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!
The Russo Brothers Next MCU Project: ‘THE GREAT LAKES AVENGERS’?!
I have been pushing here on Universal Dork for quite some time to get an MCU movie or series about the mighty Great Lakes Avengers! It’s bummed me out cuz its seemed that over the years no one gave a damn about my bold ideas for this these “D-List” classic Marvel characters. But maybe just MAYBE, a couple people were indeed listening?!
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Russo Brothers, who crafted some of the best films in the MCU (The Winter Soldier/Infinity War/Endgame), might have just ran across this little p-brain blog, or at the very least, you know what they say, great minds think alike! In case you’ve never heard of the Great Lakes Avengers they first made their appearance in the late 1980s in the West Coast Avengers #46. A unique comedic gang of superheroes from the “cheese state” of Wisconsin. They’ve had some truly ridiculous adventures over the years and have even shared the stage with Deadpool himself. I’ve always maintained that this crew of miscreants would make for a great cinematic comedy especially the their origin story, portrayed in perfection in the Dan Slott series ‘GLA: Misassembled’ from 2005. It’d surely make for a great rough draft for a for a live action series.
They were recently asked about someday returning soon to the MCU and had this to say: The Russo Brothers answered: “Whatever we say, we’re going to get asked about it 100 times over the next week. So let’s pick the Great Lakes Avengers. Or the story of Cheese-Man!”
So a lot of people might think this doesn’t mean a damn thing, mentioning it now, what’s the fuss right? They were just jokin’ around? Well the funny thing is this isn’t the first time they name dropped The GLA, they also brought up the d-list super team in 2018 as well. Check it out.
They clearly know the Great Lakes Avengers would make for one helluva funny and unique comic book streaming series. The time is definitely now to bring this show to life as at the current moment. The Avengers have ceased to exist in MCU in any real capacity, leading the perfect moment for this band of Midwest America’s Misfits to take up the mantle in a hilarious way. I think it would be a riot to see this gang of superheroes in their original costumes too, leave aside all of the fancy kevlar and give them their ridiculous spandex look in real life.
Also of course this is the place to introduce the wildly popular Squirrel Girl! It’s also been speculated that GLA character ‘Mr. Immortal’ may have already made an appearance in the She-Hulk trailer, making thus even MORE of a possibility!
The Russo Bros should make this happen, it’s ripe now to be an easy hit series with a truly bizarre, charming, comedic origin story of Marvel Comic’s ULTIMATE underdogs! Please bring on the weirdest wildest superhero adventure yet, THE GREAT LAKES AVENGERS must ASSEMBLE!! Share this post or idea everywhere!
FROSTBITER: Hyperactive Holiday Horror Viewing Straight Out of the 80s!
Wow!! We’re getting SO close to the big day-yes Christmas 2021 will soon be here, so why not mix it up this year with some weird holiday shit instead of the same old cinema? It can be ruff finding new snow packed holiday flicks each season to rock out to. But I think some of the usual holiday suspects need a break this year. I mean you can only watch ‘John Denver and The Muppets Christmas’ special so many times right? That being said here’s a fave of mine that’s got the chops to get the bloody holiday party started right!!
‘Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo’ is non stop craziness & a ton of fucking fun. This sweet little indie Michigan based snowbound horror flick was filmed way back in 1988 but sat on the cold dusty shelves for nearly a decade. It wasn’t released until 1996 when Troma decided to finally unveil this little gnarly beast out there to the general public. I’m not always the hugest fan of Troma stuff but this one was an independent production first and then only distributed by them later & good on them for doing so. It’s a snowy, low budget, splatter gem in the same arena as ‘Evil Dead 2’ and just as genuinely ambitious.
It also stars Ron Asheton, famed guitar legend of The Stooges, who had a short but sweet run in some pretty excellent little horror movies during this time period like ‘Legion of the Night’ & ‘Mosquito’. Both of those most definitely deserve a watch if you haven’t seen them yet! Frostbiter doesn’t skimp any of it’s excellent cheezball horror fx here either, it has a bunch of ridiculous puppets, bad ass stop motion monsters, gooey slimey gore and buckets of the red stuff.
None of this can be taken too incredibly seriously as the general spirit of the movie is pretty playful and IMO the perfect pick for a group of rowdy drunk holiday party goers. Though not an outright “Christmas” movie it does have some holiday leanings that fit it firmly in the specific genre quite nicely. First it all takes place in the fictional town of Bedford Falls, where ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is set and even features segments of that particular film throughout. Secondly it’s clearly filmed in the frigid cold forests of the midwest and is jam packed with plenty of snow. We get a wild gang of redneck hunters all together in a dusty cold cabin where monsters spawn from pots of chili!
t’s got a pretty cool soundtrack as well that features an exclusive song about said chili! To make matters worse these these moronic hunters thankfully manage to awaken the evil spirit of the famed native american beast of the Wendigo! Yes & for a budget of ten thousand bucks this one is way more slimey fun than It has any right being.
I really did appreciate how much effort was put into this thing with all of the wild and crazy z-grade special fx pulled out of the rickety tool box. Sure it’s clearly a bit of an Evil Dead rip off, with this frantic tale taking place similarly in a snowy cabin in the woods as well. However it’s got enough of its own identity and charm to put itself uniquely into a category of its own.
If anything it’s most definitely worth it for its wild wintery finale when the Wendigo rears its gigantic head in a bonkers stop motion animation showdown. Oh yeah, spike the eggnog hard and roll yourself a nice fat one to pass around cuz this one will deliver the damn goods this Christmas for a ravenous gang of cinemaniacs! The perfect party movie & likely a new holiday season ritual, This movie needs way more attention and most definitely a fancy ass blu ray release!
Comic Cover of the Week: Wisconsin’s Finest AVENGERS!
I’ve been saying it here literally for years, the MCU is missing the boat on one of their most outrageously hilarious superhero teams: The Great Lakes Avengers! Since the Avengers are still all the rage and essentially dismantled at the moment, it’d be the perfect time for the comedic gold of Wisconsin’s very own superhero team to get a series of their own on Disney Plus. The team was created way back in 1989 by none other than comic icon writer and artist John Byrne and their introduction back then meant a lot to me at the time being a Wisconsinite myself. Essentially a band of misfit z-grade superheroes who decide to start an Avengers team of their own to rep the Midwest, only problem is their crime fighting skills aren’t exactly “Avenger’s level”. Nope the team’s got A LOT of work to do-but none of that’s gonna stop em’ from tryin’ dammit!
Even at one point Hawkeye and Mockingbird attempt to train them, which of course proves to be quite challenging in itself. The team went on to later appear alongside Deadpool and also had a great 4-issue miniseries by Dan Slott that’s a must read. They more recently tried to give them their own monthly book, but it really lost the dark comedy angle and edge of their previous appearances and was cancelled. This great cover by John Byrne shows once again how effective simplicity can be as we got our very first look at the mighty Great Lakes Avengers!~
It’s The Perfect Time for ‘The Great Lakes AVENGERS’ to Enter the MCU!
True Believers, it’s never been a more perfect time for the ‘Great Lakes Avengers’ to make their grand entrance into the MCU! Ok, I know many of you casual Marvel movie fanatics out there are likely wondering just who and what the hell I’m talking about, but the “GLA” as they’re also referred to have been around since the late 80’s and have on a couple occasions attempted to actually replace The Avengers, most notably when they tragically disassembled in 2004 in the comics. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin based team are most well known as the ultimate gang of blundering misfit superheroes and when the Avengers disbanded they figured they’d simply take the mantle of the team for themselves to reap all the glory for themselves. Of course they quickly found out they weren’t quite qualified when it came down to taking out major threats to the planet. So why introduce these guys now into the MCU huh?
Well at the current moment in the movies The Avengers aren’t really a thing anymore, at least for the moment. With Cap old & retired and Tony Stark dead, it’d be the perfect time to check out the origin story and rise of ‘The Great Lakes Avengers’. In fact with the ‘Disney+’ streaming service there’s the platform needed to tell their ridiculously madcap story. Since 1989 when writer/artist John Byrne introduced the underdog team to the Marvel Universe (West Coast Avengers #46), I’ve been a big fan. In fact I listed them before as one of the obscure Marvel teams I thought would make a great movie or better yet today a comedic Disney+ series after the success of the D-listers The Guardians of the Galaxy. To me the team has so much more potential than GOG, with their origin story alone being a helluva good adventure, if even at times more of a dark comedy.
The name of the team alone would spark immediate interest and originally back in the comic books they’d even been coached by Hawkeye and Mockingbird who desperately tried to whip them into shape. You could even have Jeremy Renner make a cameo in an episode as Hawkeye to do just that. Considering the team’s ranks were filled from a classified ad in the newspaper would open the door to so many great comedic scenarios as well.
Then there’s the team themselves, which consists of Mr. Immortal, a mutant with a super-superhuman healing factor and the ability to survive the most gruesome deaths, Bertha who’s the most popular fashion icon in Milwaukee WI who has the ability to bulk up like the Blob, Dinah-soar the flying female reptilian, Doorman a mutant who can create doorways using alternate universes to pass through solid objects and finally Flatman, the team’s current leader & openly gay two dimensional version of Reed Richards. But wait the team was also home to the now iconic Squirrel Girl and this would be the perfect place for her to make her official MCU debut!
This team and their story would make for the perfect superhero series, there’s so many interesting angles to explore. From forming the team, to training to be the new “Avengers”, to their many failed missions and their attempt to square off against a real superhuman threat. There’s something truly charming about exploring an underdog group of down on their luck superhuman characters. The comedy practically writes itself and they’d be a surefire win in a series of their own as there’s nothing quite like them out there yet. So what do you think? Do you think now’s the time for this weird-o gang of midwest superheroes to enter into the fold?! If I’ve peaked your interest a good launch point of the team is the six issue mini series from Dan Slott from 2005 called “GLA: Misassembled”, I think that would be a perfect blueprint for a Disney+ series….