‘MANDY’ Director Finally Returns With More WTF Horror in ‘THE VIEWING’!

I’ve been waiting quite some time for Panos Cosmatos to follow up his dark epic adventure film ‘Mandy’ & to my surprise he did so late October. I guess I’m late to the damn party on it as I really don’t watch much streaming content on Netflix anymore, for me personally most of the stuff on the platform just doesn’t cut it. Most of it feels like factory filmmaking, but I was pleasantly surprised to check out Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ there and come to find an episode of his new horror anthology called ‘The Viewing’ fresh from the director of ‘Mandy’ and ‘Black Rainbow’!!

 I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure just what to expect but this bizarre episode packs a punch with its finale and along the way manages to blend in some great humor and the cast of interesting characters to keep this mysterious story moving quickly with intrigue. It’s an interesting plot too, taking place in 1979, with icon Peter Weller (Robocop) playing an elusive billionaire who invites several TV personalities to his bizarre mansion for a “viewing” of something seemingly otherworldly.

Cosmatos constructs a genuinely humorous character study as the drug fueled gathering slowly transitions into utter chaos by its end. I really enjoyed this episode, it definitely had the signature “Panos” feel to it, at least visually and sonically. It really has that same dreamlike quality as his previous two features and the score again here with The Viewing is something I’d definitely listen too in my spare time.

It’s rich atmosphere is full of color and visually abstract in all the best weirdest ways possible. I was a bit surprised with the humorous tone presented, which sticks around right till the very end, leading me to be extra curious about what his next film ‘Nekrokosm’ might bring to the table. Take note though, it’s not all fun and games, when the shit finally does hit the fan (which does sorta take a little longer than I’d hoped) we’re treated to some legit WTF moments of monster mayhem and headscratching horror in the way Panos most definitely excels at.

The FX here too are quite impressive, as I’d hoped and kinda expected them to be. It’s clear that The Viewing rises above the rest of the flock as a all too welcome walk into the mind of one of the genres most creative visionaries. I can WAIT to feast my eyes and mind upon his next full feature film…if you dug ‘Mandy’ go check this shit out!

Stephen King Presents: William Hurt vs Pissed Off Toy Soldiers!

I just checked out a crazy fun episode of the 2006 Stephen King series ‘Nightmares and Dreamscapes”.The very first episode “Battleground” is a blast, LITERALLY!  It seems this series went under the radar of most horror fans, probably because the rest of the episodes are pretty mediocre  adaptations of some of Stephen King’s short stories of the same name. 

Battleground starring William Hurt though is quite the exception to say the least. Directed by Brian Henson (son of Jim Henson) it of course features some pretty SPECIAL fx work. The premise of the story makes perfect sense to for Henson to be at the helm here and this almost demented “Small Soldiers” style story is a sweet little bloody brawl that’s enthralling to watch unfold.

William Hurt (R.I.P. who doesn’t speak a word in the entire episode) plays a cunning hitman who’s hired to take out the brainy CEO of a prominent toy corporation. It seems like a slam, dunk easy job and he heads home to his lavish high rise apartment after doing the dirty little deed. However it doesn’t take long for strange things to begin happening when he receives a mysterious package delivered to him. 

Come to find out it’s filled with a shit load of toy soldiers as well as toy army tanks, planes, helicopters and jeeps. He doesn’t think much of it until he is viciously attacked as the toys aggressively come to life with one goal: to destroy this giant assassin!

What transpires is a pretty intense and bloody battle between a full grown assassin and a vicious toy battalion in Hurt’s fancy highrise and it’s one helluva spectacle. It even harkens back to such classics as the Trilogy of Terror’s Zuni fetish warrior doll and the classic King horror anthology, Cat’s Eye! 

 Brian Henson also does sn excellent job here directing, creating truly tense thrills and some really inventive special effects using very minimal CGI and mostly real human beings to create some truly stunning action sequences with the toys. There’s a great little special effects featurette on the DVD that shows how he brought this gruesome little minature war to life.

Hurt also does a really great job as the silent assassin, who relies on all of his expertise to try and survive the encounter. You really get a sense that he has finally met his match, wasting no time trying to figure out why or how this is happening and just simply focuses on how to exterminate the enemy. I highly recommend checking this wildly unique little episode down as it certainly packs a wallop!  Thankfully someone has posted it right on YouTube:

 

 

 

Halloween Comic Cover of the Day: Jack-O-Lantern Attacks!

When we think of Marvel Comics’ most Halloween themed characters normally The Green Goblin or The Hobgoblin come to mind first. However there’s one villain who takes the cake as the most Halloween themed character in all of the Marvel’s history: Jack-O-Lantern!

This character might be a bit of a rip off of The Green Goblin but I’ve always thought he was pretty cool looking, pretty bad ass and a bit underutilized as a villain. Oddly enough he 1st appeared in Machine Man #19 from 1981, the same year as the Spider-man issue showcased above.

 

Obviously Jack-O is the perfect villain for the Halloween season!  He’s battled a lot of A-listers like like Captain America, as you can see right here hes got some spooky skills to show off.

He definitely deserves some love today and though I could go on and give you his entire back story why not just take a look at this awesome little entry in the Marvel Universe Official Handbook from way back in the day for the scoop on this weirdo! 

 

 

 

‘Perversions of Science’ the Forgotten Tales from the Crypt Sequel Series?!

Tales from the Crypt is easily hands down one of the greatest horror television shows of all time and what a great time of the year to revisit your favorite episodes! Well this year I put together a cool VHS horror anthology that’s all Halloween themed, in fact this is my sequel, as I made the 1st installment last year. To put this thing together I did a lot of research on Halloween themed horror short films from the eighties and nineties, Halloween themed horror TV episodes (no sitcoms) and of course installments of movie horror anthologies that all revolve around the Season of the Witch.

Finding the goods is actually a lot harder than you might think, but my Halloween research led me to a 1997 series called ‘Perversions of Science’ that has a pretty sweet Halloween episode directed by horror icon Tobe Hooper! But just what the fuck is ‘Perversions of Science’ anyway?

 Well news to me, it’s the “sequel series” to Tales from the Crypt and involves the same creative team, with music by Danny Elfman. Instead of the Crypt Keeper this time we get a futuristic sexy sultry computer generated robot woman as our host. Where the hell has this been my entire life and why am I just finding it about it all right now?!

Well from what I understand it definitely wasn’t the most popular series of its time and only ran for ONE season. Though many of the episodes have strong horror elements, it’s primarily a science fiction based show. I don’t claim to be any expert on this as I’ve only seen one episode, but the one I did see was definitely good enough to make me hella curious on hunting down the rest. But since it’s so close to Halloween I might as well talk a little bit about the Halloween themed episode of that’s leading me down this Perversion rabbit hole.

The episode ‘Panic’ takes place on Halloween night at a costume party, where two real life aliens from another planet are disguising themselves and eagerly awaiting orders from their leader to launch an attack on the human race. However unbeknownst to them a “war of the worlds” type radio broadcast is on the airwaves that evening and they mistake it as a real world news event. This leads the evil aliens played by Jason Lee & Jamie Kennedy (oh soooooo damn 90s!!!) into a bizarre series of earthly events on All Hallow’s Eve.

There’s some pretty cool practical effects here that definitely harken back to the good old days of Tales from the Crypt but of course there’s also some rather dodgy nineties cgi as well. That all being said I’d love to get my hands on a nice clean copy of the show as it looks like it’s got a lot of potential.

But there’s never been physical version of this thing ever released to my knowledge besides it’s original airing, no DVD’s VHS or blu rays out there that I’ve been able to track down and not streaming anywhere.

With directors like Tobe Hooper, William Shatner (?) and stars like Jeffrey Combs, Ron Perlman, Sean Astin, Will Wheaton this 10 episode series is on my ASAP must see list!!  Have you seen this forgotten television series? Let me know! Ps here are my VHS tapes I made:

Hong Kong HALLOWEEN: 1990’s A Chinese Ghost Story 2!

I’m making this post assuming that obviously everyone has seen the legendary 1987 Hong-Kong horror romance action hybrid ‘A Chinese Ghost Story’?! No?! Well It’s often referred to as the “Chinese Evil Dead” and that’s a great comparison. So If you haven’t seen part one you definitely need to check it out ASAP, but even so you can still watch part 2 without having to know much about the original!

‘A Chinese Ghost Story 2’ continues right after the events of the 1st movie but this time puts the romance a bit more in the back seat and the action/monster mayhem a bit more front and center! This 1990 Hong Kong horror hybrid follows a wandering scholar as he as he continues his outrageous supernatural adventures while trying to find romance simultaneously.

Along the way he encounters cannibals, escapes prison, hides out in haunted temples, fights off an amazing giganto (animatronic puppet) tree troll, meets the reincarnated woman of his dreams, teams up with a wild martial artist turned sorcerer, faces a gigantic flying centipede (ending up inside of its stomach) and even manages to perform a rap song while taking a bath in pool of rainwater. And that’s just the shortlist of this radical spectacle!

 As you can probably tell thus far, there’s really never a dull moment within it’s entire 98 minute run time. It’s filled with charming, colorful characters, amazing sets/landscapes filled with lush vegetation, roaming fog and spooky blue lighting in nearly every scene.

It’s also jam packed with awesome neon 80s animated lightning, some over the top martial arts and even manages to sneak in a little sweet romantic plot amidst all the magnetic mayhem. Better yet this one has some pretty on point comedy that shines through even despite the rudimentary but often incredible subtitles…

This is just a great big ball of fun. It’s equal parts fantasy/adventure/horror and comedy all stuffed into a juicy blender. I really think a great double feature would be to show both parts 1 & 2 back-to-back. I’d go as far to say this is probably the strongest horror franchises in all of Hong-Kong cinematic history. I have yet to see part 3 but from what I understand and these 2 are pretty much the cream of the ghostly crop.

So if you’re looking to get out of the American pumpkin patch this Halloween I highly suggest a trip to Hong-Kong’s golden era of of supernatural horror! These will not disappoint to deliver enough spooky, highly ambitious trick-or-treats from the Far East!

3 MUST See 80s Halloween GEMS from ‘Tales From The Darkside’!

Ok it’s ON!! Halloween time viewing is in FULL effect here at U-Dork so naturally we’ve gotta get our groove on with some often forgotten gems of Halloween that are an absolute essential watch- Especially if you’re a big fan of eighties horror! One of my favorite shows of that era, the brilliant horror anthology TV series Tales from the Darkside!

This 4 season series contains 3 of my all time favorite Halloween horror stories &  they’re so well done that if you put all of them together in a film anthology with a wrap-around plot line it’d make for probably one the best Halloween themed movies of the 1980s! So find these streaming this year or go do yourself a favor and buy the whole collection on dvd. Make sure though to bookmark these 3 this year and watch them all in a row.

First up ‘The Cutty Black Sow’ from Season 4 (1988).

This is easily gotta be one of the most terrifying episodes of of the series & also one of the strangest titles to boot. During Halloween a family is hit with the tragic death of a beloved grandmother. Just before she passes though she relays a cryptic warning to one of the children to beware of ‘the cutty black sow’ on All Hallows Eve, an evil demonic creature that seeks harm to the family and steal souls. This episode is filled with the sense of dread as a thick impending doom oozes through Halloween night air & the children wonder if their great grandmother’s warning is indeed one to be taken seriously. A creepy taut Halloween gem with a horrifying ending!

Second is ‘Halloween Candy’ from Season 2, (1985)

 Again one of the best episodes of the series hands down and directed by make up wizard/horror icon Tom Savini! This tale features a grumpy old man who absolutely loathes the Halloween season and more-so those pesky trick or treaters. However this Halloween he gets WAY more than he bargained for when an evil troll comes to his door asking for Halloween candy! This little monster is an absolute delight to behold, It’s clear that Savini has his FX work cut out for him as it’s one of the coolest little troll/goblin like creatures to hit the big or small screen. It’s also an incredibly creepy Halloween themed slice of horror, with a bit of a moral lesson at it’s core. It’s best not to be an asshole on All Hallows Eve especially if you live alone on a dark street & a weird trick-or-treater shows up in the dead of night. Filled with tense atmosphere and crafted by an icon, it’s no wonder this episode is a such TREAT!

Lastly is the very 1st episode of the entire series ‘Trick-or-Treat’ (1984) and in my opinion probably the best of the entire series altogether.

Co-written by George Romero and directed by well known actor Bob Balaban who also directed the 1989 cult horror film ‘Parents’, they give us a truly wicked Halloween adventure! A greedy old scrooge like miser basically runs a small town where everyone seems to be suffering and in debt to him. Every Halloween he opens the doors to his house of horrors where he geefully sits at a control booth, triggering terrifying sounds, traps & puppeteering animatronic creatures rigged to scare small children. This isn’t done to entertain the kids, it’s however a challenge to the smalltown children to search for the debts of their parents. If they find them, their families are forgiven of their monetary burdens. The old codger takes way too much sadistic pleasure in terrorizing the kids which makes this episode truly grim and unforgettable. He loves Halloween but for all the wrong reasons. Luckily in a turn of events he himself is faced with true terror and all bets are off this Halloween! Filled with incredible iconic horror imagery, thrills, heart and some amazing practical effects work this is the absolute standout must see episode of the series! It would also be the perfect finale for a Halloween horror anthology-This year don’t sleep on these episodes they’re essential viewing every damn year for one of the greatest holidays of all time!!

 

 

Typhoon the Baboon: 1980s Animal Actor Extrodanaire!

Typhoon the Baboon has quickly risen to the top of my list as one of my favorite animal actors/cult characters of the 1980s! I was lucky enough put together a VHS swap last weekend at the iconic Cinemagic Theater right here in Portland, Oregon for their monthly VHS movie nite. The first Friday of every month they show a movie straight from VHS and project it on to the big screen. This week they were showing something I’ve never seen before from 1986 called ‘Unmasking The Idol’. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but what I ended up with was a glorious cult cinematic treasure to behold for the very first time from director Worth Keeter. I heard there was a baboon in this James Bond/Indiana Jones-ish action mash up, but nothing could prepare me for the ultimate primate-Typhoon!

Now come to find out Typhoon had also landed the lead role in the 1990 cult classic primate slasher flick: ‘Shakma’! I actually really dig that movie, it’s a pretty well done but ridiculous, fantasy game/LARPING in an office building with a batshit crazy baboon taking out nerds left and right piece of cinematic trash. Little did I know Shakma (Typhoon) was an action star before becoming a low brow horror icon! 

His role in “Unmasking” is pretty hilarious, Typhoon or “Boon” in the movie excels in hand to hand combat, throws bombs, shoots guns, wears suits and compulsively flicks people off like a true champ! The movie without Boon, would still be a riot, but with him as part of an elite team of ninja mercenaries really makes this movie one for the books. A wild ride of 80s action insanity, full of idioticly charming pulpy plot lines, babes and most importantly BOON!

 So after viewing Unmasking the Idol I felt a little sad that I’d most likely witnessed my last experience with Boon. However I was quickly alerted to the fact that this movie had a sequel from 1987 called ‘Order of the Black Eagle’ and indeed featured the star primate in the role once again! Apparently this time around though his role is a bit limited but I did hear that it features him driving around a miniature tank & blowing the shit out of Nazis! So yeah that’s next on my list for SURE.

Doing a little more investigating on Letterboxd I also found out that he makes an appearance in ‘The Fly’ with Jeff Goldblum?! Damn this guy’s got a pretty good filmography under his belt! I guess that one’s just gotta get a rewatch soon, especially due to it being the Halloween season AND to see Typhoon’s performance through a new lense.

Apparently Typhoon was able to follow simple commands quite well and even his role in Shakma where he portrayed a violent memesis he was merely shown food from an open door and then let loose when the door was closed. Naturally Typhoon being excited about the food would pound and smash on the door like a berserk maniac creating quite a stir on camera.

There’s actually a pretty cool & extensive article about his performance in ‘Shakma’ that’s worth a read if you’re interested in his acting career. Now I  don’t want to make it all sound like working with Typhoon was always a pleasant experience, though it’s reported that he had quite a loving connection with his trainer here’s what David Cronenberg had to say about his experience directing him: “They’re very volatile, and there’s no such thing as a tame baboon, Jeff, because he was much bigger and stronger than the baboon, was able to dominate him, and the baboon’s wrangler said it was a good thing that the baboon formed that relationship….Otherwise there could have been big trouble on the set with some of the female members of the crew.” Umm…no Jeff Goldblum is NOT stronger than a baboon, if they get pissed they will fuck you up! They are indeed many times stronger than a human….

I also don’t want to give Typhoon a bad rap because lots of actors can be sort of grumpy on set. Everyone has flaws, even Typhoon. I did a little poking around and couldn’t find any more information about him being curious about how long he lived, with no results. So at this point I’m going to just believe that he’s out there, still alive planning his next big movie come back! ‘Unmasking The Idol’ has just been released on blu ray via Vinegar Syndrome too!!

 

 

 

Humans & Mushrooms MERGE in MATANGO!

Hey fungi enthusiasts! If you’re looking for something truly stange & spooky to check out this Halloween season (and I know you are) then look no further- It’s time to take a trip of the sea shores of Japan to an uncharted incredibly creepy deserted island in 1963’s psychotronic horror: Mantango! I’m going to admit I haven’t really explored a lot of 1960s horror especially from Japan. However I’m a huge sucker for “stranded on an island” movie concepts and this one looked like it hit all the right beats from the trailer I saw. Essentially it’s like a demented episode of Gilligan’s island and much of the movie actually does actually kinda feel just like it, in all the best ways.

Visionary director Ishiro Honda paints an incredibly atmospheric nightmare landscape on the open sea, with a band of tourists on a fancy yacht who find themselves in the midst of a violent sea storm. Tired and hungry they take refuge on on a mysterious exotic tropical island infested with strange colorful mushrooms. There’s something extremely unsettling yet whimsical about the whole endeavor as the crew struggles to get along and and also find food that’s safe to eat there.

The most of the characters here I found to be a bit on the bland side, but it really doesn’t matter much because the beautiful bizarre portrait on display here of the island itself ends up as the true star of the entire show. The quietness of the foggy remote island lends much to the impending dread in the thick air as soon our cast of characters find themselves with hungry bellies, drawn to consume the beautiful fungi. It’s like they’ve spent the week in the garden of Adam-and-Eve but instead of colorful fruits instead enticed by mind altering fungus!

Matango is somewhat of a slow burn, but it’s a really fun “trip” right from the get go. All of the set pieces from the on the ship and especially the island are truly a spectacle to behold. It really makes me miss real practical sets, as many of the movies now in the fantasy genre just resort to bad CGI green screen backdrops. Being made in 1963, everything has that special  earthy but put together carefully by hand look to it of that era, looking like some high budget theme park attraction, blanketed in roaming fogs.

There’s also some some legitimately creepy visuals to behold, every bit of Matango’s landscape looks like at any moment could come alive and grab you. As the tourists become more restless and frustrated it’s clear something sinister has taken hold of their psyche. And while the movie secondary moniker is ‘Attack of the Mushroom People’ I would say that’s a bit of a stretch here. There’s really Not a helluva of a lot of “attacking” going on until maybe the movie’s final 10 minutes, but it’s definitely worth the wait once the mushroom people do arrive.

Even by today’s standards these creatures look quite incredible, feeling like something materilized from a strange fever dream. Matango has definitely peaked my interest in Japanese movies from this era, this is a cool little mind bending bit of eye candy that’s that is most definitely worth a watch this Halloween season if you’re in the mood for something truly unique! I got it on blu ray recently from Far East Flix!

 

Comic Cover of the Week: Frank Miller, Daredevil & THE HULK!

I’m done waiting around for Daredevil to appear in the latest She-Hulk Disney Plus series! IMO the show is a complete annoying, trainwreck and I really don’t care to see whatever pathetic version of Daredevil they end up bringing to the screen. I say this as a huge fan of The Sensational She-Hulk series by John Byrne too. So here’s a classic cover with Daredevil in his prime facing a real Hulk from issue #160 from 1980! I love the simplicity here and how we really only need to see The Incredible Hulk’s giant green hand to witness the fear in Daredevil’s face.  The man without fear? I’m not so sure! Excellent work Frank Miller!!

VHS Verdict: Corey Haim’s Underrated ‘Prayer of the Rollerboys’!

Corey Haim Is easily one of the most iconic actors of the eighties, however a lot of people seem to have missed out on his nineties career. ‘Prayer of the Rollerboys’ is a perfect place to start. Likely filmed in 1989 it still perfectly kickstarts Corey into the nineties! 

In the distant future crime is running rampant and Corey is a part-time pizza boy/full time hot shot rollerblader trying to take care of his little brother, put food on the table and find deeper meaning to life. Only one problem: a renegade gang of white supremacist criminals are endangering anyone who roams the streets, and they just happen to be obsessed with…..wait for it… You guessed it…. rollerblading! DUH!

 They’ve also got a snazzy new drug they’re pushing to the general public called “Mist” and things on the street are getting downright out of control. Luckily Haim meets Patricia Arquette, who at first appears to be just an beautiful, punk rock bad ass, but in reality works undercover for the police force. She’s looking for a way to infiltrate the evil Rollerboys and put an end to their racist dug peddling antics, good thing for her she met Corey who’s the prime candidate with with his radical rollerblading skills to get in league with the gang.  However even more lucky for Cory that she totally digs him! Jeeeealous!!!

 The film also stars Christopher Collet, who actually co-starred with with Corey Haim in his very first feature film, one that I highly recommend called FIRST BORN from 1984.  Here he plays the evil racist gang leader and goes one-on-one with Corey after pushing him way over the edge with a near unspeakable act of racism. Some of the stuff feels all too relevant in modern times as we deal with similar types of American nationalists today who like in “Rollerboys” try to inspire fear of illegal immigrants attempting to brainwash the working class into thinking they’re our enemies. Collette seems right out of a corrupt right wing nightmare.

I love the tone and setting up this movie, it takes place in a desolate, trashy, almost post apocalyptic timeline. It’s got that cool grainy almost Australian cinematography going for it as well  and actually goes a lot darker than I would have ever imagined. At first I guessed it to be more of a ‘Solarbabies’ adjacent type of movie. However this one’s actually pretty violent, with gripping action scenes, even though lots of them are roller blade-centric, delivering more action cheez than I could’ve hoped for. Surprisingly well executed!

If you’re not sold by the first opening 10 minutes featuring Corey Haim in a dazzling action packed montage of ridiculous roller stunts then you’re definitely gonna want to tune out. For the first time watch for me though it was just more proof of how iconic and important Corey was to the 80s teen coming of age genre that I hold so dear to me. It’s another solid Haim hit and one that many fans seem to have completely let fly under the radar. As ridiculous as the plot might sound it’s actually a pretty competent movie with quite a few interesting themes bubbling beneath its surface too. It’s got genuine thrills, cool characters, a villain you love to hate and some pretty memorable over the top action jams. In short this one’s way better than it ought to be and if you just happen to be a fan of freestyle rollerblading you’re gonna shit your pants here, this one’s most definitely for you rollerboyz and galz.

Somehow they manage to mix rollerblading into a movie that’s grittier, darker and goes deeper than expected. It’s also got a pretty pumpin’ soundtrack as well, plus seeing Corey and Patricia team up is a real delight, both have that special cinematic charisma. Sadly, Patricia, I think deserved a lot more screen time and it does seem a bit clear here that Corey might be heading into the troubling times of his career behind the scenes. It’s insane to me that no one has given it a fancy blu ray release either, that needs to happen ASAP. So track this little gem down if you’re feeling nostalgic for some ‘class A’ Corey Haim! RIP my dude….