The Northwoods of Wisconsin’s 1980s Horror Films & FANGORIA Connection?!
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!
VHS Verdict: 1991’s ‘Children of the Night’ is a Forgotten Horror Gem!
Been on a VHS binge lately watching tons of old forgotten movies, some are of course are steamin’ turds but every now and again you come across something that’s a total delight! I ran across a copy of 1991’s ‘Children of the Night’ and was fairly certain it was again going to be another crapper, however this one proved to be a totally sweet romp of a horror comedy. I’m a giganto fan of 80’s horror and this one while being from 91′ has still got that great old school vibe and charm coming off the tail end of 1980’s. In my opinion a lot of flicks up through 1994 more or less continue to keep that feel in tact. That being said, I had a good feeling about this one when I’d seen that Peter Deluise of ’21 Jump Street” fame was billed as the star, I watched the shit out of that show as a kid in the 80’s and he was one of my favorite characters from the series for sure. Then I noticed Karen Black also starred and then that the director was Tony Randel of ‘Hellraiser 2’ & ‘Ticks’ fame.
Well I’m pleased to say from the start of this one (which I found out later was actually a Fangoria production) it fully delivered the goods and then some in all the ways I’d hoped for. Playing much more like a horror comedy we get a sweet little story of of teenage girl played by Ami Dolenz (also in ‘Ticks’ from 1993) who lives in a small town and accidentally awakens a wicked vampire lord while swimming in an underground pond below a church. Yeah that’s what she and her buddy do for fun…..well schoolteacher played by Peter Deluise later comes to town to see what’s up and ends up in the thick of a vampire attack where he teams up with the teen girl and a local town drunken preacher played by vinatge SNL alumni Garrett Morris. I gotta say when he arrived it was the icing on the damn cake, he’s known also as “Chocolate Chip Charlie” from the horror classic ‘The Stuff’ from 1985 and in this movie he drives around town at night drinkin’ mad amounts of whiskey in a crazy van that’s got a giant glowing cross spear mounted on the front it it to impale vampires with. By that point in the movie I was already in, but this solidified the deal for sure.
At the end of the ‘Children of the Night’ day plays a bit like ‘Evil Dead 2’ none of it can be taken too seriously but it’s not a full on spoof either. There’s a lot of cool FX work going on here as well as cool spooky inventive sets and locations. It’s a neat little horror adventure that’s not afraid to add some heart to it either. A lot like gory teen horror comedy that’d fit quite nicely along with 80’s cult classics like ‘Vamp’, ‘Critters’ or the highly underrated ‘Night Life’ from 1989. There’s also some cool ass action sequences and you also get some Karen Black super weird vampire lung moments to ponder upon! If you’re looking for some super fun lost nostalgia to watch with a gang of movie maniacs ‘Children of the Night’ is a prime choice in my opinion!
‘Mandy’ Movie Review: Nic Cage Battles Crazy Jesus Freaks & Biker Demons!
Wow, my mind has officially been blown by Panos Cosmatos’ second feature film ‘Mandy’! I was lucky enough to catch it this crazy ass flick last Sunday evening at Cinema 21 here in Portland with a rowdy packed theater. I’m damn glad I decided to make a run to the cinema rather than renting this online ‘cuz in my opinion that’s the absolute best way to see this one for the first time. After watching the steaming pile of crap that was ‘The Predator’ at a matinee Friday, a movie like Mandy was a complete and total breath of fresh air. I guess the best thing to say here is this movie may not be for everyone, but if you’re ready to take one of the craziest mind bending cinematic journeys of the last couple decades then you’re gonna fucking love it. Hell even the poster is awesome!
Mandy is a completely insane revenge flick set in the early 80’s and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before. I’m so used to seeing big crappy Hollywood blockbusters in the theater, so this was a bit of of a welcome shock to my noggin. The whole movie plays out like an uncomfortable fever dream, with Nicholas Cage as a logger named “Red” who lives out in the Pacific Northwest with his beautiful but eerily mesmerizing girlfriend Mandy. They live a quiet, serene life in an incredibly strange home in the middle of the woods, with large glass walls that bring to mind elements of a real life fairy tale. Everything’s dark yet overly drenched in vibrant hues of reds, purples & thick lush colors creating a surreal landscape that feels like a dream put right on the screen in front of you. It’s a spectacle to behold and it’s clear from the start that Red & Mandy have been through a lot together, sharing a truly special bond in their secluded life. Mandy works at a nearby convenience store, wears cool heavy metal tees and loses herself in fantasy novels while Red spends his time chopping down trees with his chainsaw. The two of them are pictured intently watching 80’s horror flicks together (NIGHTBEAST!), chatting about what their favorite planets are, showing they’re living a rather sweet, simple and innocent life together at this point.
Well shit majorly hits the fan when a crazy van full of uber religious cult members roll into the area and their leader spots the oddly beautiful Mandy walking on the road one day. The cult leader is seemingly hypnotized by her and quickly declares that he must have her for his own. The first hour of the movie is pretty slow moving but in the best way possible, though we don’t get much backstory, we do get a clear picture of the love Mandy & Red share for each other, which makes what follows all that more intensely heartbreaking. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but let’s just say this cult goes the full distance to send Nicholas Cage into a fully batshit crazy journey that’s part Evil Dead, part Hellraiser and part LSD drenched revenge fantasy. I know people have a sort of ironic love for Nicholas Cage these days but seriously Cage fully shines here in easily one of his best performances of his career. He’s awesome and not in some ridiculous sort of way. The movie goes to some truly bizarre places, the violence plentiful and there are a ton of oddball surprises all along the way.
The movie even has a sense of humor as well, though it feels like an unsettling waking nightmare most of it’s run time, there’s something truly comforting about having Nic Cage there with you as your guide through the mayhem of it all. It gives you a sense of hope that just maybe you’ll make it out of it all alive somehow. There’s also a strong heavy metal vibe to film, not just in it’s imagery but also in the score, which is completely breathtaking in it’s thunderous doom metal delivery through the hellish otherworldly landscapes. The music here is incredible and liley half of the charm of why Mandy works so damn well honestly.
There’s also cool hand drawn animated interludes that bring to mind the 1981 cult classic “Heavy Metal” in the best ways possible. Add in amazing practical fx work, crazy gore, epic weapon crafting, chainsaws, Goblin Mac & Cheese (just wait and see), drugs galore, demonic cenobite like bikers and a sweet ass cameo from Predator’s Bill Duke and you’ve got yourself one truly freaky epic horror masterpiece unlike anything you’ve like ever seen before. I can’t say enuff good things about this movie, it’s still floating around in my head four days after viewing it. I can though easily say that Mandy thus far is my favorite movie of 2018!
Movie Review: ‘The Void’ is a Total 80’s Throwback Nightmare!!
I was lucky enough to be able to check out the latest 1980’s throwback monster movie ‘The Void’ at the Hollywood Theater here in Portland Oregon last night. I’m pretty fucking stoked that I’m so close to one of the coolest theaters in the country that’s constantly giving us here alternatives to the huge Hollywood blockbusters continuously cranked out. If you’re ever in Portland I highly suggest checking out this place as it always has several incredibly unique events and movies happening there. But I digress, The Void was definitely a thrill to see on the big screen!
I’ve been waiting for this one for quite a while and right now it’s showing all across the country at select theaters. If you’re a fan of classic 1980’s horror flicks like ‘The Thing’, ‘Reanimator’ & ‘Hellraiser’ you’re in for quite a treat. ‘The Void’ captures the look and feel of films like these with ease, similarly creating an incredibly unsettling sense of dread throughout. Seeing it at the particular venue I did intensified the experience, along with the fact I smoked some pot (hey it’s legal here now so get off my back!) before and I felt a little bit like I was transported back to simpler times when horror flicks were at the peak of their charm. It’s story is pretty simple at it’s surface, taking place almost entirely inside a lonely hospital during a graveyard shift. We meet a group of people whose quiet night soon becomes a descent into total madness as the hospital becomes surrounded by a weird ass masked cult dressed in white robes with black triangles displayed upon their hoods. Continue reading