From the Vault Replay! A Very Special Christmas Eve by A.D. Vick

Originally posted on HorrorAddicts.net December, 2015

Johnny and his little sister Stacy went to bed earlier than usual that night, but they didn’t mind. It was Christmas Eve after all, and what child isn’t willing to sacrifice a bit of play time when he or she knows that turning in early might just hasten the arrival of Saint Nick? The last thing they did before retiring to their rooms was to watch their mom place a cup of hot tea and a small plate of chocolate cookies on the counter for Santa. “The jolly old elf travels all over the world through the cold and snow every Christmas Eve to deliver toys to good little girls and boys,” she would often tell them. Both children took her at her word because…well, didn’t they receive the toys they asked for the last couple of years?

During the year Mom would often warn her children that Santa only brought presents to youngsters who behaved. Stacy generally tried her best to do what was right, never forgetting her mother’s warning. She felt confident that, after having asked Santa for some new dolls, that he would deliver the goods as he always had. The one thing she couldn’t understand though is why her marionettes would disappear during the weeks and months that followed Christmas. She knew that she loved them and took good care of them; yet, they would sometimes simply vanish from her room. Whenever she complained about these events to her parents, they generally brushed off her concerns dismissively, telling her that she simply needed to stop leaving her things outside where other kids or the neighborhood dogs could run off with them.

krampus2

Johnny, being a couple of years older than his sister, really didn’t buy into his mother’s warnings that Santa only brought toys to children who behaved. Johnny had a secret. He knew what was happening to Stacy’s dolls because he would sometimes sneak into her room while she was out in the yard playing with her girlfriends. He would then take them out to the nearby creek; and after pretending to drown them, would gouge their eyes out with his pocket knife before cutting off their heads and tossing them into a nearby trash can. Upon his return home from these occasional escapades, he delighted in hearing his parents chastise his teary-eyed sister for once again neglecting to take care of her things.

The boy had a mean streak when it came to girls and his sweet sister Stacy was not exempt from his hurtful machinations. Still, he felt confidant that Santa would once again bring him toys this Christmas Eve.

Stacy climbed under the covers of her comfortable bed; and with visions of sugar plums and new dollies dancing in her head, she fell into a peaceful slumber. Johnny on the other hand, decided to remain awake. He would listen until he could be sure that his parents had gone to bed. Then, he’d lie in wait for Santa, determined to catch a glimpse of him.

Within an hour the sounds from the TV ceased and Johnny heard, amid his parent’s playful banter, the door to their bedroom close shut. He quietly climbed out of bed and gazed out the window, searching for any signs of Santa’s sleigh or his reindeer. The snow, still falling on a gentle breeze, made the neighbor’s colorful light display across the street seem all the more authentic. It’s really Christmas, he thought to himself. Santa should be here with my presents any time now! 

His thoughts were distracted by a sudden pitter-patter on the roof followed by the sound of footsteps. Johnny could barely contain his excitement as he stole quietly toward the living room, which contained both the family tree and the fireplace. That’s where he knew he would find Santa. Reaching the end of the hallway, he poked his head around the corner for a first peak.

Krampus1

Without warning, a dark, hairy, claw-like hand grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him around the corner in one fluid motion. The boy gasped, but before he could even utter a sound one of the hands covered his mouth, making any cries for help impossible. Johnny struggled, but it was to no avail. Still, he couldn’t see just who or what was holding him fast.

He heard a hissing sound just before his captor spun him around without removing the hand from his mouth. His blood ran cold as he gazed at the creature holding him in place. No, this wasn’t Santa Claus, whom he’d been hoping to spy upon just moments before. Instead, he found himself staring into the face of a most hideous thing. The creature before him was tall and furry with a long snake-like tongue dangling from its mouth. Its ears were large and pointed; two curved horns grew out of its head. Attached to the body’s backside was a long, pointed tail. Overall, the monster’s body appeared somewhat man-like, but Johnny knew this was no man. The creature holding him seemed more like the Devil than any man he’d ever seen.

Pure terror gripped at him as the creature opened the top of a large wooden basket before placing Johnny inside and once again closing the lid. The boy screamed at the top of his lungs, calling to his parents for help– calling to Santa, but it seemed that no one could hear his anguished cries.

His abductor strapped the basket to his shoulders before ascending the chimney to the roof where a sled awaited him. He gave a push with his left foot and the sled lifted off on the snow-laden breeze toward a destination only known to him.

Some hours later, the mysterious being approached a shadowy, misty castle that stood upon a mountaintop populated by twisted, deformed trees. The large door at its entrance creaked open at his approach and closed shut again once he was safely inside. After disembarking from the sled, the creature removed the basket from his shoulders and opened the lid, allowing Johnny to climb out.

The boy’s eyes opened wide in disbelief as he looked around the large, gloomy, torch-lit hall. He could hear the cries of other children, both male and female. Their moans seemed pained and anguished.

“Where have you taken me?” Johnny asked, crying. “I want to go home.”

“Home, so you can steal your sister’s dolls?” The creature asked. “Home, where you delight in her pain and her tears? I think not. This is your home now, and as you can hear, there are lots of other children here to play with. We’re going to have lots of fun watching you learn what meanness really is.”

The frightening being’s tongue dripped saliva as he hissed once again while continuing to look down at the terrified boy.

“Merry Christmas, Johnny! Welcome to your new home: The Castle of Gruss Vom Krampus!”

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On the Passing of Larry Drake

On February 21, 1949 Larry Richard Drake entered our world through the portal city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Born of a drafting engineer and a homemaker, he graduated from Tulsa Edison High School and the University of Oklahoma before moving on to an acting career.

Drake, who is best known for portraying Benny Stulwicz in the former TV series L.A. Law, began his acting career by playing small parts in films during the early 1970s and made his first television appearance in 1983 in a series called The Skin of our Teeth, which featured on PBS’ American Playhouse.

Although the actor is also recognized for playing the part of the villain Robert G. Durant in the 1990 action film Darkman  and its sequels, he played in various horror films, which include the memorable 1981 made for TV film Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Dr. Giggles  (1992), and Dead Air (2009). Drake also appeared regularly in ABC’s 1998 sci-fi series Prey, where he portrayed Dr. Walter Atwood.  Other notable film appearances include roles in Batman Beyond: The Movie, American Pie 2, Green Lantern: First flight, and of course, L.A. Law: The Movie. Over the course of his career, Larry Drake appeared in some 46 films and had involvement in 29 TV productions.

During the 2000s Drake landed a series of voice roles for animated TV series. He also provided voice work for the character Kazdan Paratus in the  2008 video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

Over the course of his acting career, Larry Drake won two Primetime Emmy Awards for his role in L.A. Law, which he received in 1988 and 1989. He was also nominated for the same in 1990.

According to a recent USA Today article, Mr. Drake enjoyed teaching improvisational technique in acting, which he began at the Stephen Book Acting Workshop in 2006.

After such a distinguished career, Larry R. Drake was found dead by a friend at his Hollywood home on March 17, 2016. At the time of this writing no cause of death has been released. It has been reported however, that Drake was struggling with health issues due to obesity. He was 67 years of age at his passing.
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Photo by Renaissance Pictures – © 1990

 

The Life of Angus Scrimm

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As a child, one of the more striking things about an initial visit to a funeral home might be seeing a mortician or undertaker for the very first time. Often, these take the shape of white-haired, older gentlemen who maintain a somber but otherwise expressionless demeanor throughout the funeral proceedings. Their age and seeming lack of emotion coupled with the fact that they watch over dead people can be unnerving things for a youngster to consider. What if a certain child were confronted with the fact that a very imposing mortician he knows of is in possession of super-human abilities and has a penchant for both killing people and turning the dead into miniature zombies? That’s what occurs in the 1979 film entitled, Phantasm. In that production the part of the mortician, otherwise known as the Tall Man, is expertly played by Angus Scrimm, who passed away on January 9 at the age of 89.

Scrimm, whose real name was Lawrence Rory Guy, came into this world on August 19, 1926. During the early days of his working career, he functioned as a journalist, writing and editing for TV Guide, Cinema Magazine and various other publications. He also wrote sleeve notes for Capital Records. His work appeared inside albums recorded by The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and other notable performers. Still, Lawrence Rory Guy’s primary interest resided in the pursuit of an acting career.

He got his break in the early 70s when he appeared in the films Sweet Kill and Scream Bloody Murder, both of which were released in 1973. His role as an alcoholic, abusive father in the film Jim The World’s Greatest however, is the part that opened the door to his future success. His involvement with this production brought him into contact with producer, director and screen writer Don Coscareli, who went on to create, produce and direct Phantasm a couple of years later.

Once Lawrence Rory Guy had been given the role of the Tall Man in Phantasm, he invented the stage name that his fans came to know him by; Angus Scrimm. The actor had a natural height of 6 feet 4 inches, which made him an imposing figure in real life, but when the production crew dressed him in platform shoes and clothing, his new persona became a frightening figure indeed.

Although Scrimm appeared in some 24 films, many of them unrelated to Phantasm, it was his superb acting in the roll of the undead Tall Man in the Phantasm series that made him a true horror icon. The sequels, Phantasm ll Phantasm lll and Phantasm IV, were released between 1988 and 1998.

Other notable productions he appeared in include The Lost Empire, Transylvania Twist, and the 2008 production, I Sell the Dead. It is note worthy that Scrimm played the Tall Man in all of the Phantasm sequels as well as in Transylvania Twist. For his many contributions to the world of horror, Angus Scrimm was inducted into the Fangoria Hall of Fame in 1994.

But fear not, horror fans, for although this last of the classic horror icons departed this world just days ago, he’s not done with us just yet. A fifth sequel, Phantasm V: Ravager is scheduled for release this year. Once again, this master of horror will thrill us as he takes on the role of that undead mortician known as the Tall Man.

In closing then, this writer asks the question, what else can be said of an actor who has left us with such an amazing legacy? How about this? “You played a good game, BOY!”

 

Movie Review: The Phantom Carriage

MoviePosterPCby A.D. Vick

Three or four months ago, I had just discovered the Russian funeral-doom band known as Ankhagram. As is customary at such times, I listened to a selection of the group’s musical offerings on YouTube. At some point I chose a video entitled Song to Say Goodbye. As the mournful music began, a scene from what could only have been a silent film appeared on my computer screen.

A man sits at his desk smoking a cigarette pensively. Without warning, he opens a desk draw and removes a pistol. The scene changes and a ghostly figure wearing a hood and long robe appears. The figure walks through the solid doors and gazes upon the lifeless body of the suicide victim lying on the floor. The sorrowful figure lifts the dead man’s spirit out of his body and carries it outside, where he places it in the back of a phantasmal carriage led by a horse. Thus began my interest in a 1921 Swedish film called The Phantom Carriage.

The production, which both starred and was directed by Victor Sjostrom, opens with Syster Edit (Astrid Holm), a Salvation Army worker, lying in her death bed. She makes one final request of her friend and co-worker, Syster Maria (Lisa Lundholm), asking that she attempt to find a certain David Holm (Victor Sjostrom) and bring him to her one last time.

Meanwhile, Mr. Holm is sitting in the darkness of a nearby cemetery getting drunk with a couple of friends. It’s New Year’s Eve and as the midnight hour approaches, Holm decides to tell his companions a ghost story about a former friend named Georges, who had imparted some valuable information one New Year’s Eve.

On that night Georges had told his companions that whoever dies on New Year’s Eve must drive the cart of death, a task for which the driver would be greeted only by sorrow and despair. “The last soul to die each year,” Georges had told him, “the one to give up the ghost, at the stroke of midnight, is destined to be death’s driver during the coming year.” Georges himself, Holm added, had passed from this world on the previous New Year’s Eve.

As Holm finishes his story, Gustafsson, another associate of Syster Edit, discovers him in the cemetery. The drunk man refuses to accompany Gustafsson back to Syster Edit’s death bed and the gentleman has no choice but to leave without him. Holm’s companions however, attempt to convince him that he must go to honor the dying lady. Holm’s reluctance continues and a fight ensues. The struggle ends when one of the men strikes a blow to the defiant man’s head with a bottle. Holm falls to the ground—his body limp. The men gaze upward to see that the hands a nearby clock have just arrived at 12:00 midnight. Horrified, the two scatter. Shortly after, the ghost of David Holm rises from his limp body only to confront the death cart and it’s driver, his old friend Georges.

The Phantom Carriage is a film about selfishness and redemption. Through the use of flashback, a narrative style almost unused at the time, David Holm is revealed as a man of vile character, a rude drunkard who has exposed the kindhearted Syster Edit as well as his own wife to the ravages of consumption (tuberculosis) without a care. In a style somewhat reminiscent of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Georges attempts to show Holm, who must now relieve him as the driver of the carriage, the error of his ways. When the ghostly drunkard sees his distraught wife, Anna, preparing to take her own life as well as those of their children, he pleads with Georges to intervene. The death cart driver sadly informs him that he has no power over the living.

The Phantom Carriage, which was based on a novel entitled Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness by the Nobel Prize winning author Selma Lagerlof, is regarded as a vital piece of the Swedish film legacy. The production is highly regarded for its special effects and its unique style of narration. It is also an early example in the evolution of horror films.

For those who would like to watch the movie, it’s available on YouTube, as is an official trailer. That said, the Ankhagram video that first attracted this reviewer to the film serves as an excellent trailer in and of itself. And, if you enjoy doom metal, you’ll be in for a real treat.

Free Fiction Friday: A Very Special Christmas Eve by A.D. Vick

krampus2

Johnny and his little sister Stacy went to bed earlier than usual that night, but they didn’t mind. It was Christmas Eve after all, and what child isn’t willing to sacrifice a bit of play time when he or she knows that turning in early might just hasten the arrival of Saint Nick? The last thing they did before retiring to their rooms was to watch their mom place a cup of hot tea and a small plate of chocolate cookies on the counter for Santa. “The jolly old elf travels all over the world through the cold and snow every Christmas Eve to deliver toys to good little girls and boys,” she would often tell them. Both children took her at her word because…well, didn’t they receive the toys they asked for the last couple of years?

During the year Mom would often warn her children that Santa only brought presents to youngsters who behaved. Stacy generally tried her best to do what was right, never forgetting her mother’s warning. She felt confidant that, after having asked Santa for some new dolls, that he would deliver the goods as he always had. The one thing she couldn’t understand though, is why her marionettes would disappear during the weeks and months that followed Christmas. She knew that she loved them and took good care of them; yet, they would sometimes simply vanish from her room. Whenever she complained about these events to her parents, they generally brushed off her concerns dismissively, telling her that she simply needed to stop leaving her things outside where other kids or the neighborhood dogs could run off with them.

Johnny, being a couple of years older than his sister, really didn’t buy into his mother’s warnings that Santa only brought toys to children who behaved. Johnny had a secret. He knew what was happening to Stacy’s dolls because he would sometimes sneak into her room while she was out in the yard playing with her girlfriends. He would then take them out to the nearby creek; and after pretending to drown them, would gouge their eyes out with his pocket knife before cutting off their heads and tossing them into a nearby trash can. Upon his return home from these occasional escapades, he delighted in hearing his parents chastise his teary-eyed sister for once again neglecting to take care of her things.

The boy had a mean streak when it came to girls and his sweet sister Stacy was not exempt from his hurtful machinations. Still, he felt confidant that Santa would once again bring him toys this Christmas Eve.

Stacy climbed under the covers of her comfortable bed; and with visions of sugar plums and new dollies dancing in her head, she fell into a peaceful slumber. Johnny on the other hand, decided to remain awake. He would listen until he could be sure that his parents had gone to bed. Then, he’d lie in wait for Santa, determined to catch a glimpse of him.

Within an hour the sounds from the TV ceased and Johnny heard, amid his parent’s playful banter, the door to their bedroom close shut. He quietly climbed out of bed and gazed out the window, searching for any signs of Santa’s sleigh or his reindeer. The snow, still falling on a gentle breeze, made the neighbor’s colorful light display across the street seem all the more authentic. It’s really Christmas, he thought to himself. Santa should be here with my presents any time now! 

His thoughts were distracted by a sudden pitter patter on the roof followed by the sound of footsteps. Johnny could barely contain his excitement as he stole quietly toward the living room, which contained both the family tree and the fireplace. That’s where he knew he would find Santa. Reaching the end of the hallway, he poked his head around the corner for a first peak.

Krampus1

Without warning, a dark, hairy, claw-like hand  grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him around the corner in one fluid motion. The boy gasped, but before he could even utter a sound one of the hands covered his mouth, making any cries for help impossible. Johnny struggled, but it was to no avail. Still, he couldn’t see just who or what was holding him fast.

He heard a hissing sound just before his captor spun him around without removing the hand from his mouth. His blood ran cold as he gazed at the creature holding him in place. No, this wasn’t Santa Claus, whom he’d been hoping to spy upon just moments before. Instead, he found himself staring into the face of a most hideous thing. The creature before him was tall and furry with a long snake-like tongue dangling from its mouth. Its ears were large and pointed; two curved horns grew out of its head. Attached to the body’s backside was a long, pointed tail. Overall, the monster’s body appeared somewhat man-like, but Johnny knew this was no man. The creature holding him seemed more like the Devil than any man he’d ever seen.

Pure terror gripped at him as the creature opened the top of a large wooden basket before placing Johnny inside and once again closing the lid. The boy screamed at the top of his lungs, calling to his parents for help– calling to Santa, but it seemed that no one could hear his anguished cries.

His abductor strapped the basket to his shoulders before ascending the chimney to the roof where a sled awaited him. He gave a push with his left foot and the sled lifted off on the snow-laden breeze toward a destination only known to him.

Some hours later, the mysterious being approached a shadowy, misty castle that stood upon a mountain top populated by twisted, deformed trees. The large door at its entrance creaked open at his approach and closed shut again once he was safely inside. After disembarking from the sled, the creature removed the basket from his shoulders and opened the lid, allowing Johnny to climb out.

The boy’s eyes opened wide in disbelief as he looked around the large, gloomy, torch-lit hall. He could hear the cries of other children, both male and female. Their moans seemed pained and anguished.

“Where have you taken me?” Johnny asked, crying. “I want to go home.”

“Home, so you can steal your sister’s dolls?” The creature asked. “Home, where you delight in her pain and her tears? I think not. This is your home now, and as you can hear, there are lots of other children here to play with. We’re going to have lots of fun watching you learn what meanness really is.”

The frightening being’s tongue dripped saliva as he hissed once again while continuing to look down at the terrified boy.

“Merry Christmas, Johnny! Welcome to your new home: The Castle of Gruss Vom Krampus!”

A Tribute to Gunnar Hansen: The Original Leatherface

Leatherface

Gunnar Hansen never planned on becoming an actor, but circumstance sometimes has a way of putting a person where he or she needs to be in spite of themselves. Such was the case with Mr. Hansen.

He was born in Reykjavik, Iceland on March 4, 1947. After spending his first five years there, his parents moved to the United States, first settling in Maine but later moving to San Antonio, Texas. His time in San Antonio was brief however, as his parents soon decided upon taking up residence in Austin, where young Gunnar eventually attended the University of Texas where he got degrees in both English and mathematics before moving on to graduate school where he first focused on majoring in English. Still, his studies didn’t e prevent him from participating in some student film-making projects.

During the summer of 1973, just after leaving graduate school, he learned that some local film makers working on a horror movie were still searching for someone to play the killer. In his own words Hansen describes what happened next:

“I had been in some plays in college, so I tried out and got the part, figuring it would be a much better summer job than tending bar or pounding nails. And, I figured, it would be something fun to have once done. I never thought the movie would amount to anything more than one more nasty little horror pic. Well, I was wrong.”

,The film he speaks of here came to be known as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the very first slasher films. By playing the part of the chainsaw swinging psychopath, now known as Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen earned himself a special place in the history of classic horror.

After the box office success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Gunnar was offered a part in Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, but he turned down the role and instead, went back to graduate school. In 1975 he returned to Maine where he took up residence in a village on a small island off the coast. It was here that he focused on his true passion, writing.

For years Hansen wrote and edited for various magazines before moving into the realm of film and book writing. In 2013 he penned and published a book entitled, Chainsaw Confidential, which describes how the film he is most linked to was made.

Although acting was never his main interest, Gunnar made appearances in over 25 films, including The Demon Lover in 1977 and Swarm of the Snakehead, a horror/comedy in 2006.

Gunnar Hansen died on November 7 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 68. In spite of his many accomplishments, he will always be best known for his ground-breaking role as the chainsaw wielding Leatherface in the original version one of the greatest horror films of all time, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Thanks for taking the job, Gunnar!

Gunnar Hansen

A Few Thoughts on the Passing of Wes Craven

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On the morning of Sunday, August 30, 2015 the day dawned magnificently. With that evening’s approach, an uncanny shadow began to cast a dismal hue across the landscape, projecting a bleakness that the next morning’s rising sun would not soon obliterate. How could it? For word had been sent forth that the world had just lost one of the true masters of the macabre with the passing of Wesley Earl Craven after his battle with cancer. He was 76 years old when he departed from this earthly life at his Los Angeles home, leaving behind a wife, two children and a legacy of creative genius.

Wes, as he was commonly called, is best known for directing and/or producing the films, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), during which he introduced us to the deformed abomination known as Freddy Krueger, and the 1996 slasher film, Scream, which was followed by three successful sequels.

Mr. Craven was born near Cleveland, Ohio on August 2, 1939. Although he was brought up in a strict Baptist family, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree in English and Psychology at Wheaton College in Illinois as well as a master’s in both writing and philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. For a short time he served as a humanities professor at Clarkson College of Technology in Potsdam, New York and taught English at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

Unknown to many of his fans, Mr. Craven’s initial experience with the cinema began as a writer, editor and director in the adult film industry, during which time he worked under a pseudonym. His first real break however, came in 1971 when he teamed up with Sean S. Cunningham to produce a successful film entitled Together. The following year, he rejoined Cunningham to create his first horror movie, serving as both writer and director of The Last House on the Left.

Over the course of his career, Wesley played a major part in the creation of over 60 productions, including several TV miniseries. The official website of Wes Craven describes his style this way:

…Wes Craven has become synonymous with genre bending and innovative horror, challenging audiences with his bold visions since the release of his first feature film…Craven has demonstrated that he is a filmmaker with heart, guts, humor – and an unbridled imagination expanding into films, television and literature.”

It would be difficult to disagree with the above assessment. After all, not only was Freddy Krueger a concept borne of Mr. Craven’s vivid imagination, but so were the cannibalistic children featured in the 1991 film, The People Under the Stairs. Further, he had a keen eye for talent and is credited with giving Johnny Depp his first role in a major film when he featured him in A Nightmare on Main Street.

In 1999 he directed a non horror production entitled Music of the Heart for Miramax. The film, an inspirational piece about a school teacher in Harlem, earned Meryl Streep an Academy Award nomination for best actress.

In addition to his important role in the film industry, Craven authored two books, which include Fountain Society, published by Thorndike Press and a five-issue comic book series entitled, The Coming of Rage, which word has it, is still scheduled to become a film production.

During the course of his career Wes Craven has received several awards for his work, including the Critic’s Award at the Sitges Film Festival for his film, The Hills Have Eyes and the Gérardmer Film Festival’s Grand Prize in 1997 for Scream. In 2012 the New York City Horror Film Festival granted him its Lifetime Achievement Award.

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In addition to his cinematic and literary interests and ambitions, Craven was a nature lover intricately involved with bird preservation.

It is always difficult for those of us left behind when a person of Wes Craven’s stature passes from the scene. Yet, those of us who have loved his work can take comfort in knowing that as long as his masterpieces of horror–those tangible pieces of his vivid imagination remain, he will never truly leave us.

Oh and Wes, thanks for the nightmares!