITCHERY, I remembered it as being fairly good. Parts of my memory were flawed, but the movie does have some appeal. I have to say it really is a yin-and-yang situation: There are times I thought Fabrizio Laurenti’s direction was amazingly trite, with rack focuses on people’s shocked faces during suspenseful scenes. All that was missing was the “duh duh dun!” music. But at other times there are some very cool shots, including some filmed on a wheelchair-cam and great scenic views of the island and sea. At times, the gore looks ridiculously fake, as in the aforementioned lip-sewing scene and a moment of fetus-eating, but other gags (like the melting body) look great.

    Even the acting offers high and lows. Hickland (who, by the way, was the Hoff’s wife in real life at the time) as the virginal Linda has a strange speech pattern that often makes it sound like she’s drunk. Michael Manchester, as Tommy, also seems inebriated in the annoying monotone way he keeps repeating “I love Jane” (his big sis), while the realtor (who looks about 15) also delivers a really bad performance. Surprisingly, Hasselhoff, though his presence is campy, carries the role and movie rather well. And the plot itself is pretty interesting, and kept me watching and rewatching.

    I must also point out that, seen today, WITCHERY is a total flashback to the 1980s with loads of popped collars, horribly gaudy Bill Cosby-style sweaters, enormously teased bangs and shoulder pads so high I thought Blair was just going to tackle the witch. But this turned out to be a fun little film. WITCHERY was released to DVD in 2006 by Shriek Show, and can purchased on Amazon for around $6. I highly recommend checking out this fun D’Amato classic!

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  • “SLAVIS” (E-Book Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-05 17:11:48 by Jorge Solis

    SLAVIS, an e-book by author and screenwriter Garry Charles (pictured) that hits the web next week, is an enigmatic mystery involving clashing personalities and horrific supernatural beings. It involves a group of strangers who inadvertently find themselves confronting the end of the world, contending with an army of flesheating monsters.

    Burnt-out detective Kyle Harrison has miserably alienated everyone around him, while being harshly cynical toward himself. His ex-wife was viciously murdered, along with her children and new husband, and he can’t stop agonizing over her brutal murder, even though it’s not his case. This doesn’t have to be his problem, but when he discovers her name mentioned in a paranoid madman’s notebook, he is compelled to solve the puzzle.

    Following loose leads, Harrison hastily turns to a pair of animal experts, Megan Grant and Peter Booth. Though he needs their assistance, Harrison still considers them superfluous to his pursuit. The three have no idea what kind of danger lurks in the darkness, and they are drawn ever closer to a deadly threat—but Harrison continues to blindly follow his thirst for revenge.

    So much attention is paid to Harrison that the secondary characters do not feel well-defined. They come to seem unnecessary, even uninteresting. Harrison also ends up reuniting with his mistress, Kaci Keyser, but that relationship is never fully explored, leaving one to question how her character is supposed to advance the plot. Fortunately, things improve when the focus falls on the antagonistic conflicts between Harrison and Booth. The latter is protective of Megan, but feels mocked and outsmarted by Harrison. The rivalry between the two antiheroes is very amusing, as they both compete to be the bigger jerk.

    The action escalates as the group attempts to understand what their enemy hungers for. The Slavis are a lethal breed of immortals with a devilish appetite, digesting their victims and use their flesh as suits to walk the Earth. What they haven’t ingested becomes reanimated, resulting in some horribly disfigured beings. Their host will absolutely stop at nothing until the ultimate sacrifice is completed. Charles doesn’t hold back on the violence and terror of the creature attacks, and he’s able to keep the frights coming till the climatic plot twist. Chapters 18-19 pulse with tension as the group encounters the beasts at a crime scene, and bloody carnage ensues as Booth witnesses the gruesome slaughter of an entire police force.

    SLAVIS is a monsterfest mixed with a police procedural, and Charles crafts an enjoyable thrill ride into the supernatural. It will be downloadable beginning September 10 at his official website, where you can find other updates and info on his work.

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  • Fango Flashback: “THE SENTINEL”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-04 15:30:10 by Tim Janson

    THE EXORCIST spawned dozens of films dealing with devils, demons or Satanic cults in the 1970s, and one of the best but most underappreciated of those films was 1977’s THE SENTINEL. Directed by DEATH WISH’s Michael Winner, it opens with a young model, Alison Parker (Cristina Raines), moving into an old New York brownstone apartment whose only other tenant is a blind priest (John Carradine) who spends his days staring out his window.

    Not long after moving in, Alison begins experiencing strange phenomena—weird sounds coming from the supposedly empty apartment above, physical illness and dreams that flash back to her traumatic failed suicide attempt. It appears as if the building isn’t quite as uninhabited as she believed, as Alison meets several bizarre neighbors. Her boyfriend (Chris Sarandon) assures her everything is OK…just enough for you to know he’s up to no good.

    Alison finds out that she didn’t choose the apartment as much as it chose her. The apartment is in reality a gateway to hell, and the blind priest is the guardian who keeps the demons from escaping. But his time as Sentinel has come to and end and a new successor must be found, and it has to be a person who has attempted suicide—Alison! The other residents turn out to be demons that can only stop Alison by driving her to take her own life. The story climaxes in a march through hell itself for Alison’s life and soul.

    THE SENTINEL sparked controversy for its use of people with genuine physical deformities, rather than relying on makeup alone. While this approach may have been exploitative, it undeniably results in powerful, lingering images. The film features one of the great jump-out-of-your-seat moments in horror-movie history when Alison goes exploring the noises coming from another part of the house; in fact, this scene made Bravo’s list of THE 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

    What sets THE SENTINEL apart from so many other films of its ilk is its outstanding supporting cast that features several veteran and up-and-coming actors, including Carradine, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Jose Ferrer, Eli Wallach, Jerry Orbach, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum and Beverly D’Angelo (who provides one of the more memorable scenes). The weakest link in the cast is actually its female lead, Raines. In her mid-20s at the time, she didn’t have the chops to pull off what should have been a stronger female lead. This was at the height of the Women’s Liberation movement; Alison is independent, earning her own living and wanting her own apartment, but Raines plays the role too timidly. Fortunately, the fine supporting ensemble helps carry her, including Meredith, who plays another seemingly amiable tenant who hides his true malevolence.

    THE SENTINEL shows its age in its fashions and styles of the day, especially the ’70s-porn-star mustaches on many of the male characters, but its genuine chills and heart-thumping atmosphere have lost none of their potency. While it’s not in the same class as the best devil-themed films of the era, it’s certainly better than most with its terrifying imagery and superb cast.

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  • Monsters of Art

    Originally posted on 2010-09-04 15:23:21 by Freddie Young

    Scott Jackson is a talented artist who is truly inspired by the world of horror. His website, MonstermanGraphic.com, showcases the work he has done for several bands and musicians, such as Kiss and Megadeth, along with the custom artwork and logo designs he’s done for many publications. Jackson also runs The Monster Store, where he sells T-shirts sporting his designs as well as incredible posters depicting many horror icons. In this interview, he discusses when art changed from a hobby to a career, the origins of both his websites and other ventures and what his future holds.

    FANGORIA: Your artwork is incredible. Can you tell us when you first got the itch?

    SCOTT JACKSON: Thank you. As far back as 3 years old, you’d find me doodling on just about anything I could get my hands on. Especially with cartoon characters, growing into the comic heroes. With only a child’s skill, I gave most of them square heads—but made damn sure Superman had the trademark curlicue on his brow. I enjoyed the attention from entertaining people with these scrawlings, and ultimately got better at it.

    FANG: When did you realize that art was more than a hobby, and you wanted to take it professionally?

    JACKSON: I tried many different hobbies, usually entertaining folks—doing magic shows, screening horror movies in my garage, singing in a band…although they all came to the conclusion that I could draw better than sing! In junior high, I started hand-drawing hot-rod/hippie-culture posters in trade for lunch money. That was probably the first incarnation. While still in my teens, my “big break” was a $25 payment for a gig poster created for a rock band named Saffire.

    Shortly thereafter, many local bands in the area were hiring me for T-shirt and poster art. By college, I had already been commissioned for album covers by GWAR producer Ron Goudie for Numskull and Montrose’s Ronnie Montrose for a band he produced called Wrath. It was just happening, without much thought or choice. I decided at that time that I wanted to do album covers and band art for a living, and moved from Wisconsin to the west Coast.

    FANG: Who are your inspirations?

    JACKSON: Among them are Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben, Berni Wrightson, Robert Crumb, Basil Gogos, Jack Kirby, Marie Severin, Graham Ingles, Charles White III, Basil Wolverton, Wally Wood, Bill Elder…EC and 1970s underground comix, CREEPY, EERIE, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, TOMB OF DRACULA, HOUSE OF SECRETS, MAD magazine…and Wacky Packages. Mix that with old movie posters, album covers from the ’70s and ’80s, and this is what comes out.

    FANG: Tell us about the origins of MonstermanGraphic.com.

    JACKSON: Having moderate success with the Scott Jackson Studio for many years, creating 100 or so covers for ROCK ’N’ ROLL COMICS in the ’90s, I turned back to my early childhood love of horror movies and created the three-part HEAVY METAL MONSTERS comics anthology. About five or six years ago, I released a trading-card set through Diamond Comics titled MONSTER MASTERPIECES: THE PAINTED HISTORY OF THE HORROR FILM, doing cover-style illustrations based on 50 of the greatest horror movies of all time. Volume one had a good run, into second printings.

    It was a little over four years ago, after a chance meeting with Ari Lehman—Jason Voorhees from the first FRIDAY THE 13TH—that I decided to try a new studio name and website. Ari brought me to my first horror convention, and at that event I was commissioned by none other than Tom Savini, The Lurking Corpses, and the Dark Carnival Film Festival. Soon after, it was VAMPIRA: THE MOVIE art, Texas Fearfest, Monster-Mania website design and so on. Monsterman is definitely my calling.

    FANG: How long does it usually take for you to complete a piece of artwork?

    JACKSON: Three days to three weeks, depending on the complexity. I usually ask my clients for about a month to play it safe.

    FANG: You’ve done artwork for legendary bands like Kiss, Megadeth, Pink Floyd and many others. How did those deals come about? Did they come to you, or did you go to them?

    JACKSON: My art has been either directly hired or featured by those bands as a result from my work with ROCK ’N’ ROLL COMICS. In the case of Megadeth, as told to me, a young fan named Eddie Parker was backstage at a show, intent on getting his comic book autographed, but instead it was snatched by one of the band members. I shortly thereafter was contacted by Megadeth’s management for a T-shirt commission. Kiss had been involved with and dictated much of the three-part HARD ROCK comic series, and those covers were included in the leather-bound KISSTORY book. Pink Floyd’s official fan club approached our booth at San Diego Comic-Con requesting copies of the five-part “Pink Floyd Experience” series…and about a month later, I discovered a layout of the comics and cover art included in their SHINE ON boxed set.

    So I guess in each case, it was their choosing. It has been great to meet and receive compliments from the likes of Alice Cooper, Geoff Tate of Queensryche, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Glenn Danzig, Kirk Hammet of Metallica and Frank Zappa, among others, about the comics. Many of them I have signed, and I’m very grateful to in some way touch those artists who inspired me along the way.

    FANG: You also founded Chicago’s annual heavy metal conference, Metal Mergence, as well as the Annual Halloween Art Exhibit. Can you tell us about those ventures?

    JACKSON: OK, let’s see…a love for all three genres—horror, metal and Halloween—initially inspired these happenings, but you could say they were born more from desperation. As a commercial/comic-book artist moving to Chicago from the West Coast, I didn’t really fit into the fine art scene so predominant in that area, and having minimal or no connections to the music scene whatsoever, it spurred me on to create an event that would not only advertise my own work, but speed up the process of meeting who I needed to connect to. The Annual Halloween Art Exhibit started meagerly in a little studio, and it’s now in its 12th year and has been hosted everywhere from TransWorld’s Haunted Attractions Show to some of the most reputable galleries, featuring over 65 artists from around the country.

    Metal Mergence began as a whim to gather music professionals in the heavy metal industry, kinda like a mini-NAMM show), and it’s now in its fourth year, getting response from national labels and bands. This is all just so amazing to me, and I’m extremely grateful for all the support and love from the friends, artists, bands and sponsors who have seen it through.

    FANG: Social networking has become the new method of self-promotion. How have MySpace and Facebook helped you and your artwork?

    JACKSON: Yes, yes…Facebook and MySpace can never be underestimated as great promotional tools. I use them both in the capacity that they drive potential customers to my website, and in many cases act as mini-versions of the site itself. Both of them have helped out immeasurably.

    FANG: Have you ever considered doing animation? Your art would really kill as a cartoon.

    JACKSON: Thank you. Yes, I’ve always dreamed of seeing one of my paintings animated—although I know myself well enough that I simply don’t have the patience to redraw frames as an animator does [laughs]. The focus of my craft has been to make one overall statement for the story or image, and that’s why I love doing cover work so much.

    FANG: What is the future for Scott Jackson and MonstermanGraphic.com?

    JACKSON: I’m currently enjoying the latest requests for DVD and CD art, along with website design. The future is to pursue my on-line Monster Store, continue building the events I’ve created and finish out the Monster Masterpieces, which will be all compiled into book form. As long as folks are diggin’ the work, I’m happy to contribute to the genre that has given me so much pleasure while connecting with fans at the conventions. Retiring as an art teacher couldn’t make me happier.

    FANG: Do you have any advice for potential artists out there who want to create a brand name for themselves?

    JACKSON: 1. Decide exactly what it is that you want to offer or work for. 2. Pay attention to the reactions you’re getting from your work. 3. Be flexible in your approach to things. If something isn’t working, try something else. 4. Find those artists you like who are successful, and model yourself after them…they must be doing something right. 5. If you can’t get hired immediately, start your own thing.

    Check out Jackson’s work on-line at Monsterman Graphic, The Monster Store, MySpace and Facebook.

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  • “SO HORROR-BLE” (Comic Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-04 15:14:35 by Jorge Solis

    SO BUTTONS PRESENTS: SO HORROR-BLE, from Alchemy Comix, is a quirky collection of short stories covering paranoia, night-walkers and the zombie apocalypse. Equally scary and funny, these fast-paced tales of terror are surefire bits of entertainment.

    The first entry, “In Need of a Hand,” delivers out-of-the-ordinary insights about the parallels between relationships and decomposition. At a diner, the narrator recounts his recent road trip to Santa Barbara. His lovely relationship with Lara starts out wonderful until they end up at a sunny beach, where events take a drastic turn for the worst. When they stumble upon a dead body lying on the shore, mistrust and tension kick in to the max. The decaying carcass brings out the worst in the two lovebirds, who accuse each other of ruining their romance.

    In the second entry, “In the Old Fashioned Way,” a dismayed reporter analyzes the recent phenomenon of vampires demanding equal civil rights. Why are the bloodsuckers perceived as heroes in this universe? Because the unwanted dregs of society are seen as a solution to their food intake. The reporter must decide if he should expose the conspiracy or become a hated enemy to the vampire clan.

    The best of the collection, “In the Head, Please!” is a unique twist on the zombie genre. Insanity has just taken command of Morty’s mind. Past memories are clashing with the present ones, distorting his perception—this is what happens when someone becomes undead. The victim loses control of their body, but the mind is still alive, helplessly watching as their walking corpse feeds on others.

    The last tale is the hilarious “In the Heat of Battle,” which is recommended for movie enthusiasts. In this story, a homeless bum is playing chess with a slow-thinking zombie. While playing, the vagrant, who also happens to be a film fanatic, debates the winners of the 2010 Academy Awards. This guy incessantly discusses each film, from THE HURT LOCKER to THE BLIND SIDE, while the ghoul struggles to move his chess pieces.

    The cover, by artist Danny Hellman, is a spot-on and colorful homage to EC Comics. The mishmash of artwork inside ranges from cartoonish, by T.J. Kirsch, to hyperrealism, by David Beyer Jr. Each narrative sprang from the talented mind of Jonathan Baylis, who was an associate editor at Topps Comics—and some of them, especially “In the Head, Please!” have enough potential to be expanded into features.

    SO HORROR-BLE is a fun-filled anthology that will leave you wanting more, its variety of approaches delivering both shocks and laughs. This comic will officially premiere at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD the weekend of September 10-12; you can also pre-order it from the official website.

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