I just visited my old stompin’ grounds up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin & it peaked my interest into a specific window of time in the late 1980s & early 90s when apparently horror movie productions were a hot commodity up there-Fangoria was on the cutting edge of “cheesehead” fright flicks! Who knew? So waaaay up north there’s a cluster of small towns, Eagle River, Three Lakes, Sugar Camp & Rhinelander that were the main staple in filming many of these late 80’s early 90’s horror films. There was a unique studio all the way from the UK that oddly made it’s headquarters somewhere between this little group of cities. My mom currently lives in Three lakes (we had a cottage on a lake there since the 80s, my dad grew up there, my Aunt does too and owns a property in Sugar Camp & my mom also just bough a property in Rhinelander) alas I have spent a LOT of time there throughout my life. In fact I was just up there for an entire month. However I never suspected it was a mini horror mecca until recently. Why? Well let’s find out! Wisconsinite horror fanatics, this one’s for YOU!
Windsor Lake Studios which was based in Eagle River, Wisconsin, (I’ve heard possibly Sugar Camp Wisconsin too?) population 1300, produced a number of films for Fangoria and a few other smaller VHS only companies, though a few actually have made it onto blu ray over the past few years. Oddly only one of the trio of Fangoria Films releases have seen blu ray releases. At the time it was a big deal in the horror community when they started producing their own movies. It’s strange to me how or why a movie studio that produced predominantly horror flicks was open and operational in this tiny region nestled in the thick of the Northwoods and it’s plentiful chain of lakes. It’s definitely NOT Hollywood in the Northwoods-I can fully attest to that! That being said you just might run into a Rhinelander, Hodag (pictured below) in the woods if you’re lucky enough..
Windsor Lake Studio was started in 1987 and attracted the talent of Eagle River native Hank Carlson, only a teen at the time but had ambitions to be the “next Tom Savini”. He went on to become quite an impressive practical fx artist getting his start at Winsdor Lake by being annoyingly persistent, visiting the studio property many times though univited. There’s a great interview with him right here for all of you locals who want the scoop on this regional horror legend. He also gives some excellent perspective in the commentary of the Arrow Video blu ray’s for ‘Trapped Alive’ & ‘The Chill Factor’. The three owners of the studio were from the UK and producers of major Hollywood hits ‘Heathers’ and more notably ‘Hellraiser’ & ‘Hellraiser II: Hellbound’. Apparently the premiere for ‘Hellraiser’ happened at the Vilas theater in small town Eagle River where Hank Carlson worked. I wish I’d have known that back then dammit!
I’ve been looking forward to this new Nic Cage horror flick for a long time and the trailer for ‘Willy’s Wonderland’ has finally dropped. Sure like the 2019 ‘Banana Splits’ movie this one is essentially another version of the ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’, which has been in developmental cinematic hell for years. ‘Banana Splits’ was pretty underwhelming, so I’ve been hoping that this Nic Cage lead film would get it right as I do quite love the idea of the creepy ‘Chuck E. Cheese/Showbiz Pizza’ style animatronic cartoon characters coming to life at night and causing bloody chaos. So yeah, we have Cage here hired as a handy man at a cursed amusement park where the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” scenario busts wide open. Check out this sweet poster!
From the trailer I’ve gotta say I was a teensy bit let down, I know this isn’t academy award fare we’re dealing with, but after starring in the incredible ‘Mandy’ I’ve high hopes for Nic to return with another modern horror classic. This however, from the trailer at least looks kinda chintzy, reminds me of something Cage churns out quickly to pay his mound of back taxes rather than a quality B monster movie. Of course I’m checking it out when drops but I was hoping for a thicker atmosphere of spookiness and the general vibe of it all feels slightly like a flimsy Cage cash grab. Even the cinematography feels a bit cheap at this point. But hey I guess having high hopes for another ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ copycat should NOT have been that high! Dammit Cage please prove me wrong here! What do YOU think?!
If you wanna go down the animatronic cartoon character rabbit hole from way back in the day for some real chills check THIS out:
And this for the WHOLE history on the restaurants from yesteryear that inspired ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’:
Been a movie watchin’ fiend lately & luckily most of the flicks, most of which I’d call largely forgotten cinema, have been surprisingly damn good! So listen up I’m gonna throw a bunch of short reviews for some films that are worth the trouble to track down if like me you’re looking for some lost gems! Let’s get on with this shit today we’ve got some great what I like to coin ‘John Hughes Horror’ in…
Night Life (1989)
First up let it be known this cool ass little movie was never officially released on dvd so it’s a tuff one to track down. You can hunt down a copy on vhs or like I did buy a bootleg copy of it on dvd from Ioffer.com, a great site for stuff like this. Anyway I wanna start off saying that this movie has Scott Grimes, that red headed kid from Critters 1&2 so it instantly had me there as I love those two movies. It’s essentially an 80’s teen high school bully movie with zombies. Scott Grimes or “Archie” in the movie, who channels a bit of Michael J. Fox, works at a mortuary for his jerky uncle (John Astin) and is bullied by four assholes (two preppy jock-y couples) from his school. Turns out he’s totally infatuated with one of the girls and the bullies quickly devise a plan to set him up on a “date” that ultimately destroys him teenage life. He’s also got an older lady pal, a cute local mechanic that he hangs out with all the time that he’s also crushed out on, who’s clearly put him in the friend zone. Ahh to be a teenager again…
Well one day those same four prepster bullies meet their demise in a horrible car crash, and of course Archie has to take them back to the mortuary. It seems though he’s in high school he accompanies the police to crimes scenes and is oddly in charge of the “dirty work” of dealing with the dead, I guess that shit flew back in the 80’s huh? Only problem is the four assholes become zombies when a bolt of lightning strikes the roof of the mortuary, something clearly foreshadowed earlier when a dead frog’s legs twitch when given an electrical charge by his science teacher. The nice thing here is these Zombies aren’t your mindless walkers, they’re more ruthless, cunning & have one clear driving their every move: to turn Archie into mince meat!! This begins a totally outrageous game of cat and mouse that plays out like a great extended episode of Tales From The Crypt in the best way.
The movie’s got a light hearted feel to it but isn’t afraid to get down and dirty when it needs to either. The zombie bullies use their newly acquired blood lust to carry out some pretty inventive on screen kills too. This may not be a traditional zombie apocalypse flick, but it’s one of the most unique and who needs more of the apocalypse anyway. Even in the 80’s that shit was overdone. Even way back in 89′ Tony Timpone of Fangoria praised it “the most original, off-beat & entertaining zombie films in years, a must see!”. I gotta agree it’s a ton of fun, has great stunts, cool fx, gore, rad looking zombies, sets & characters. Pretty much everything I love about the 80’s all wrapped into one. This one deserves an official release it’s definitely a lost gem. I’m pretty floored at how this movie doesn’t have more love these days, hopefully someone will clean it up and give it a proper release if you’re a fan of 80’s horror and those John Hughs-esque flick of that era you’ll find a lot here to love!! One last interesting tidbit here is that director David Acomba was one the two directors responsible for the infamously bad 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special!! But hey don’t hold that against him!!
Well, well, well, it seems that M. Night Shyamalan has just dropped his trailer for his latest flick ‘The Visit’ and I’ve just got to say I really think he’s going to hit a home run this time! Ok so Night has struck out a LOT over the years as it seems each movie he directs gets progressively worse. But deep down in his heart I think he’s got a couple winners left to offer now that he’s kinda hit rock bottom. His problems often times are his “lessons” which he tries to teach within every movie. They come off a little too hokey most times, a little too feel good family friendly and at times a bit preachy. But many times his movies are pretty damn cool up until the final five to ten minutes.
The Visit was originally titled “Sundowning” a much better name as far as I am concerned, but perhaps he wanted to avoid giving away too much plot with the term. By the way Sundowning is a psychological phenomenon associated with increased confusion and restlessness in patients with some form of dementia. Most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. For patients with sundowning syndrome, a multitude of behavioral problems begin to occur in the evening or while the sun is setting.
With The Visit it looks like Night is going for a much more straight up horror vibe something I’ve always wished for him to try. Let’s face it the guy knows how to create some truly nerve bending moments, straight up chills and a ton of atmosphere to tingle the senses. He’s done some real shit though too like The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth (I honestly liked all of his other movies-yes even Lady In the Water!). But “The Visit” I think just might catch people off guard as the first trailer looks exactly like what I’ve been hoping for him to try, a straight up horror romp. Let’s hope he doesn’t try and teach us some worldly lesson by the end. I’m also always down for a “twist” that’ll blow my mind, but these days getting a twist by and audience or a noisy internet is pretty much impossible.
Well now that was jumping the gun a bit huh?
So if you can find it in your jaded hearts to give Night one last chance I think we might all be surprised. I mean this one is truly his low budget independent micro film. Sometimes these overblown directors need to go back to the basics, hint hint Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi? Check out this trailer I think The Visit is going to be his comeback!
I do so much second hand shopping for my vintage clothing store Hollywood Babylon here in Portland Oregon and one of the best things about it is picking up awesome(or incredibly bad) old VHS tapes which end up for sale in the shop after I get done watching them!
Well one of my most recent viewings was a 1991 flick called Body Parts starring Jeff Fahey and Brad “Chucky” Dourif and let me tell you this one is a great creepy ass little horror flick!
I realize that this one here has pretty much been forgotten for some reason but it’s a well done thrilling and gory tale. It follows Fahey’s character Bill Chrushank as he loses his arm in an auto wreck and is given a chance to receive an arm transplant as a subject of a new experimental procedure.
Sounds like a bargain huh? Well that’s what Bill thinks until his arm begins to have mind of his own turning him into an aggressive dickhead who lashes out at his family! He begins a quest to figure out where this new arm of his came from and comes to find he’s not the only one who’s got recent limb transplants.
Nope he meets Brad Dourif who also got a new arm and has become a successful bizarro painter because of it. Shit gets pretty wild as the recipients of these limbs start winding up dead! This ones got it all, a clever creepy story, decent acting, gore, great fx work, action, car chases and some impressive stunts and some rad explosions!
A true forgotten and underrated gem of flick with a bit of an X-Files-ish vibe to it, in fact it seems to me that the X-Files may have stolen a bit from this one in the ‘I Want to Believe’ 2008 movie. Anyway hunt this one down it’s worth it!
A lot of people may have forgotten about Maxx FX from the eighties, or most likely never heard of the guy at all- and what a shame that is! Maxx Fx was the guy that Barbie would have ditched Ken for if she wasn’t a total lame-o back in 1989! Unfortunately Maxx had a short lifespan, and the special fx action figure / doll only had one official costume, that of horror icon Freddy Krueger!
But if you’re a little confused let me put it this way the Maxx FX doll came with the clothing, the mask and accessories to transform him into Freddy. This awesome idea was not supposed to stop with Freddy, it was supposed to continue on with many more movie monsters, unfortunately Matchbox put the kibosh on the action figure early on.
As the awesome Maxx Fx website states Maxx Fx was a make up artist and a crimefighter and could become anyone he wanted! I highly suggest getting the whole story and taking a look at what could have been with the entire toyline, it was a brilliant idea and Matchbox totally dropped the ball!! In the meantime enjoy this cool ass Maxx FX commercial from 1989! Eat it KEN! And Barbie you BLEW it!!
This one too!
I just wanted to post a couple videos from ADI, they are an effects studio that specializes in hands on practical effects. Their work never ceases to amaze me. Today they are still pushing the bar with their makeup and animatronics, which I hope more people take notice of. I’ve heard recently that most movies today are made to look like video games, as so many kids expect their movies to look that way and that glossy shiny video gamey look may actually be intentional. There’s a time and a place for both styles of fx, practical and CG and when they are used together it’s often times has created the best moments in cinema.
But for movies today ADI is pretty much the best at what they do. They’ve done a ton of work on some great films, the biggest controversy was all of the special effects they did for the prequel to “The Thing” which ended up a box office flop. The work they did for the film was replaced with shoddy CGI and this outraged the real fans of the iconic 1982 masterpeice. Had they used the ADI versions the prequel would have been the perfect companion piece to that movie. I just watched a great mini episode of Fangoria’s Blood & Guts with Anthrax’s own Scott Ian and it was worth posting again here.
It just goes to show you that these type of effects aren’t dead and in many cases to this day are better than CG. It also reminded me of how rad the monster design was for Goro from the campy Mortal Kombat. Seeing stuff like that done over fifteen years ago makes me wonder why they chose to go fully CG on characters like The Incredible Hulk. Well I guess I am going to have to at least watch Mortal Kombat again! I recommend subscribing to their Youtube channel, there;s some amazing stuff on there!!!
Also any chance I get I love to show this Green Goblin they were working on for the Raimi Spider-man movie. A total shame they didn’t go with it, however my bet is that in the newest reboot of The Amazing Spider-man, The Green Goblin will most likely appear in the third movie-Hollywood don’t blow it get ADI to design his look!!!
The Millenium Bug boasts “No CGI” was used in the making of this monster movie. It’s really is quite clear upon viewing this one that indeed no CGI was anywhere near this one & perhaps that’s what gives this little indie monster film it’s charm. It’s clearly meant to be a throwback to the creature features of yesterday in pretty much every way imaginable. Be fore warned though, don’t take this one too seriously as you’re not likely to get any realism from the plot or the special effects.
It follows a family escaping the city during the Y2K hysteria who get abducted by a family of evil hillbillies. But wait folks, before you pass this off as another Texas Chainsaw rip I might add that a giant monster erupts from the earth and is hellbent on destroying everything in it’s path. This gargantuan monster bug looks like a missing nemesis from an old classic Godzilla flick! The entire movie was filmed on a tiny soundstage so it really has that old school movie vibe going for it. There’s something charming and sweet about movies filmed this way that’s largely missing from movies today. When the monster attacks it destroys tiny small scale model homes, trees and people. The effects are done nicely too, but as I said before this one lacks any grounding in the real world in look and plot. This movie knows exactly what it wants to be: big dumb loud fun by some people who hate modern cg drenched cinema…
I just recently finished wathing the newly released direct to dvd Fangoria Frightfest flick “Pig Hunt”. I must have tried to watch this movie four times before I actually finished it. Not that it was that boring, though maybe it did take a little bit too long to get to the real action, but mainly because I had such a crazy sleep deprived weekend out in Marfa Texas this weekend. Anyway there not too much to say really about Pig Hunt, the newest in the crazed monster wild boar genre, especially when you put it up against it older stepbrother, the amazing Razorback from 1984.
Razorback directed by Russel Mulcahy, who went on later to direct the Highlander films, was a work of art as it followed the story of a crazed Hogzilla in the Australian outback who’s on a killing spree. It’s been most effectively described as Jaws on land. With amazing effects and stunning cinematography this relatively unknown horror flicks remains as one of my fav monster movies of the 80’s. Continue reading
Hey it’s time to look back on all of the horror films i saw in theatres or released on dvd in 2008 and decide which ones were the coolest! Keep in mind i have not yet seen “Let the Right One In” yet or “Splinter” which i hear were pretty rad-so it’s very possible those could enter the top 10. So let’s get down to business!!!
10. The Cottage: This was a surprisingly great horror comedy starring Andy Serkis (LOTR’s Golem). A cool gory fast paced tale of 2 criminals buffoons who kidnap the daughter of an underground kingpin holding her for ransom in a cottage in the farmland. What ensues is a comedic bloodbath when they realize they’re tresspassing on a hulking mutated rednecks land. Fans of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Severance” will be all over this one. A fun gory romp!