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October 08, 2010

Rock and Shock Is on Its Way


 Rock and Shock Banner

We're only a week away from the annual Rock and Shock convention, where horror and heavy metal go together like peanut butter and jelly with a fist to the mouth.  Worcester, MA will play host on October 15-17 to a monster three days of horror con and metal concerts. 

 Headlining the meet-and-greet end of things are Danny Trejo and George Romero, as well as guests such as Adam Green, the man the recently pulled from theatres HATCHET II;  Adrienne Barbeau;  Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley;  the girls of Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN;  and badass David Hess.  Charles Band will bring his Full Moon Road Show along for the ride on Saturday.

On the metal end of things, the highlight will be on Saturday night, when Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper join forces for a legendary night of horror rock.  Look for Astro-Creeps, Dragulas, Cold Ethyls and Billion Dollar Babies in legions as these two acts collide in unholy matrimony.  I've seen Cooper a few times, and he always puts on a good show that is just as much horror theatre as it is music.  And any time GWAR is in town... all Hell is going to break loose.

Several ticket options are available for the show.  I say go for the full weekend, and take in a hellacious three days of scares and frights.

And check out Rock and Shock on their website.  I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

 --Phil Fasso

October 06, 2010

6 Quick Questions with Giovanni Lombardo Radice

In preparation for the Italian Invasion 3 at this month's Chiller Theatre show, I had the privilege to ask frequent Italian collaborator Giovanni Lombardo Radice six questions via email.  Here are his entertaining responses.  Join the man who affectionately calls himself Johnny at the Chiller show in Parsippany, where he'll be part of a massive CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD reunion!


This One's Gonna Hurt Like HellPhil Fasso:  You worked under Umberto Lenzi, Michele Soavi, Ruggero Deodato and Lucio Fulci.  What was different about each as a director?

Giovanni Lombardo Radice:  Lenzi was a pompous ass and I notoriously didn't get along with him and hated the movie. Soavi is a great friend of mine and I director I deeply appreciate. He is generous, creative, unpredictable, an artist. Deodato is sure of himself, brisk, straight to the point, but at the same time very funny and nice. Fulci was gloomy, nervous, unhappy, but a great professional, with a strong visual intensity.

PF:  Which monster do you find scarier:  cannibal or zombie?

GLR:  God...a cannibal might exist and I wouldn't wish to have tea with one....a zombie is surely more repulsive. Is there a third choice? I have seen a ghost once and I wasn't at all scared.

PF:  You've had your privates sliced off, your head slammed into a drill press, and you've died in a bird suit.  Why do you think you've always died so fantastically in the Italian horror films?

GLR:  As a young person I was the perfect victim: frail, neurotic, crazy....Growing up I got stronger and was less tortured.

PF:  A few years back, you played a priest in the remake of THE OMEN.  HoOne Bad Priestw do you think this film fits in with your exploitation catalogue?

GLR:  I enjoyed being in the movie and director John Moore (obviously a horror fan) treated me like royalty, even if it was a small role (but quite important to the plot). A good experience with the great joy of being in Prague, the most beautiful town I ever saw.

PF:  As you head toward the CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD reunion, what are some of your favorite memories of the film?

GLR:  The people. Meeting Michele Soavi and becoming his friend, having a crush for the perfect beauty of Antonella Interlenghi, being young, foolish, full of expectations and realising (it was my second movie) that filming would have been an important part of my life. As it was.

PF:  What do you think the legacy of CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD is, 30 years later?

GLR:  That you can obtain more success and hit the point with fantasy and atmosphere than with complicate technology  and special effects.

Tim Clark Sneak Peeks HATCHET II

It was a dark and stormy night.  Hurricane Nicole was dumping her leftovers across the Eastern seaboard. I was sitting safely in my Volkswagon GTI, engine idling, new Accept album cued up, deciding what to do. Brave the 45 minute drive to New Brunswick to catch a midnight screening of HATCHET II in all of its unrated glory? Or head back inside and eat the cost of my pre-paid Fandango ticket?

Hmmm, WWVCD (What Would Victor Crowley Do)?

I decided to man up, crank some old-school metal and brave the storm. And about 10 minutes later, I turned around. The rain was coming down harder than a bucket of HATCHET grue splashed against a tree. I couldn’t see a thing. It was the right decision. I didn’t need to be the one getting decapitated that night.

The next day I caught a matinee of HATCHET II. The hype surrounding this mother is off the charts, and unfortunately, it’s this unchecked hype that made my first HATCHET experience a letdown.  I have since come to appreciate HATCHET, but I really didn’t want to be turned off on my first date with HATCHET II. Still, this is unrated, in-your-face-horror back on the big screen, baby! How can it not rock?!

After taking in the first, glorious kill and opening credits of HATCHET II, set to the strains of industrial noisemakers Ministry, I relaxed in my seat a bit. Yep, HATCHET II was off to a head-banging start just as I hoped it would. And then, the unthinkable happened. The movie slowed to a crawl.

Marybeth (played brilliantly by Danielle Harris) wants to take Crowley out since he hacked up her family. She pays a visit to Reverend Zombie (played brilliantly by Tony Todd) to get some answers. The two squabble for what seems like an eternity about whether or not Crowley is real and why Zombie won’t accompany Marybeth for another trip back to the swamp. Then we are treated to a flashback that delves deep into the creation of Crowley. It’s interesting, but long-winded. And remember Kane Hodder crying in the first HATCHET?  He weeps multiple times during this flashback in HATCHET II. Jason Voorhees knows how to cry. I get it. Can we move on, please?

Eventually Zombie gathers a crew (another long and not very funny sequence) and finally heads back into the bayou with his newfangled posse, Marybeth and her fake uncle (played brilliantly by Tom Holland) to eviscerate Victor. The boat ride captures a few fleeting moments of humor but it doesn’t hold a candle to the shenanigans and tension created so wonderfully in HATCHET. Clearly, the chemistry and charisma of this crew is lacking. This becomes painfully apparent when they step off the boat and wander around on Victor’s turf, guns drawn, cracking bad jokes under the harsh glare of fake moonlight that illuminates the dime-store look of the re-created swamp. I thought a bigger budget was supposed to make things look better?

Thankfully, when Crowley shows up to the party, things get messy. The kills come fast and furious. Not all of the practical effects worked for me but it was refreshing to see the amount of unflinching, over-the-top slaughter on display in HATCHET II. There’s no question, Victor Crowley is a slasher icon to root for as he knows how to slice, dice and power-sand people into a bloody pulp better than most monstrosities of his ilk. Sure, Hodder might like to cry, but he also knows how to get his slasher game face on and his physical manifestation of Victor Crowley this time around is nothing short of impressive. But as much as I love me some Crowley, I have to give mad props to Danielle Harris. She literally blows her fellow actors off the screen with her presence. She’s plays an emotional train wreck from frame one until the very end of the movie with such hunger and conviction that it’s hard not to sympathize with her.

Despite some of its shortcomings, I still enjoyed HATCHET II and I am proud that I was able to support unrated horror on the big screen.  But if Green streamlined the script a bit more and beefed up some of the supporting players (and humor), I think he would’ve had another trophy to add to his admirable collection of HATCHET, GRACE, SPIRAL and FROZEN.

--Tim Clark

September 29, 2010

Saturday Nightmares Document Ready to Scare on DVD

Michael Stever's Saturday Nightmares: The Ultimate Horror Expo of All Time!
Coming to DVD This Halloween
Highlights Include George A. Romero Family Reunion,
Interview with Hollywood Screen Star Adrienne Barbeau

JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY, AUGUST 31, 2010 – Coming to DVD this Halloween is filmmaker Michael Stever's Saturday Nightmares: The Ultimate Horror Expo of All Time!, a spine-tingling documentary short for horror film fans. The film takes an unprecedented look behind the scenes of the Saturday Nightmares Expo, which brought together the entire George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) family. The DVD also features such genre luminaries as Adrienne Barbeau (Creepshow), Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead), Roy Frumkes (Document Of The Dead), Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead), John Amplas (Martin), Joe Pilato (Day of the Dead), Louise Robey (Friday the 13th: The Series) and more.

Filmed at the March 2010 Saturday Nightmares Expo, produced by Mike Lisa and his wife Joanna Kuczek, at the historical and gothic Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre, Saturday Nightmares: The Ultimate Horror Expo of All Time! takes viewers on a haunting ride as Stever gets up close and personal with many of the talented filmmakers and stars in exclusive backstage interviews, and also shows virtually every thrilling, blood-soaked moment of the Expo. Stever captures the set-up of the memorabilia and collectibles stands by the hard-working staff and volunteers, the panel discussion with Romero, Barbeau and others moderated by Roy Frumkes, and the long lines of fans, some adorned in full costume and make-up, waiting to get autographs of their favorite horror legends.

Barbeau, star of such classics as Romero's Creepshow, Wes Craven's Swamp Thing and her former husband John Carpenter's The Fog, revealed that despite her wonderful experiences making these films, she doesn't like to be scared.  To see the extended interview with Michael & Adrienne, visit www.MichaelStever.net

Stever's love affair with the horror genre can clearly be seen in every frame starting with his spooky opening where he wanders the dark halls and stairways of the Loew's Jersey Theatre up to the roof where a scary dragon gargoyle awaits.

“This is not your typical behind-the-scenes video,” Stever said. “As the director and driving force behind this film, I wanted to capture this historical gathering while paying homage to the horror genre at the same time. I hope fans will appreciate this and continue to come out to the Saturday Nightmares Expo each year.”

Mike Lisa and Joanna Kuczek are the husband and wife team and dynamic duo behind the Saturday Nightmare Expo. Lisa was inspired at the early age of four by the classic films of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and of course, Romero, leading him to an interest in filmmaking and character acting. With the horror genre as his real drive, Lisa formed the idea to produce a weekend-long event that honored the genre and celebrated his early influences, thus Saturday Nightmares Expo was born with the help of his wife. With a degree in graphic design from Rutgers University and a Masters in design from The School of Visual Arts, Kuczek gives the Expo its visual flare that has set it apart from the rest. Her company, Studio 8010 (studio8010.com), provides branding and identity services for aggressive startups and established companies.

Michael Stever has had a very busy and productive 2010 so far, working on a number of eclectic shoots including his directing of a new commercial for Boy Butter personal lubricant starring Hedda Lettuce, New York City's premiere drag-debutant. Stever also shot and edited the recent Actors Fund benefit reading of Valley of the Dolls. In May, he returned to The Drama Desk Awards as the ceremony's official cameraman for the second year in a row. Stever is currently developing his screenplay, "Ghosts of Zion," into his first feature-length film. Stever also worked for nearly three years as Unit Production Manager on the critically acclaimed documentary, Broadway: The Golden Age, and its two upcoming sequels.

Saturday Nightmares: The Ultimate Horror Expo of All Time! (TRT: 50 minutes) will be on sale for special price of $14.95 for a limited time right before Halloween 2010, and later at its regular price of $19.95. For more information, visit http://saturdaynightmaresthemovie.com/.
For interview requests with Michael Stever, and to request a DVD press screener to review Saturday Nightmares: The Ultimate Horror Expo of All Time!,
contact Brian Geldin at 917-549-2953 and brian@briangeldin.com.


Even better, see it live!  They're  screening SATURDAY NIGHTMARES: THE ULTIMATE HORROR EXPO OF ALL TIME!
in NYC on October 22nd and 23rd at Chelsea Cinema, on 23rd & 8th, right in the bloody heart of NYC,
it will be showing as a 'Double Feature' with John Carpenter's THE THING. 

 And look for more Saturday Nightmares exclusives on Icons of Fright, including Phil Fasso's review of Severs' DVD. 

 Saturday Night just got that more Nightmarish, and that's good for us all!

--Phil Fasso

September 24, 2010

Kevin McCarthy, As I Remember Him



I suppose Kevin McCarthy has shaped a great part of my life the last seven years.

When my friend Nicole called last weekend to tell me that Kevin had died, it took the wind out of my sails.  Father Time gets the best of us all, in the end, and he’d eventually caught up with Kevin at the grand old age of 96.  I’d come to think of Mr. McCarthy much the way I had thought of my maternal grandmother;  until she actually passed away on her 95th birthday, I just sort of took it for granted that she was never going to die.  Not because I have any illusions about immortality, but because when elderly people hold up into their 90s, it tricks me into believing they’ll always be around.  But sure enough, I went on the net and found several short articles about how Kevin McCarthy had succumbed to pneumonia, and  man, was I bummed.

My experiences with Kevin McCarthy on the screen go way back to my early childhood, when I first saw INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and was afraid to sleep for weeks (perhaps he’s responsible for my adult bouts of insomnia too, but I won’t hold it against him).  Later, I would come to know him from Joe Dante’s films, many of which he co-starred in, right up through LOONEY TOONS BACK IN ACTION (and I won’t hold my feelings for that debacle of a film against him either, as he portrays a black-and-white Dr. Miles Bennell in it).  There he was, in PIRANHA and THE HOWLING, older, but still distinguished.  And speaking of distinguished, I fondly remember seeing him with my first ex-wife in Eddie Murphy’s THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN, and reflecting back on BODY SNATCHERS.  Here and there, I’d see him on an episode of MURDER, SHE WROTE or THE GOLDEN GIRLS, and every time I watched him on TV, I would have the same smile.  I always liked Kevin McCarthy, no matter what role he was playing.  Dr. Bennell would always be the role that immortalized him, so much so that he reprised the role briefly in the 1978 remake.  But no matter the part, he had a certain charm, a dashing manliness and a suave style that I found very inviting.

On a personal level, my association with Kevin grew in April, 2004, the first time I met him in person at the Chiller Theatre show.  My friend X had been trying to get me to go to horror conventions for years, but some circumstance or another always got in the way.  When he told me to go online and check out the guest list for that particular show, I figured it would be no different.  Man, was I wrong.  There were 3 people I wanted to meet:  Caroline Munroe from MANIAC;  wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper;  and Kevin McCarthy.  Even if Munroe and Piper hadn’t been on the list, I would have gone just to meet McCarthy.  INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS has always been one of my favorite horror/ sci-fi hybrids, and much of the reason for that has always been because of his portrayal of the good doctor.

You have to understand, at the time I was absolutely star struck at the concept of meeting celebrities.  Here were people who had entertained millions, been on the silver screen, world-renowned gods and goddesses, and I was going to meet them, everyday guy Phil Fasso.  It took me at least a year of conventions before I started to feel relaxed and realize they were normal people just like you and me.  But if you had told me on that day in April that I would years later be interviewing some of them, I would have thought you insane.  On that day, in the tent in East Rutherford, I was absolutely in awe, and at the epicenter of that awe was Kevin McCarthy.

There he was, near the entrance to the tent.  Even at 90, he was a handsome bastard, still looking suave after all these decades.  Seeing him there, I fled.  I did several laps around the center area of celebs, trying not to tell myself that I was right on the edge of meeting a legend.  It took me several minutes to shake off the butterflies fluttering all over my stomach, relax my heartbeat, and step up to him.  And did he ever deliver.  I found myself confronted by scores of different 8x10s all, not in piles but scattershot all over his table.  With so many options, I naturally chose a shot of him and actor Larry Gates conversing over a pod.  All these years later, it’s still one of my favorite autographs.  As for Kevin himself, the years had definitely taken their toll on him.  His wardrobe was a little slipshod, and at times, his mind seemed as scattershot as his photo layout.  But those faults made him even more cool.  There he was, smiling for all the world, upbeat and as happy to meet me as I was to meet him.  When he mentioned that he had friends in Patchogue, where I had lived a short time prior, it made him even easier to relate to.  I walked away from his table, heartbeat racing again, with a beaming smile that lasted for weeks.  My first brush with celebrity had me jazzed.

I met Kevin several times after that, at Chiller, and at other shows.  Every time he was on a guest list, I swore I’d get him to sign something, and to get a picture with him (that first time, I didn’t have a camera with me, but I wouldn’t make that mistake again).  Over the years, I had him sign stuff from PIRANHA, LOONEY TOONS, THE HOWLING, his TWILIGHT ZONE episode, “Long Live Walter Jameson,” and of course, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.  I would have met him at the TWILIGHT ZONE convention in New Jersey as well, but his health wasn’t well at the time, and he cancelled.  Every time, there he was, a crumpled, old man who sometimes had trouble putting a sentence together, but a gracious, and yes, still dashing gentleman.

Meeting Kevin at that first Chiller gave me convention fever.  I started to attend lots of conventions every year.  I’ve travelled to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Worcester, MA, New York City and as far as Dallas, Texas to meet and greet horror’s stars from George Romero to... yes, Joe Dante himself.  The last time I met Kevin was outside of Pittsburgh in the summer of 2007, at the Monster Bash.  For that convention, I did my very first piece for Icons of Fright, a report in which I praised McCarthy.  It’s led to many great things for me, given me the ability to review DVDs, cover other conventions, and interview some of those stars I would have been afraid to approach back in 2004.  I owe all that to Kevin, because without that first show, I wouldn’t have had so many of the opportunities I’ve had the last seven years.  If everything comes full circle in life, then it’s fitting that I’m posting this piece about my memories of him on Icons of Fright.  Not knowing that last time I saw him would be the last, I never got a chance to thank him, for so many great memories already lived and those yet to come.  But if you believe it’s never too late...


My paternal grandmother turned 96 a few days back.  She's succumbed to illness the last few months, and I don't know if she'll be with us that much longer.  Reflecting on her long life in the days after Kevin's death, I've come to the conclusion that people can shape the course of your life, and sometimes not even be aware they've done so.  I hope Kevin enjoyed every last minute of the life he lived, because he made my life that much better.



Phil and Kevin McCarthy at Chiller June '06




--Phil Fasso

September 16, 2010

The Gates of Hell Will Open at Chiller this Halloween

“The Dead will rise and walk to Chiller!”


Italian Invasion III


So exclaims the homepage of Mike Baronas’ website, Paura.  And if you’re a fan of Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, also known as THE GATES OF HELL, then Parsippany, New Jersey is the place to be this Halloween weekend.  Because Baronas is about to open those Gates and the stars are about to shamble out of Hell itself at the Chiller Theatre show.


Mike has represented guests at so many different conventions of late that it’s hard for me to keep up with posting them.  He’s recently been to Rue Morgue in Toronto and Horrorfind in its new location of Gettysburgh, these following a stop in Indianapolis back in April for HorrorHound Weekend.  In the upcoming months, he’s got Italian exploitation stars heading to Celluloid Screams in Sheffield, England;  Oslo Fright Fest in Norway;  and the Weekend of Horrors in Bottrop, Germany.  Not content just to represent Fulcimania overseas, this international man of zombie action will also show off some of these stars in his own backyard of Worcester, Mass. this October 15-17, at the very cool Rock and Shock, which I attended last year, and hope to again this year.


But by far Mike has pulled out all the stops for the Italian Invasion 3, for the 30th anniversary of CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. 

  • Headlining the reunion is the lovely, charming Catriona MacColl, whom I had the honor to interview last year at Rock and Schock.


    • She will be joined in this zombie bloodbath by Fabrizio Jovine, the film’s suicidal priest


      • Giovanni Lombardo Radice, of the blow up doll and drill press fame


        • Carlo de Mejo, the psychologist


          • Worm-covered Antonella Interlenghi


          • and son and father team Luca and Venantino Venantini. 



          Baronas has assembled nearly the entire main cast for this epic outing in Parsippany, which takes place October 29 through the 31st.  If Lucio were alive, he would proudly give his blessing.  In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that Fulci’s ghost has possessed Baronas, as only someone possessed could be so driven to give fans of Italian horror so great an opportunity.

          I’ve been to every Chiller since April ’04, when I met the late Kevin McCarthy for the first time.  That was a highlight of all my years of attending conventions.  Mike Baronas gives me new reason to check out Chiller every time he brings his Italians to town.  You’ll see him there with his stars.  When you do, shake his hand and thank him.  He deserves it for his hard work.


          Keep your eyes on Icons of Fright for more exclusive content involving Baronas' Italians and Lucio Fulci.  And definitely take part in the "Name That Head" contest on Paura (if you've read this far, you know exactly what head I mean).


          --Phil Fasso

September 10, 2010

Netflix Instant Watch: Opening the Vaults of the Forgotten and Obscure

Netflix Instant Watch:  Opening the Vaults of the Forgotten and Obscure


One word for you:  TINTORERA.


Back in the day, Icons of Fright ran a section called The Vault of the Forgotten and Obscure.  Feature writer Jsyn would discuss some of his favorite lesser known titles, many of which readers had likely never seen, and perhaps never heard of.  As well as introducing readers to these titles, the Vault made for a nice, nostalgic look at our beloved horror genre.  Horror fans can now thank Netflix for opening up the vaults. 


A few years back, Netflix introduced its Instant Watch feature.  As it worked originally, it provided members the chance to watch a limited amount of hours of media from their catalogue straight on the users’ computers.  The selection was small, and many of the films were niche titles, such as the excellent documentary KING OF KONG.  It was a neat feature, but I used it sparingly, because I don’t prefer to watch movies on my computer, and most of the available titles did little for me.


Since its infancy, Instant Watch has improved significantly.  Almost immediately, Netflix wisely dropped the hours limit.  They also broadened the means of transmission:  originally, the site sold a conversion box, so members could watch the films on their TVs;  the feature then became a feature on the XBox 360 through the Dashboard;  the Wii, by way of a free disc;  and more recently through Blu-Ray players, HD TV sets, and even 3G phones (a buddy of mine at work told me yesterday he can watch movies in the parking lot, on the walk between the office and his car). 


Just as importantly, Netflix majorly expanded its selections.  Though they still included niche titles, they started to add hundreds of titles per month, over the whole gamut of genres.  New titles sometimes arrive on a daily basis, as others expire.  Studios and DVD companies sign deals frequently, offering gems from their back catalogue.  What was once a quirky innovation on Netflix’ part has become an impressive undertaking.


Which brings me back to TINTORERA.  It’s likely you’ve never heard of this Mexican masterpiece, a low budget JAWS rip off that involves the real killings of aquatic life and the lifeless performance of thespian Hugo Stiglitz in tight shorts.  Admittedly, this movie is awful.  But I’ve had a thing for Stiglitz since the first time I saw him sleepwalk through NIGHTMARE CITY, one of the worst zombie flicks ever made.  When I looked up his films through Netflix years ago on a lark, I avoided wasting a slot on TINTORERA, because I was waiting on much better DVDs to arrive by mail.  But, here’s the beauty of the Instant Watch.  When I came across the flick last week on my XBox, I added it immediately, and watched it a few nights later.  I got much better films mailed to me, and still enjoyed the privilege of watching Stiglitz seduce bikini-clad women who in real life would be way out of his league, tight shorts notwithstanding.  Sure, horror fans can watch good flicks.  But here’s the perfect opportunity to view all sorts of titles that may not be so good, at no real penalty. 


And even if you don’t want to watch the unwatchably bad, there’s something for every horror fan.  Blue Underground, known for providing obscure gems, recently signed on and added Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, Joseph Zito’s THE PROWLER, and George Romero’s underrated THE CRAZIES;  it’s a nice way to catch up with the original if you’ve only seen Breck Eisner’s remake.  Do you like Zito’s output?  If so, Paramount’s got something for you, as they just added the first eight FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH films, including Zito’s THE FINAL CHAPTER.  Are you more into drive-in classics with the likes of Vincent Price on screen and Ib Melchior in the director’s chair?  MGM just provided eclectic titles from their Midnight Movies selection, including WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE BEAST WITHIN and THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD.  And if you’re into evil puppets, demonic toys and Tim Thomerson, Full Moon is ready to please.


And it doesn’t end there.  Just to name a few, you’ll find titles such as CRAWLSPACE, LEVIATHAN, EVENT HORIZON, NEW YEAR’S EVIL and one of my favorite slashers, THE BURNING.  Even better, the Instant Watch includes some titles that aren’t even available on DVD.  So if you’re still holding onto that worn out videotape of THE HORROR SHOW that you never returned to Blockbuster in 1990, you’re in like Flynn now.


I have only one complaint about this abundance of obscure goodness.  Though Netflix provides the movies themselves, they don’t provide any of the extras, not even subtitles for English-language films.  Many of these titles offered only a trailer anyway, but with THE CRAZIES, you lose out on a great commentary with George Romero and Blue Underground’s founder, William Lustig.  Extras were one of the reasons I’ve loved DVDs for a decade now, and they gave the discs a definite advantage over VHS.  So if you like an Instant Watch film a lot, you may end up putting it in your mail queue anyway.  Maybe not such a terrible thing, but I hope that Netflix eventually takes the next logical step, and adds all a disc’s extras.


Jsyn hasn’t published an entry of the Vault of the Forgotten and Obscure in nearly two years, but that doesn’t mean that many of us, as horror fans, don’t have a love for those films of yore.  Fortunately, Netflix is catering directly to us through its Instant Watch, giving us the chance to catch up with old favorites, and introduce ourselves to films we’ve never seen before.  It’s forgotten and obscure at its absolute best.


--Phil Fasso

September 02, 2010

Digitally Rendered Fish Raped My Wallet

Digitally Rendered Fish Raped My Wallet

Since the day I was born, I’ve always maintained better than 20/20 vision.  Because of this, I’ve never had to wear any sort of glasses, but I’ve known plenty of people who have.  From discussions with them, I gather that when their glasses are off, it goes like this:  objects gets blurry;  they develop a halo effect and go soft around the edges;  depth perception is hard to distinguish;  and, commonly, headaches occur.

Two nights ago, I saw PIRANHA 3D.  Now I know what it’s like to have imperfect vision while not wearing glasses.

Poorly Rendered Piranhas


I’ll spare you my opinion of the movie itself, as that has little bearing on the course of my argument, the thrust of which is this:  post-production 3D is a sham, and studios owe film fans better.

The cost of movie tickets has been on the rise for over a decade now.  While it used to be inexpensive enough to go on a date to a cineplex, it now costs upwards of $10 per ticket for an evening showing on Long Island.  Add in the price of concessions, and that same date will probably cost you close to $50.  And that’s not for a 3D film.  Back in the third dimension’s last glory days, in the 1980s, theatres provided free glasses.  Sure, they were flimsy cardboard with a blue lens and a red, but multiplexes weren’t punishing you for paying to see a film in the alternate format.  Unfortunately, those days are long gone.  The gluttons that run Hollywood are all about the bottom line, and now there’s a surcharge for the glasses.  Yes, they’re fancy, with nice, clear lenses and soft, plastic frames.  But they represent a not-so-hidden example of price gouging.  Studios have figured out a way to bloat their bottom line:  the price of the glasses goes toward the film’s box office.  My glasses for PIRANHA cost an outrageous $4;  this turned an already hefty $10.50 ticket into an almost $15 ticket.  Take a family of four to see a 3D film where I saw PIRANHA, and you’re talking close to $60, snacks and sodas not included.

This is wrong, folks.  The greedy fat cats would love to turn every film into a 3D extravaganza, no matter what the subject matter or genre.  I expect if Merchant and Ivory were still around, this fall would give us HOWARD’S END 3D.  While some genres lend themselves more naturally to the audacious visual format, those who run the show are only concerned about profit margin, and 3D pushes more dollars into their greasy hands.  This trend is starting to creep into home viewing as well, with chains now pushing 3D televisions, with glasses that run for $100 a piece.  This just a few years after they’ve forced the entire country to buy HD widescreen televisions.  When does the gouging stop?

I digress a bit, but only to make a point.  3D is costing droves of movie goers lots of money.  And if they’re willing to pay it, then God bless them.  People are freely entitled to spend their money as they see fit.  If a film is lensed in 3D and an audience wants to see it that way, so be it.

But the fat cats have found a way to thieve from your pockets one step deeper.  Not so long ago, they discovered that films don’t need to be filmed in 3D for theatres to present it in the third dimension.  Through post-production sleight of hand, they can take things filmed for the second dimension and convert it to appear in three.  A flat image, then, begins to exhibit depth.  Of course this comes at an extra expense, anywhere from $2- 4 million, I’ve read in several places.  But for the studios, this is a small investment.  If the film has a big opening weekend, they’re going to recoup that in the extra fee for glasses alone.  And they have every impetus to partake in this process:  just look at the box office for ALICE IN WONDERLAND 3D, the first post-conversion mega-hit.

Let me sum up what I’ve argued so far:  1.  Studios and multiplexes are gouging by charging for 3D glasses that used to come free.  2.  They’re putting out scores of movies per year in the third dimension, regardless of content.  3.  They’re now engaging in cheating movies into 3D that weren’t filmed that way, and still charging exorbitant fees for those glasses.  These are the facts.


And now, Exhibit 3D.  PIRANHA 3D.

Devouring Your Wallet!


My very first post-conversion 3D experience was a complete and total mess.  From the very  first shot of dunes behind a foreground chain link fence, the 3D was a sloppy affair.  When the titles and opening credits “popped out,” I couldn’t distinguish the letters from one another;  it was like I was reading Russian in script.  Problems continued throughout the entire length of the film.  At times, my eyes had difficulty distinguishing between foreground and background throughout the movie, as they meshed and unmeshed sometimes within the same scene.  Other times, the 3D effect disappeared altogether, and everything was flat, just as it would have been for five bucks cheaper had I not paid for the glories of looking through glasses.  Much of the time the colors weren’t very sharp.  Worst, the whole film had that halo effect, blurring around the edges.  Was I having a religious experience?  Only if Jesus came back as a bloody tangle of dismembered bodies and copious boobs.  No, I was merely watching poorly rendered 3D.

Compare this to the best I’ve experienced since the new wave of 3D:  MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D.  Patrick Lussier did a brilliant job with the extra dimension;  instead of throwing objects into your face 97 times in a 90 minute film (does anybody remember FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH PART III?), he built a three dimensional world within the screen.  Lussier created a film so beautiful, with its sharp edges and crisp visuals,  that I suspected watching it, I could get up from my seat and walk into the screen.  While the movie itself was average, the 3D enhanced it so much that I enjoyed the product much more so than I would have if it were flat.  And that is what 3D, or any other “movie magic,” is supposed to do:  enhance a film.  MBV 3D made me feel like I was partaking in an experience, instead of just watching a horror flick.

If only PIRANHA had been able to do the same for me.  Instead, it provided shoddy craftsmanship.  The piranhas were more intent on raping my wallet than providing a decent night out.  The filmmakers will argue that they “intended” to film in 3D to begin with, but the logistics and budget of filming all those underwater scenes would have made it an impossibility.  Hence, they’re doing you a favor by giving you an awesome, in-your-face experience through conversion.  To which I reply, hey I’ll buy you a Rottweiler, but it costs too much to feed, so here’s this awesome, in-your-face pet rock.  Hell, as editor-in-chief I’d hire Shakespeare to do our DVD reviews.  But he’s dead.

I can’t be the only one who’s insulted by this lousy conversion.  In fact, Box Office Mojo clearly tells me I’m not.  In its opening week, it brought in just under $14M, and placed 5th behind: THE EXPENDABLES, EAT PRAY LOVE, VAMPIRES SUCK and THE OTHER GUYS, none of which used 3D, and subsequently added no hidden coffers to their tolls.  This past weekend, it netted a small toll, $4.3M.  Less than $20 million over its first two weekends, and websites and print were touting this as big summer fun.  A 74% approval rating among critics involved in agriculture has done nothing for the film, and like its blown up killer fish, will sink slowly and quietly into the depths of obscurity, long forgotten by Columbus Day.

Hollywood magic was built long ago on the premise of sleight of hand, deceiving the eye into believing the great and almighty Kong is breaking free from the island.  The new magic is deceiving you to break money from your own wallet and play it down on inferior product.  The piranhas are perfect metaphors for the toothy fat cats that run Hollywood, ready to rape your wallet with those razor sharp incisors. 

As I removed my glasses at the end credits, I enjoyed clarity not just of sight, but of mind.  PIRANHA 3D was an epiphany on a small scale, and it proved I will never see a post-conversion 3D film in a theatre.  I deserve better magic, and so do you.  Think about it next time before you pay for glasses.


--Phil Fasso 

August 27, 2010

Exclusive Interview with HATCHET 2's Key SFX artist Robert Pendergraft

I first met Rob Pendergraft during my Junior year in high school. He would come and hang out with my then English teacher and now very good friend Mr. Ward. Actually, if it weren't for Mr. Ward, I probably would have never pursued an interest in writing and you probably wouldn't be reading this right now. I have a vague memory of us all playing lazer tag one afternoon after school. I spoke recently to Ward who told me I used to refer to Rob as FRANKENSTEIN. How apropos. Even back then, it was clear he was a horror movie fanatic.

After being featured on THE OLD SCHOOL AMERICAN HORROR panel at Comic Con, I felt it was my duty to sit down with my old friend and talk to him about his work on the HATCHET movies, where he got his start, and his new shop 'Aunt Dolly's Garage'.

Tell me how you got started in effects.

Well I started out doing stuff as a kid playing around as a normal kid would. You know, on Halloween do other people’s makeup and stuff.

I was a normal kid, I didn’t do that.

When I was growing up, we would always do really cool things like blowing up army men or something like that with blood all over us. You start getting more intricate with doing our makeups and everything and run with it. It ended up being one of those situations where people were coming to me like “Hey, do my make up. Do my make up. Do my make up!” And then I’d never really have any time to do my own so I’d just splatter blood all over me.

Continue reading "Exclusive Interview with HATCHET 2's Key SFX artist Robert Pendergraft" »

August 19, 2010

BEREAVEMENT to Show September 10 in AC


Great news for those of you who haven't seen Stevan Mena's powerful new film BEREAVEMENT, or would like to give it a second look.  It will show at 8:40 P.M. as part of the Atlantic City International Film and Music Festival, in southern New Jersey.


Mena's new outing is the prequel to his auspicious debut MALEVOLENCE, and is showing on the festival circuit.  If you love anything about horror, this is the film and the filmmaker for you.  Below is the schedule for the AC Film Festival, and check out Phil Fasso's glowing review of BEREAVEMENT.

AC Film Fest Schedule



BEREAVEMENT is director’s Stevan Mena’s latest movie, a layered and complex horror film, both in plot and style,  which recently won Best Film and Best Director awards at the Long Island International Film Expo. The film’s cinematographer, Marco Cappetta, recently offered to write an exclusive piece about his role as the film’s DP.  He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule and field some questions that fans often ask him about his career and his professional relationship with Mena.  We at Icons of Fright thank him for this piece, which you will find only on our site.


Marco Sets up a Dolly Shot 

How did this collaboration with Stevan Mena come about?

I submitted my reel to an online job posting. Stevan was very impressed with my work, particularly the cinematography of DARK HEART. We started talking on the phone and we hit it right off; we both had similar ideas and taste in movies. I rented his first film MALEVOLENCE and I realized that Stevan was very talented and that made me really excited about the possibility of working together. Reading the script for BEREAVEMENT pretty much sealed the deal for me, as I’ve never read a horror script with such depth and character development before.

What were the early steps of your collaboration?

I made extensive notes on the script, we talked a lot on the phone and wrote e-mails, bouncing ideas around. Stevan is based in New York and I live in Los Angeles, so in the beginning our collaboration was long-distance. I really liked the cinematography of MALEVOLENCE, so I wanted to use that film as a reference. However I also wanted to create a new visual style because BEREAVEMENT is a completely different film from MALEVOLENCE and works very well as a stand-alone film, although it’s technically a prequel. Budget considerations were also relevant in our discussions since BEREAVEMENT had a budget roughly ten times larger than that of MALEVOLENCE and we knew we could accomplish things on a grander scale.

What was the visual style you envisioned for this film?

As I studied the script, I realized that BEREAVEMENT deals with two separate story-lines, one following Allison (Alexandra Daddario) and the Miller family, the other one telling the tale of Graham Sutter, so it felt natural to create a visual distinction between these two worlds. The Millers live in a pretty country house surrounded by idyllic wheat fields that go on forever, so I photographed their world with a very warm, painterly look. I shot the arrival of Allison and Jonathan Miller (Micheal Biehn) to the farm at sunset’s “magic hour” over two consecutive days. The scene has a golden glow reminiscent of DAYS OF HEAVEN that makes the Pennsylvania countryside look absolutely gorgeous. Most of the exterior work followed this aesthetic approach.

Sutter, by contrast, lives in an abandoned slaughterhouse, a maze of dark catacombs filled with the ghosts of his tormented past. In this world, I went in the opposite stylistic direction, creating a foreboding and claustrophobic environment, where the unseen - shrouded in darkness - is as scary as the horrible events that the audience will see, since it is in darkness that our imagination gives shape to our deepest fears. As we descend deeper into Sutter’s underground lair - a visual metaphor for Sutter’s descent into madness - I drew inspiration from the journey into madness of APOCALYPSE NOW, creating a psychedelic “chiaroscuro” look with deeply saturated colors. I imagined the catacombs as the belly of a living beast, a scary place that has its own “heartbeat” and its own “breath,” and I represented these elements with flickering and pulsating lights, which are consistent with the faltering electrical system of the slaughterhouse; while the warm, pulsating lights are motivated by the flames of off-screen furnaces. On an emotional level, the large areas of darkness punctuated with pulsating lights create a truly horrific environment for the characters and the viewers. The juxtaposition of the Millers’ world with Sutter’s - environments that are polar opposites - creates a powerful contrast that is visual as well as emotional.

What were the main challenges you encountered while shooting BEREAVEMENT?

We had many challenges.  Some were typical of the horror genre, while some were unique to this film. We were shooting in a very isolated area of Pennsylvania and we had to do a lot of night work, which is always exhausting. We spent two months on location. When I arrived, it was very hot, and by the end of the shoot it was freezing cold and we had snow on the ground, so working nights was very tough. As it is customary for horror, we had numerous mechanical effects to contend with and these effects are usually very time-consuming and complex. Our main location was a real abandoned slaughterhouse, which was very hazardous. We had rusted meat-hooks hanging from pulleys, sharp-edged machinery, broken glass -- the building was basically falling apart. The whole crew had to get tetanus shots before the shoot. One day a huge slab of concrete fell from a ledge and smashed just a few feet away from our camera cart! I am amazed that no one got hurt during the shoot.

Challenges in the Catacombs 

Another tough location was the infamous catacombs, which was a set built in the basement of a large barn. We thought this location was going to be relatively comfortable;  however, the wrong type of dirt was used to cover the floors. Once dozens of people started working inside that set, the powdery dirt kicked up a fine dust that made the air un-breathable, so we had to wear respirators for weeks. The dust would also get inside our cameras and all over our equipment… it was a real nightmare! As if these challenges weren’t enough, our cast included three child-actors as well as a trained dog and even a mouse! If you know anything about filmmaking, you know what I am talking about… 

How did you and Stevan work together on set?

Stevan is a very talented director and a great guy to work with. I usually get hired because of the visual style I bring to a project, so I enjoy a lot of creative freedom when I shoot a movie. In any case, I discussed most creative issues with Stevan in pre-production, so that once we started shooting we had a good visual plan laid out. On set, directors are usually very busy working with actors and keeping the eye on the big picture, so it’s good to have agreed on stylistic principles beforehand. I am happy to have had such a great creative input on BEREAVEMENT, because I was able to contribute many personal touches to this film.

In which format did you shoot BEREAVEMENT?

We shot the film on 3-perf Super 35, using two Moviecam Compacts, Zeiss Ultra Primes lenses and Kodak film stocks. Stevan and I are huge film fans, so when he pitched shooting 35mm to me, I was very happy to oblige. Over the years I have shot a lot of  35mm film.  I love its texture, color reproduction and dynamic range. We finished the movie with a Digital Intermediate at Technicolor in New York with colorist Tim Stipan in a Lustre DI suite. While I have shot with many high-end digital cameras with great results, I felt that film was the right choice for this movie.

Overall, how was your experience shooting BEREAVEMENT?

It was a fantastic experience, although a strenuous and physically taxing one. In the end the fatigue and the cold go away and the images stay forever. I am very grateful to Stevan for allowing me to make such a significant contribution to his film.

-- Marco Cappetta



Cinematographer Marco Cappetta has created images for feature films, commercials, music videos and TV. His films have been released by The Weinstein Company, New Line Cinema, Anchor Bay, and Lionsgate, and have aired on Showtime, HBO, PBS, Comedy Central and The Sci-Fi Channel. He has lensed projects for Walt Disney, Warner Brothers Records, BMW, the New World Symphony, the U.S. Department of Labor and National Geographic. His work has been highlighted in Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, the L.A. Weekly, the Los Angeles Times and the Daily News.


His official website is www.cinemarco.com

August 12, 2010

New Clip, Cover Art For HATCHET Blu-Ray!

On September 7th, Anchor Bay Entertainment releases a brand-new Blu-Ray release of Adam Green's fan favorite "slasher" pic HATCHET and we've got a quick tease from the all new commentary track exclusive to this new edition below!

Make sure to check out our report from the HATCHET 2 panel at last month's Comic-Con right HERE. And also, here's our report from the set of the sequel right HERE.

Continue reading "New Clip, Cover Art For HATCHET Blu-Ray!" »

August 11, 2010

Not Quite Fear And Loathing At San Diego Comic Con (Part 2)

Saturday morning seemed to smack me in the face. Did I even sleep? I have no idea. Our second day of Comic Con was at hand. With a hop, skip, and a jump in the shower, we were quickly out of the door and checked out of the hotel. Ryan and I bypassed the stroll through Old Town to the train station for a more desirable drive in my car. We reached Downtown fairly quickly and soon found reasonably priced parking a mile from the Convention Center. Why a mile? The parking lots that were blocks from the Convention Center charged roughly $50. With cheaper parking found, we were on our next mission to find coffee. We achieved Comic Con entry at roughly 9:50 am and found a quick photo opportunity with Gandalf.

This was just enough time to make it to Room 25ABC for the Panel Of The Living Dead.  I was ready for the zombie video game themed event.  There was a sign outside of the room saying the panel had moved to a room on the other side of the building which was a walk we didn’t want to take.   Already, our itinerary for the day was being left by the wayside.  I decided then and there that Saturday was the day of walking the Convention floor.  So much for making plans.

Lucky for me, two booths that dictate some huge obsessions for me were right next to each other: AMC's THE WALKING DEAD and TRON LEGACY.  I had recently downloaded the TRON app for the iPhone and upon checking into the TRON LEGACY booth, I received what they called a “golden ticket” which was a graphic on my phone that was to be shown to one of the booth workers at the top of each hour to receive my front of the line ticket to visit Flynn’s Arcade.  Ryan and I decided the Recognizer was the meeting place and he’d be back by the top of the hour.

Continue reading "Not Quite Fear And Loathing At San Diego Comic Con (Part 2)" »

August 08, 2010

Not Quite Fear And Loathing At The San Diego Comic Con (Part 1)

We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers...

Oh who am I kidding?  We had two cups of coffee, a pen, two pads of paper, a camera, and our stuff in the trunk.  It was Friday morning, 6 am to be exact, and I pulled up to my friend Ryan’s house.  I was greeted by his camera flash.

Continue reading "Not Quite Fear And Loathing At The San Diego Comic Con (Part 1)" »

August 07, 2010

Trailers from Hell Goes Tromatic

Coinciding totally by total happenstance with my visit to Troma Studios this week, Trailers from Hell is honoring Lloyd Kaufman. 

Lloyd's recent visit to Joe Dante's office yielded him his writer for THE TOXIC TWINS: TOXIC AVENGER 5.  A fowl byproduct of that visit was Lloyd's commentary on his most recent Tromasterpiece, POULTRYGEIST:  NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD.  The world's first chicken zombie eggstravaganza, the film eggspounds on the evils of the fast food megaconglomerate.  In his commentary, Lloyd delivers his trademark shtick and social critique.

Cluck on the link below to watch the trailer.  Also check out Lloyd's commentary on Troma Studio's breakthrough film, THE TOXIC AVENGER.  And look for more Lloyd tromantaries in the near future.


 --Phil Fasso


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