Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rest In Peace, Mr. Walker.

I was sorry to read of Paul Walker's passing.

I never knew the man, and looking through the list of his credits revealed how unfamiliar I was with his work.  But I am still saddened by the sudden loss of someone so clearly in the prime of life, even more so in the thought that his final moments were filled with shock and horror -- as they must often be for those who are just not prepared, or even remotely willing, to go.

Mr. Walker's passing was certainly not the only death of the day, nor did it stand alone in the tragic category, as I woke to news of eight people killed when a helicopter crashed into a pub in Glasgow.

As I read further through various news websites, I discovered that there were a number of other deaths, both the expected and unexpected -- and there are undoubtedly countless more that did not grace the headlines, nor even merit (not sure according to whom, as who would conceivably or arrogantly have the right to determine that one person's death is more significant than another's) a brief mention on the bottom of page six.

But nonetheless, the news of Mr. Walker's death made me pause; not simply because of the spectacle of it (and certainly not lacking in a morbidly serendipitous sense of irony, as he is perhaps best remembered for his performances in the Fast and the Furious series), but because he certainly seemed to be one so full of life.

I do not mean to imply that his life was somehow more noteworthy than those who also died today -- but the fact (at least for me) is that his celebrity made him a familiar face; and while he is no less a stranger to me than the others, his life was more…documented in our popular culture, even if was sometimes seen only as a fictitious portrayal on the big screen.

And maybe his passing seems all the more significant to me as it occurred just a couple days after...

I planned on writing a blog piece on Thanksgiving, about Thanksgiving.

I think it's a holiday that gets the shaft, falling in between Halloween and Christmas like a quarter slipping down between the couch cushions.  Hell, it's not even mid-October, not even Halloween, before all the stores have the Christmas gear on display -- so why should Thanksgiving get a fair shake.

In fact, Thanksgiving has become all about Christmas, with Black Friday Holiday Shopping Fucktaculars.  And why wait for Friday?  Stores now open on Thursday, on fucking Thanksgiving, just so people can shop.

Now, if you're friends with me on Facebook, you're probably well aware of how much I loathe Black Friday.  I think people who camp out in front of Best Buy and Walmart are losers of such immeasurable magnitude.  I think the whole event is nothing more than based on greed; and when I see videos of people trampled or knocked down or punched or tazered while scrambling for whatever shit they seem to think they can't live without, I don't feel even the least bit of sympathy for them.  Would you feel sorry for someone gored while participating in the Running of the Bulls?  Probably not.  Because as the saying goes, when you mess with the bull, you get the fucking horns.

But I really hate Black Friday because of what it does to Thanksgiving.  It takes a holiday that is meant to celebrate and recognize gratitude for what you have, and turns it into craving stuff you don't have.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1998.  I left family and friends behind in Chicago, while I set out to make my future in Hollywood.  For the first few years I was out here, I was only able to make the trip home for Christmas, so Thanksgivings were held "orphan-style".  That means a bunch of us (friends and coworkers) got together, and had a potluck Thanksgiving.

And while I enjoyed those occasions immensely, it made the holiday all the more significant for me, as I was truly, truly grateful for the family at home in Chaicago I was unable to celebrate Thanksgiving with.

After my sister got married, and started having kids of her own, it became a priority for me to make it home not only for Christmas, but for Thanksgiving as well -- as well as every opportunity I possibly could

And I realize how fortunate I am.  At forty-three years of age, I still have both my parents, while I know many people who have lost one if not both of their parents.  I am so grateful that my parents are still with us, but of course there is no shortage of concern, or many a sleepless night, about how much time I have left.

But I know that I am missing moments -- the crucial, everyday moments, that we file away into memories that will last until we die.  And I am missing these moments for no other reason than my own selfish ambition.

But I also don't know what I would do; and there's one thing that I do believe in: you only get one shot at life.

There is a sentiment among some people that life is merely some kind of…well, just a long, long doctor's waiting room or DMV line, and when we die that's when we start really living, in some glorious and eternal afterlife.

It is a theory I don't subscribe to.

I don't believe in heaven.  I don't believe in hell.  I don't believe in an afterlife.  I simply believe that when we die, the life in us winks out like the light in a burned-out bulb, and that's it.  We cease to be.

I don't judge those who think otherwise, as we are all entitled to our beliefs.  Even I must admit that the idea of life after death is a tantalizing one, and understandably a source of great comfort for those who have lost loved ones.  We never want to believe that it is the end; that those who were with us, who brought us joy and love, will never be seen again.

Life after death offers the promise of reunion, as if death was not a conclusion, but a kind of walk around the block -- that there are no goodbyes, but merely a see you later.

But I believe that the only semblance of eternal life is our continuation in the memories of those we have left behind; that we somehow live on in the stories and anecdotes, and perhaps even by our absence in the places and events we were so familiar, even if it is merely by association, as with a song or holiday.

Mr. Walker died at forty years of age.  He was in the midst of shooting a movie, of living his life, and I'm sure that he had plans to do so much more.

But plans don't always work out.

We have no guarantees that we will live a long life.  We have no idea if today is the last day, not only for us, but for those we hold dear.

We live in a world of somedays.  Someday I'll see the Eiffel Tower.  Someday I'll write a book.

But someday can often just be a synonym, as in I'll call my sister tomorrow.  I'll talk to mom and dad tomorrow.

But the only someday, the only tomorrow (be it the literal one in the next twenty-four hours, or the figurative one of weeks, months, or years that pass by with ever-increasing speed as we get older) that is guaranteed us, is that we will die.

But we rarely ever address that; to speak it aloud, to say:

Someday, I will die.

Tomorrow, I will die.

But it's true.

Now, I'm now saying that plans are futile, that setting a goal or a future objective is a wasted endeavor.

Not so.

Make a plan.  Have a goal.

But start doing it today.

I'm simply saying: don't wait.  Don't put it off until tomorrow.

I would love to say that I live by example, but I don't.  I am all too well-versed in procrastination, in putting things off, in saying that tomorrow will be a better day to start.

I know this because of where I am in life.  And it is not where I thought I would be.

And I wonder how much more will I have to lose before it sinks in, before it's too late.

Before my tomorrow is suddenly today.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

11 to 1 Day Until Halloween -- The Rest of the Bunch

It hurts my heart to do this.

The same kind of heartache I experience when I see Christmas decorations before November.

But the time is short, and sadly (at least for me), my goal of writing about one film per day proved to be an exercise in futility.  A failed experiment.  A horror show of my own design.

Oh, well.

So I'm going to blast through the rest of them here -- in one piece.  All the courses rolled into one.  Like a more horrific than usual KFC Bowl.

Here we go…

11 - The Haunting

I'm not going to even dignify the dreadful remake by clarifying which one I'm taking about, like they unfortunately need to do now with Halloween.  Now you can't talk bout the film with specifically talking about Carpenter's classic, or Zombie's…whateverthefuckyoucallit.

I didn't see Robert Wise's The Haunting until I was in my thirties, and it scared the crap out of me.  A master class of horror -- showing that true dread is inflicted by what is heard and implied, rather than shown outright.

10 - The Sixth Sense

I'm not a Shyamalan hater.  I know it's a popular position to take, but hey, I was never popular.

Yes, Lady in the Water and The Happening are just huge, epic misfires -- made by a filmmaker who fell too in love with his own hype; but Unbreakable is amazing, an entire film that tells the traditional first act of a superhero movie; Signs is a brilliant alien invasion movie told solely from the viewpoint of a single family's experiences, just as any of us would experience an event like that.  Now yes, "Swing away", and the whole water as a weapon is just…odd, but I still think it's great.

And yes, I am a staunch The Village defender.  I think the critical prejudice about his twist endings just made too many people want to hate it before they even saw it.  If it was anyone else's film, it would have been better received.

But The Sixth Sense is his masterpiece.  A chilling ghost story.

9 - The Fog

As long as we're talking ghosts, I have to include Carpenter's film (and not the fucking awful remake).  The movie probably features Carpenter's best score, and with Cundey behind the camera again, all the right pieces were in place.  A small town.  A secret.  A curse.  And ghosts back for revenge.  So much goddamn fun.

8 - Three Extremes 2

A Japanese anthology film.  All three are good, but Takashi Miike's story, The Box, is the one that stands out (and really the one that compels me to recommend it).  I have to admit, I'm not a Miike fan.  I'm not one of those fans who lost their shit over Audition.  I don't like it.  I just think it's mean and unpleasant.  But The Box is absolutely one of the most beautiful and haunting horror films I've ever seen.  His choice to shoot it in Japan in winter gives it such a bleak and cold feel.  It is really amazing.

7 - Ringu

Again, the original, and not the remake.  Not that The Ring is bad.  It isn't.  It's one of the better adaptations of J-Horror, navigating the vast cultural differences, and making the story work as an American tale.

Much like my experiences with The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, this was another home viewing.  Because Dreamworks had locked down the rights for the remake, they essentially blocked distribution of the original in America.  So off to Ebay I went, prompted by the incredible word of mouth about the film, and ordered a copy.

The whole thing felt like I ha gotten one of the dreaded videotapes of the story.  The package arrived in the mail, I popped it in the DVD player, and hit play.

I think Ringu is truly scary.  It was one of the only films I remember watching where I had to turn it off a couple of times, and turns the lights on in the apartment, just to give myself a break.

And the ending…

There's lots of horror films that have the villain pop out of the grave or lurch out of the dark for one more appearance, but it's always meant to just be one last scare.  In Ringu, the protagonists have done all they were supposed to do to lift the curse, but Sadako just doesn't fucking care.  That scene where she crawls out of the television?  I alms ran out of my apartment.

6 - Phantasm

A horror film filled with cemeteries, undead Jawas, a classic Cuda, and a Tall Man with deadly flying spheres.

What more can you ask for?

When I worked on Alias, Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man himself, was a guest star on the pilot.  When he was wrapped on the show, one of the costumers said, "Come on, please say it for us just once."

Mr. Scrimm, absolutely one of the kindest people I have ever met (someday I'll tell you about the hand-written letter he sent me -- he one I had framed), stepped to the door of his trailer, and paused a moment.  Then he looked out at us, cocked one eyebrow, and said "BOYYYYYYYYY!!!"  I shit myself right on the spot.  It was awesome.

5 - The Thing

Sure it's Sci-Fi, but it's also terrifying -- the ultimate cinematic template for paranoia and isolation, it may be John Carpenter's finest film.  I personally think that it is the greatest special effects movie of all time.

4 - Ju-On

I'm sure there's an English subtitled trailer somewhere, but I'm showing you this one because it's the exact same one I first saw.  I had no idea what the fuck anyone was saying, but the hair stood up on the back of my neck.

Even though the American remakes have the same director as the originals, the Japanese films are better.

Interesting side note: Director Takashi Shimizu made the two Japanese feature films, but even before that, he directed two television movies about the material as well.  How do I know this?  Well, ubergeek that I am, one with a multi-region DVD player, I was able to buy them online.  When you watch the two television movies, and then the two Japanese features, you realize that the American remakes are really just a greatest hits of all four source materials, picking a scene from this one, and another from that.

3 - Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The greatest sequel that..never should have been a sequel.

I think we can all agree what a colossal mistake it was to call it Halloween III -- fans of the first two films showed up to see Michael continue his murder streak, only to see a movie about a billionaire Irish mask-maker who conspired to play the biggest Halloween trick of them all.

Strangely enough, of the original Halloween trilogy, Season of the Witch feels the most seasonal in the spirit of Halloween.  The first two films took place on Halloween, but that was really just a selling point.  Michael could very easily have taken Friday the 13th or Mother's Day as his day to kill.

But Season of the Witch's plot is utterly dependent on Halloween, and the entire story is rich with the history and mythology of the holiday.

I wish the concept the filmmakers were trying here, to release a different Halloween-themed film each October, had worked out.  It would have been great to spend every October with Carpenter and his crew, especially in the 80's golden era of horror.

2 - Halloween and Halloween II

There's really nothing I can say about the original Halloween that hasn't been said before -- the film stands as an all-time classic.

Halloween II borrowed a page from Bride of Frankenstein by starting the sequel literally moments after the conclusion of the first film, making it More of the night HE came home.

They are a perfect pairing.  Does the sequel have problems?  Of course -- but I can never watch one without the other.

And the end of II offers a fitting conclusion to the series…if only it had been.  But fans (admittedly, even myself) wanted more.  Sadly, the subsequent films absolutely personify the warning of be careful what you wish for.

1 - Trick R Treat

My original plan was to make 3, 2, and 1 correspond to the Halloween films of the same number -- but when I remembered Trick R Treat I had to change the batting order.

Trick R Treat is a love letter to the holiday of Halloween.

It is literally a crime how the film got fucked over by Warner Bros.  When you see some of the films that get a theatrical release, it's inexplicable to me how Trick R Treat got put on a shelf, and only reluctantly released to home video.  But I guess these things can happen when one branch of leadership green lights a film, and the next wave of executives kick anything to the curb that didn't involve them.

It's basically the A Christmas Story of Halloween.

Thankfully, the film has found a devoted  following, giving it a great, back-from-the-dead second life.

And just last week, the sequel was announced!!  I, for one, can't…fucking…WAIT!!!

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a scary night!!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

12 Days Until Halloween - REC & REC2

"But I don't like reading subtitles."

Shut up, you're being an asshole.

Worse, you're being a typical American asshole.  You're like the crew members who are being paid to go to Italy and shoot a movie, who with utter indignation seriously ask "Why doesn't any one speak English?"

Um, maybe because we're not in America, motherfucker.  And actually, a bunch of them do speak English.  And even those who don't have a better grasp of it than you do of Italian.

Oh, and another thing.  When you're in Rome, one of the meccas for fine cuisine, and you're eating at McDonald's because, as you claim, you "don't have three hours to spend on a meal", you're a Special Edition Double-Douchebag Asshole.  Does the phrase "When in Rome" mean nothing to you?


What was I talking about?

Oh, yeah -- REC & REC2!!

REC and REC2 are the most successful examples of the recent horror film explosion coming out of Spain.  Written and directed by Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero, REC and REC2 knock the found-footage genre right on its ass.

While they are two separate films, I'm joining them as one because the sequel starts immediately after the first one ends.  In truth, the two films overlap -- the beginning of the sequel starts while the first film is in mid-stride, albeit with a different set of characters on the other side of events.

There is no slow-burn here (as much as I love slow-burn horror).  The first film opens with a news crew for a segment called "While You Were Sleeping".  They are shadowing the overnight shift of the local firehouse -- and it isn't long before the company responds to a call.  It seems like an easy in-and-out trip -- a woman has fallen and hurt herself.

But soon after they arrive, they realize that the situation is much worse.  The injured woman appears almost rabid, and she attacks two of the policemen at the scene, and would have injured more if another officer hadn't gunned her down.

Racing the wounded out to their truck, the firemen (and the news crew) discover that the doors are barricaded.  An amplified voice tells everyone to be calm, because the building has been quarantined.

From this point on, REC  doesn't stop.

No one knows what is going on, but a locked apartment all the way at the top of the building may have answers.

But not the ones they're looking for.

In fact, there's little in the apartment that anyone in their right mind would go looking for -- it is a residence full of the occult and locked-away horrors never meant to see the light of day.

REC & REC2 are a perfect scary movie double feature.

13 Days Until Halloween - Something Wicked This Way Comes

Let's get the important facts out of the way right up front -- Ray Bradbury IS Halloween.

He is.  Without question.

While The Halloween Tree may be the most spot on for Halloween of his work,  Something Wicked This Way Comes is a close second -- with Halloway and Nightshade respective birthdays occurring just moments apart, one born at 11:59pm on October 30, and the other at 12:01am on the 31st.

And the 1983 film adaptation…

Well, it's a fine film.


And if you asked someone how they enjoyed their meal, and they said, "fine", what would you think?

They didn't hate it, no.  But they also didn't love it.

I feel the same way about the movie.

The biggest problem?  That it's a Disney film.

Because while we can talk at length about the darker side of the creations of the Mouse House (shall we do a count of how many of their beloved animated films involve youth-scarring renditions of parental death?  Bambi, anyone?), those darker emotional shades were often reserved for the palette of their animated films.

Their willingness to go dark and nasty with the flesh and blood creations has never been their strong suit.

Despite the film's screenplay being written by Bradbury himself, the film feels toned down.  Hell, maybe that's even because of Bradbury -- penning the screenplay with more of a autumn-shaded nostalgic view of his boyhood home of Waukegan, Illinois, than with the more sanguineous tones of children's' fears -- furthering my opinion that sometimes a novelist isn't always the best one to adapt his own work for film.

Maybe the experience for me was diminished knowing that the town square was nestled not amid the rural plains of the Midwest, but on the Disney backlot; literally twenty yards from bustling Alameda Avenue.  I know that I shouldn't let it cloud my eyes.  After all, I know that the great Universal Monster movies were primarily Universal backlot tenants.  But the shadows and contrast of black and white somehow mute and restrain the Southern California sunshine that color film lets in with a flourish.

I, for one, would love to see it remade.

How about -- A Guillermo Del Toro Production of a Frank Darabont Film?

Come on, you know I'm right.  That film would be amazing!

14 Days Until Halloween - Dark Night of the Scarecrow

So I'm breaking precedence here a bit.

Not straying from the path, but merely stepping into the other wheel rut that winds down this dark and scary road -- exploring not a theatrical movie, but a television one.

I owe a lot about this one to my Aunt Gerry.

When The Dark Night of the Scarecrow first aired on CBS in 1981, I was a eleven.  Now, my parents were, by what would be considered by today's standards, strict.  At the time, that certainly felt like the word -- but all these years later, I only consider my parents to be ones who were invested in what their children were watching and reading.  We weren't just plopped down in front of the TV -- they were absolutely aware of what we were watching.

So maybe my parents thought that The Dark Night of the Scarecrow was going to be a bit too much for me, despite my obvious love of horror.

But that was okay -- because my Aunt Gerry saw it.

I remember she and my Grandmother were over for Sunday dinner (which, at our house, was somehow held at two or three in the afternoon.  I'm not sure why that was the case -- but today I call that a late lunch).  I don't know how it came up, for all I know I mentioned it, because I had wanted to see the damn thing -- but Aunt Gerry told us all about the movie.

And the great thing about that?  It was like a ghost story around a campfire.  I saw it in my head, and it was damn scary.

Side note: I had the same experience with Halloween.

I remember my sister and I were staying over at our Uncle Phil and Aunt Laina's, having a sleepover with our cousins Alida and Beth.

We (and by "we", I mean the kids) were upstairs, in bed, and supposed to be asleep.  Maybe Erin and my cousins were, but I wasn't.

Downstairs, my Uncle Phil was watching the network broadcast premiere of Halloween.

I will never, ever forget it.  I couldn't see it, but I could hear it.  And even today I remember what part it was -- Laurie running from house to house, screaming for help, as Michael Myers almost casually crossed the street to get her.  Jamie Lee Curtis screaming her lungs out, as Carpenter's music played on and on.  Holy shit.


Dark Night of the Scarecrow stayed with me for years.  Since it was a television movie, it wasn't readily available.

I searched Ebay, but the only ones they had were VHS copies that were hundreds of dollars.

But about ten years ago, I finally found a copy.  It was basically a ripped copy of a Hong Kong copy.  So, yes, I'd have to deal with some crazy subtitles -- but I didn't care!

I shelled out my bucks, and weeks later, it arrived!

As expected (or should have been), it was not a great copy.  It was actually pretty bad.  So bad, that the last five minutes wouldn't play.  The image just froze.

So I had been able to watch most of the film, only to be fucking denied the final moments!


Thankfully, the film finally was released in 2010.  And it was so worth the wait.  It is a perfect movie for Halloween.

15 Days Until Halloween - The Blair Witch Project & Paranormal Activity

I remember when I first saw The Blair Witch Project.

I was working at Walt Disney Studios, and a guy I worked with had gotten a copy.  I have no idea how he came by it, a grainy copy of a copy of a copy of the film that had made a tremendous impact at Sundance.

The film was not due to hit theaters for months, but here it was, my own personal copy in hand (which made it an extra grainy copy of a copy of a copy of a copy).

I remember first seeing the trailer at The Nuart Theater.  I don't even remember what the movie was that I was going to see, but I remember the trailer.

And I remember the listing for the website at the end, something that I had never seen on a trailer before.

The Blair Witch Project was really the first film to use viral marketing on a grand scale, and the now infamous website depicted the MISSING poster for the three protagonists, with a summary of how the footage was unearthed.

I got together with a bunch of friends, and we watched the film.  I said then, and I still hold by it today, that it was one of the most frightening experiences I've ever had watching a movie.

I still think it's a great film, but you have to consider something: when I first saw it, it was months from a theatrical release.  The movie was not on the cover of Newsweek.  Heather, Mike, and Josh were not yet on The Tonight Show.

Specifically, the backlash had not yet begun.  The one instigated by moviegoers who felt "duped".  The movie wasn't real, as advertised, but fake.

Yes, the movie was a phenomenal success -- but all the acclaim couldn't subdue the cultural attitude that followed.  The film was mocked, the actors ridiculed (most of whom never really worked again).  The "found-footage"format was tirelessly assailed as cheap and amateur.

So I'm glad I got to see it well beforehand, while the movie, and all involved were still a complete mystery to me.

But the thing about that format -- was that it couldn't be duplicated without being seen as an obvious rip-off.  After Halloween, a series of imitators sprang up.  You know them well, all the slashers inspired by Carpenter's film, that managed to completely ignore all the things that made Halloween work so well; instead opting to go to Blood & Tits route.  But even though the rip-offs were exactly that, they had the execution of the traditional narrative to conceal their theft.  Friday the 13th looked and sounded just like Halloween, as well as every other movie that preceded them.

If you tried to rip-off The Blair Witch Project, by way of another found-footage story, you couldn't even try to pretend you were doing anything other than cashing in on its success.  While The Blair Witch Project was not the first film to use a mockumentary style, it had been quite a while since it had been used, let alone in a film that had such mainstream exposure.

Ten years later…

…I'm working on Star Trek, when the production company gets a hold of a film that Paramount had just acquired.  The folks in the office knew that I was a horror fan, and suggested I take a look at it.

So I did.

And again, months and months before it hit theaters, I popped a copy of Paranormal Activity into my DVD player.

And again, I had the shit scared out of me.

But an interesting thing happened.

In the ten years since The Blair Witch Project, and undoubtedly aware of the aftermath of the film's release, the powers that be made a crucial decision.  Yes, Paranormal Activity would be billed as found-footage, but they were going to right upfront about the fact that it was fake.  Hell, they were going to take it one further -- by explaining how Oren Peli had crafted a damn scary movie for a mere few thousand bucks.

And like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity was a huge success.

But unlike The Blair Witch Project, there were soon a spawn of imitators.  For reasons I don't completely understand, the found-footage format took off, a style that has practically consumed the genre -- so much so that now a traditional narrative horror film is seen as somewhat "bucking the trend".

I think both films are great.

The Blair Witch Project made me scared to go into the woods ever again.  I grew up across the street from a nature preserve that had once been a tuberculosis sanitarium (true fucking story).  The buildings (haunted, no doubt) were surrounded by an expanse of woods.  This wasn't the suburbs.  It was right there in the city of Chicago, and I realized early on when exploring it as a kid, that it was highly possible to get lost for good in a space surrounded on all sides by major city streets.

Paranormal Activity did something even more inventive.  It brought the terror into your own home -- right into your bedroom.

I've talked about what I think are the two types of horror -- Lost in the Dark Forest, and the Invasion of the Home.

The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity are literally a defining example of each one, and I think are two of the most frightening films ever imagined.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

16 Days Until Halloween - Alien Zone/House of the Dead/Last Stop on 13th Street

Okay, so today's pick is a bad movie.

No, seriously, it is.  Not like the rest of my choices.

Oh really, Sean?  The rest are actually good?  Shall we discuss your preference for the remake of A Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Shut up.  I liked it, so deal with it.  Besides, today's pick is seriously bad.

I first saw this movie on television when I was a kid.  It might have been one of Svengoolie's Saturday Afternoon Horror shows, but I can't say for sure.

Side note: If you don't know who Svengoolie is, you are missing out.  He has been a Chicago icon since the 70's -- an old school horror host.  These characters used to be in ample supply, hosting late-night horror movies on local television all over the country.  But as cable and a zillion channels took over, these characters went the way of the dinosaur.

But Sven has persevered, and continues to be on the air in Chicago.

His most famous presentation was this:

Everyone I know watched Revenge of the Creature in 3-D!  We had our 3-D glasses from 7-11, and we sat in front of our televisions (at least, theses of us that had color TV.  Yes, kids -- when grandpa Sean was your age, we had black and white television.  And we liiiiiiked it!) and watched it all crawl out of the screen at us.

Okay, not really -- it didn't work all that well, and I can only remember the ocean fish seeming to swim around our basement.

But still...

Anyway, back to the film.  And the reason I'm simply calling it The Film is because I don't know what to call it.  IMDB says it's Alien Zone, but the DVD I have calls it Last Stop on 13th Street, and it's also been called House of the Dead.

When I saw it on television a thousand years ago, the film had a HUGE impact on me.  Honestly, I think it was my first introduction to the anthology film, a feature film made up of a series of small stories, ala Creepshow or Vault of Horror.

I love anthology movies.  I try and watch every one I come across.

The Film basically started with this guy seeing his mistress, and then heading back to his hotel in the rain.  But the cab driver drops him off on the wrong street, and he seeks shelter from the downpour in a doorway.

Then -- there's a hand on his shoulder!  He turns to see an older man, who tells him to come in out of the rain.

The building is actually a funeral home, and the gentleman is the mortician.

What follows is the mortician telling the stories of each of the bodies in these five caskets on display.

Oddly, this plot device appeared years later in 1995's Tales From The Hood.  I have no idea if anyone was consciously or unconsciously ripping the idea off from The Film, but that's really not important.

Of the four stories that are told, two of them stuck with me for years!

One was about a teacher who hated children (which made it an odd career choice for her, but it's just a movie).  She goes home, and finds the neighborhood oddly deserted.  As she goes about making dinner, taking a shower -- her radio keeps turning on and off.  She's in a state of terror, knowing that someone is in the house...

Eventually, a door opens -- and out come these kids, wearing Halloween masks.  But as she screams at them (remember, she hates kids), they pull off their masks to reveal monstrous faces with long, tusk-like teeth.

And the hordes of children descend upon her...

The other story I remember is the third one (the second and fourth apparently made no impression on my impressionable mind), about an uptight, judgmental, douchebag businessman who, while out on his lunch break, is accosted by a homeless man in a dirty and torn business suit.

When he runs into a building to get away from him, he finds that the building is empty, and he can't get out.

After falls down an elevator shaft, he experiences a series of tortures, the most striking of which is a wall of nails that slowly pushes in on him, threatening to impale him.  But the wall only tears his clothing and draws a bit of blood before retreating.

Hungry and thirsty (presumably after being trapped in this underground room for days, a small slot in the wall opens up...and a bottle of scotch rolls out.

He drinks, gets drunk and, apparently driven mad from the experience, a door suddenly opens out onto the street.

He staggers into the sunlight, filthy and stinking from booze, and goes to the nearest person for help...

...who happens to be another businessman who, tells him to get a job, and ducks into the exact same door the lead character of the story entered -- starting the cycle all over.

Again, this movie is really, really bad -- but fun.

After years and years of looking, I only found out what the movie was when Fangoria Magazine wrote a piece about it.  I remember reading it off the shelf and Barnes & Noble, seeing the article, recognizing the movie, and exclaiming "HOLY SHIT!" a tad too loudly.

It turns out the whole thing was filmed in Oklahoma of all places, and odd backdrop that gives it this cold Midwest-like light (it looks like it was primarily shot in autumn and winter).

It is not available for rental or download.  I bought a copy on Amazon -- and it's from one of those companies that burns a copy of the movie only when you order it.  The picture is fucking awful, so dark you can barely see things sometimes.

But I don't care.

I finally figured out what the movie was, and it's so's good!