Kbatz is Going to NJ Horror Con!

 

Yes it’s true! Your Friendly Neighborhood Kbatz is going to the New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival March 29-31. 

 

All local macabre folk are invited to join us and book your tickets at Newjerseyhorrorcon.com!

However, if you are one of our far away Horror Addicts, you can still take part in all the con shenanigans in several ways:

Chat long form about the NJ Horror Con with us on our HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference Thread or follow along in our Horror Addicts Facebook Group. Remember to bookmark NJ Horror Con on Facebook too for instant photos and celeb announcements!

During Con weekend, look for raw videos on my Kbatz youtube and check in on our HorrorAddicts.net blog for photos and post write ups. We can talk about all our NJ Horror Con treats come Podcast Season, too!

See you soon!

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MOVIE NEWS: The Unseen

MOVIE NEWS

La Vergne, Tennessee – The Unseen is an upcoming invisible man film from director Geoff Redknap (Cabin in the Woods). This title had its World Premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, this past Summer. Now, The Unseen is set to show on DVD and Digital, through United States’ film distributor Monarch Home Entertainment.

The Unseen stars Aden Young (“Rectify,” 2013) as Bob Langmore. He has a strange condition, in which his body is slowly disappearing. Dissolving away, Bob reaches out to his family with time running out. However, his former wife, Darlene (Camille Sullivan) tells him that Eva (Julia Sarah Stone) is missing, leading to Bob’s desperate search for a reunion.

Monarch Home Entertainment will begin the film’s launch later this month. On February 26th, The Unseen will be available in the U.S., on DVD; this release has not been rated. The Unseen will also be available in a widescreen format, for film fans. And, director Redknap says that his influences include H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man: “I did take some ideas from….H.G. Wells’…work” and some of those influences can be seen in the film’s official release trailer, found here.

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Haunted Palace

The Haunted Palace is a Creepy Little Treat.

By Kristin Battestella

In all my Vincent Price, Roger Corman, AIP, and Poe celebrations, it’s been quite tough to find The Haunted Palace again.  Though this 1963 tale borrows much more from Lovecraft than it does Poe, all the creepy, freaky moods and twists are here in fine form.

In the 18th century, Arkham townsfolk burn the warlock Joseph Curwen (Price) for using the Necronomicon and local women in sadistic experiments- but Curwen vows to return and curses the village descendants. 100 years later, Charles Dexter Ward (also Price) and his wife Anne (Debra Paget) inherit Curwen’s mansion and return to the New England ruin. Dr. Willet (Frank Maxwell) informs the couple of the town’s twisted history, but the rest of the villagers fear Ward as local strange occurrences and bizarre deaths increase.  They use their deformed children to frighten Anne, and she begins to suspect the spirit of Curwen is indeed trying to take over her husband.  Unfortunately, their caretaker Simon (Lon Chaney, Jr.) knows more than he’s saying…

Writer Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone, Premature Burial, The Masque of the Red Death) teams with director Roger Corman (House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum) for this Lovecraftian adaptation that got unfortunately shoehorned into American International Picture’s Edgar Allan Poe cycle. Yes, it’s based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward more than any reaching at Poe titles or poetry- which might automatically put off the Poe faithful or the Lovecraft purists alike. However, the spooky moods and sinister atmosphere are here from the onset, with great traditional jumpy moments and heck, it’s actually scary in some scenes.  Even if you expect the smoke and mirror twists, it’s still dang suspenseful as the sinister past increasingly takes hold.  Indeed, the Necronomicon back story and Cthulhu allusions could be better explained, and the revenge plotlines are similar to later films like The Abominable Dr. Phibes.  There’s reused fire filmmaking for the finale and the end is somewhat abrupt, too, but overall, this is an entertaining and scary little picture.

Naturally, the resemblance between Curwen and Ward is uncanny! Our Man Vincent differentiates the two men nicely to start, allowing a slow possession to brew. The naughty implications, man handlings, and great outbursts build perfectly as the Victorian gentleman Ward becomes increasing overtaken with the ruthless warlock Curwen.  The tender scenes and inner torment as Ward realizes the takeover is happening are well done, too.  Again, I don’t see any over the top acting. Price’s subtle inner conflict and physical alterations are quite the opposite in fact. The pacing on the possession is good, but I do wish the film were a bit longer, as Debra Paget (The Ten Commandments with Price) as Ward’s wife Anne does become a bit typical. She’s active, suspects, and doesn’t scream too much, but it just seems like they ran out of time in developing her suspicions on Curwen overtaking her husband. Of course, Paget looks wonderful- and looks good scared, that’s not always an easy thing to master.  The Wards also sleep in the same bed, whoa! Anne ends up the good little woman, but their tender relationship and its explosive breakdown are well done, and it adds an extra personal dimension to the twistedness at hand.

Instead of the usual stock company throwaways, the supporting village men in The Haunted Palace lift up the horror here. Lon Chaney, Jr. (The Wolf Man) is perfection as the creepy and most definitely not so innocent caretaker Simon.  Of course, he knows more about Curwen than he lets on to the Wards, and his scary introduction is great. Frank Maxwell (Our Man Higgins) does fine work as the would be voice of reason among the otherwise superstitious townsfolk, but again, I wish there were more of his Dr. Willet and town scaredy cat Elisha Cook Jr. (The Maltese Falcon, House on Haunted Hill). Leo Gordon (McLintock!) is also a lot of fun, as are the weird, deformed, and disturbed village descendants. Oh, girls with no eyes or freaky eyeless men and worse shouldn’t be so scary, but when used in full force here, it’s downright frightening.

Although the Cthulhu- like tentacles and dungeon scenery leave something to be desired, the other period styles and designs establish The Haunted Palace wonderfully. The spider web motifs over the credits will be dang freaky for arachnophobes, and the opening colonial mayhem looks on form. The fog and lightning create all the atmosphere needed, and eerie music tops off the titular mansion’s décor, red candles, and sweet candelabras.  Those dungeons, however, are a little too dark to see- even when its daylight. Of course, the video is due some restoration, and the matte paintings supposedly providing scope are fairly poor, but that is to be expected.  Thankfully, the Victorian standards, ornate frocks, and wispy nightgowns more than make up the difference.

Unfortunately, The Haunted Palace is dang tough to find. Netflix is mum and its double bill DVD release with Tower of London is downright elusive. For Price Fans, Corman completists, and old school horror fans, however, The Haunted Palace is well worth the hunt.  Catch it whenever you can or delight again on a spooky late night whenever you need that hint of Lovecraft. Or Poe for that matter, hehe.

Movie Review: Pooka! On Hulu

Review: Pooka! On Hulu

Reviewed by Sumiko Saulson

Stars: 4 of 5

Pooka is a strangely haunting Christmas horror tale about an out of work actor, Wilson Clowes portrayed by Nyasha Hatendi.  Hatendi is an African American actor born in the USA but raised in Zimbabwe, the USA and the UK who is fluent in three languages – English, French, and Shona. He gives a nuanced performance as mentally troubled and alcoholic washed-up actor Wilson Clowes.

Wilson is very much down on his luck when he gets the offer of a lifetime – a job voicing the adorable dark-furred, giant-eyed new holiday sensation Pooka! A child’s stuffed animal that speaks and movies like a Furbie or Teddy Ruxpin, the gimmicky holiday toy speaks in either a naughty or a nice voice, telling the child sweet or entirely wicked things. It seems to be a reference to Santa’s naughty or nice list, but pooka is an alternate spelling for púca, a type of Celtic woodland fey creature.

Although the film never explicitly says that Pooka is the creature from Irish lore, it looks and acts like the creature and bears its name. Púca are spirits that can be either beneficial or harmful to humans they encounter, they are like gremlins – full of mischief – but are also known to help farmers by assisting with chores. They have the power of human speech, and can take on human form, imitating them as changelings.

The toy manufacturer encourages Wilson to really get into character and put his all into Pooka. He dresses in a giant Pooka costume and acts in commercials in addition to voicing the toy, and he eventually becomes complete obsessed with the thing and the costume. It initially seems that he is having some sort of nervous breakdown, but as the toy skyrockets to fame and becomes the seasonal “it” thing, it becomes increasingly obvious that something dark and very supernatural is going on.

Then, Wilson meets a girl. Melanie Burns (Latarsha Rose) and her son Ty (Jonny Berryman) meet Wilson in a Christmas tree lot in one of those made-for-television magic moments seen in Lifetime movies and Tyler Perry films about black family love. The scene is so evocative of those types of films that one momentarily forgets this is a horror film and is drawn into the melodrama revolving around Melanie, Wilson, and Ky. Melanie, a spiffy black businesswoman, is a real estate agent and a single mother who has left Ky’s abusive father. Will she fall in love with the hard-luck case in spite of his relative poverty? Will he be the perfect stepfather for Ky? Will true love conquer all?

Then you remember, no. Of course, it won’t. This is a horror movie. And that’s about when Wilson starts to hallucinate all the time, rant and rave, and completely fall apart. The more Wilson declines, the more Pooka rises, so that the actor’s career is on an upswing as he enters his nervous breakdown.

Since the costume and Wilson act and interact separately and together, it is not clear at times whether the evil emanates from the creature or the actor.  The actor is contractually forbidden from letting anyone know that he is the one and only Pooka, and he lives with the costume, acting increasingly psychotic and dangerous.

A series of violent episodes occur between Pooka and Wilson’s roommate, a stranger in a bar, and finally involving a woman he has begun dating named Melanie and her child Ky. Ky loves Pooka and Wilson at first – but then Wilson begins acting more and more like Ky’s abusive and absent father, a man Melanie broke up with for being abusive.

Then, a malfunction makes the creature act bizarre, saying the line “look at all the pretty lights” repeatedly for no reason. Is Wilson making Pooka malfunction, or is it Pooka making Wilson malfunction? That is a question that isn’t answered until the end of the movie, when the meaning of the phrase “look at all the pretty lights” is revealed. But when the toy is taken off the market, Wilson plummets further and further into madness and becomes increasingly dangerous.

The movie deals more than passingly with the subjects of domestic violence and child abuse, but remains primarily in the horror mode despite brief excursions into the Twilight Zone and Lifetime holiday movies about broken families. In a way, the Oyxgen/After School TV Special romance between Melanie and Wilson is what is most brilliant about the film. One can’t help but cape for the man and his nascent romance with the likeable Melanie before it all goes to hell.

An episode of the holiday-themed web horror anthology Into the Dark, Pooka is currently running on Hulu as a single horror film. Although it started as a webcast, the production values of it are television quality, and it comes off as a PBS or BBC quality production in terms of pacing, acting, direction, and technical quality.

Movie Review: Sorry to Bother You

Review: Sorry to Bother You on Hulu

Reviewed by Sumiko Saulson

Stars: 5 of 5

Sorry to Bother You is a dark comedy sci-fi horror film currently available on Hulu wherein we gradually learn that Oakland, California resident Cassius “Cash” Green, who seems to be living in the present, is actually in a future dystopia where those in debt sell themselves into slavery by signing up for a lifetime of servitude with a company called WorryFree. Cash is played by hot newcomer Lakeith Stanfield. Stanfield made his debut in on the indie film circuit 2013 and subsequently appeared in serious biopic films like Selma, Snowden, and Straight Out of Compton, but is becoming a fixture in horror films. He appeared in Purge: Anarchy, Get Out, and played the hero L in the controversial Netflix live-action take on Death Note.

Sorry to Bother You is saturated in blackness with Tessa Thompson as the love interest Detroit, Terry Crews as the financially beleaguered uncle, Jermaine Fowler and Omari Hardwick and as supporting cast members, and Danny Glover in a near-cameo appearance as Langston, the guy who teaches Cash to use his “white voice,” and Forest Whittaker as a human/horse hybrid called an equisapien. Directed and written by Boots Riley. Asian American actor Steven Yeun plays Squeeze, the overly woke union organizer who makes a play for Cash’s performance artist girlfriend Detroit after Cash begins to sell out.

The film handles issues regarding capitalism, usury, and the internal struggle many Americans face when deciding whether or not to maintain personal integrity or sell out to protect and feed one’s family with humor, grace, and a dark edginess reminiscent of the original Robocop, Johnny Mnemonic, Tank Girl and other black comedies in capitalist future dystopias.

I wouldn’t categorize it as horror if it wasn’t for the equisapiens. About halfway into the film, Cash’s descent into the dark wells of corruption takes a turn for the terrifying. It starts out with the selling out, of course. The telemarketer’s uncle is in debt and considering selling himself into a lifetime work contract that is essentially slavery to get out of it. Cash, a telemarketer, discovers he has an opportunity to save his uncle. All he has to do is join forces with WorryFree and become fine with selling other people into slavery. To complicate matters, his girlfriend has joined forces with Squeeze in protesting the poor wages at the telemarketing company they work at and boycotting WorryFree as their indentured servitude contacts are slave labor. Will he uphold the beliefs Detroit and he seemingly hold dear, or protect his family?

All of these questions are still being answered when things take a turn for the Weird Fiction neck of the woods.  While questioning his own morality, Cash attends a party hosted by the CEO of WorryFree and uncovers a terrible secret: equisapiens! They are genetically engineered horse people WorryFree intends to use to get around labor laws that restrict their complete and other disregarding human rights for contract employees. Only, there is some suggestion that these equisapiens might actually be contract employees! Now, we’re stepping into the Twilight Zone, or maybe an Outer Limits episode where Forrest Whittaker is an equisapien instead of a voice announcer.

The movie has a slower pacing like most Sundance Film Festival circuit indie art films do. It had a very short run at the major theaters before bouncing to Hulu. But it is thoroughly enjoyable and I strongly recommend checking it out.

FRIGHTENING FLIX: Revisiting Poe Video Review

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz (and a special feline guest) discusses new appreciations in revisiting the short fiction of Edgar Allan Poe including The Fall of the House of Usher and The Tell Tale Heart in addition to comparing and contrasting the Vincent Price and Roger Corman Poe Film Adaptations.

 

 

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FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Poe Excursions!

 

An Excursion in Poe

by Kristin Battestella

 

A little bit of Edgar can be found in anywhere – if you know where to look.

 

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval PortraitStormy nights, carriages, red velvet, and antiques accent this loose 1972 adaptation alongside candles, staircases, ominous housekeepers, late relatives, and ghostly piano playing. The titular painting, apparitions, and haunted house atmosphere come early with eerie music, lovelorn letters, and fainting ladies. However the inaccurate Civil War costumes, shabby uniforms, off kilter voices, and dark print make it difficult to tell who’s Union or Confederate. The echoing overlays, visions of past couples, and angry artist can’t overcome the lookalike characters, soap opera stylings, and rip off plots. Sure Poe’s tale is thin, but here the new wife shocks everyone by coming down the stairs in Rebecca’s clothes – and yes that’s the late subject’s name. More people keep arriving, but the ghostly possessions are put on hold for flashbacks with rally calls, cavalry, and a soldier on the lamb that look borrowed from another picture. If this scandal is where the story starts, why not begin there? Of course, there’s also confusion between this movie and another with the same cast called One Minute Before Death, and the bookends make it seem like the two movies are combined into one on top of weak scripting, fly by night production, and jumpy flash cuts between the back and forth that never lets the forbidden love build. The muddled dialogue and stalling gothic romance feel like part of the story is missing – compromising the illicit, funerals, and grave robbing before more hysterics, wills, and tacked on ghosts. Though watchable – bemusing even thanks to the overlong, nonsensical dancing with the corpse finale that’s probably followed by some good old fashioned necrophilia – this could have been a better, faithful adaptation of Poe’s story instead of some kind of two for the price of one messy that doesn’t go together.

 

The Fall of the House of UsherThere’s not a lot of information available on this elusive 1949 British adaptation of Poe’s famously flawed siblings. The opening here is weird, with Brit pimps in their boys club chatting up their Poe favorites. When the story moves into the tale itself, however, solid dialogue from the book, lovely period décor, and bizarre designs put on the right demented atmosphere. Piano interludes, candlelight, unique photography, and one very creepy crazy mama add to the fun. Yes, today’s audiences may feel the plot meanders a bit with seeming slow or quiet scenes. Fortunately, the fade-in editing, ticking clocks, and slow-burning wicks encapsulate the tomb-like mood. This actually does what an adaptation should do- I want to go read the source again! It’s a bit dry, but this one is worth the Poe study or classroom comparison for the scares and macabre it gets right.

The Raven He’s hamming it up and quoting death as his talisman – Bela Lugosi is creepy as ever behind his doctor’s mask and a suave god complex for this 1935 Poe based hour. The bearded, raspy, demented looking Boris Karloff (also of the unrelated 1963 mash-up of the same name with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre) is trying to reform his criminal ways, but Lugosi’s twisted doctoring wrenches that! This quick plot wastes no time thanks to car accidents, desperate medicine, titular quotes, mad love, and torture gear. Though not a full-on, proper adaptation of the famed poem, great shadows, interiors, organ music, furs, fedoras, and screams accent the obsessed with Poe layers and madcap style. A large ensemble can make it tough to tell who is who, and we don’t see much of the Poe-esque devices or their violence compared to the torture porn we expect today. However, the time here is steeped in an entertaining interwar gothic atmosphere – the wild contraptions are fun yet there are poignant moments and comeuppance amid the haunted house attraction mayhem. Edgar aficionados and fans of the cast will enjoy the uncanny charm here.

 

Spirits of the DeadI’m not really a Jane Fonda fan, but she looks superb in this colorful 1968 Italian anthology with designs from Edgar Allan Poe. Perfect locales, music, horses, castles, and foggy coasts set an ethereal, dreamy mood for the first tale here. The period costumes and sixties fusion might be a bit too Barbarella, and some will be put off by the spoken French and reading subtitles. Yet Fonda fans will enjoy the suggested kinky and ménage taunts- even if it’s her brother Peter (Easy Rider) sparking the obsessions. ‘Metzengerstein’ is more sauce than scares, but it might have made a nice fantasy movie by itself.  By contrast, ‘William Wilson’ adds Italian occupation and religious motifs for the second installment.  Iffy kid acting, look a likes, and flashbacks can be confusing to start and some of the butchery won’t be for everyone. However great fashions, sweet cadavers, autopsy educations, and historical brutalities are scary good- not to mention a dark-haired, poker playing Brigitte Bardot (And God Created Woman) to keep the questions on one’s conscious and duality from getting too dry. Terrence Stamp (Billy Budd) is a wonderful drunkard in the almost too trippy ‘Toby Dammit’ finale, but cool Roman amusement, bizarre locations, and weird play within a play production keep the plot from being too nonsensical. Though the final ten minutes get tough, the well-edited and intense driving scenes make for a fitting overall conclusion.  Not all will enjoy the near-psychedelic period and foreign sensibilities, but this is some twisted fun for fans of the players and all involved.

 

Tale of a Vampire – A delicious Julian Sands (Warlock, people, Warlock) leads this 1992 brooding character study brimming with “Annabel Lee” and Poe references to match the bleak back alleys, dark morgues, abandoned blue buildings, and dreary British mood. Despite the underlying urge to bite, predatory love, black cats, creepy vampire beds, and sucking on some bloody fingers, this isn’t a gorefest thanks to multilayered social awkwardness, melancholy, loss, and conflict. This lovelorn vampire spends his time in the rare books section of a sweet old library – you use that card catalog! The plot is unfortunately very slow, the isolated characters have no sounding board, and confusing flashbacks of lookalike women and lost bliss don’t explain much. The centuries ago golden patinas are well shot, however the uneven pacing and flawed constructs interfere with the storytelling. We should have seen the past to start, using that previous to accent the current torment and slightly unreal, demented fairy tale tone. Why is the audience more sad than creeped by this thirsty stalker? Fine performances carry the drama once the characters actually interact by quoting history and poets in insightful two-handers. “’Tis better to have loved and lost” and all that. Lighting and shadow schemes add to the mysterious rivals, for good love or ill pain possibilities, and strange seductions. Can it really be love if a vampire’s idea of romance is to consume the life of his lover? It’s oddly pleasing to see this kind of twisted vampire bite symbolism rather than teenage moon eyes, and this simmer builds to a fine finale with some interesting surprises. While not scary, the Gothic romanticism and Victorian waxing on forever and death not being the end of love provide a solid helping of morbid and memento mori.