The Legend of Sam-El Caan

His name is Sam-El Caan, and he was once worshiped as a god.  In some countries, he may still be.  He was more a demon than a god, but no one knows exactly how he came into being.  He was “put to sleep” by a small group of monks at some point in the 1400s, and his eyes have not opened since.  He was buried deep beneath the ground in an unmarked field in the middle of Kentucky.  The original plan was to dismember his body and scatter him across the world, but the instructions were very clear: he must be kept in one piece, his right hand clutched around a ruby.  The ancient text was vague in many things but very clear in this.

And so he slept.  As the world changed around him, he slept.  For centuries, someone had kept an eye on his resting place, guarding against any attempts to resurrect him.  As time went on, the horrors were forgotten and duties were thrown by the wayside.  The guard had gone, but Sam-El Caan remained buried in the dirt.

Sam-El Caan stood 25 feet tall.  His head resembled a pumpkin and his face was carved in the manner of a jack-o-lantern.  He spoke in a deep, resounding voice.  His body was thin, strong and gnarled, like the branches of a very old tree.  His feet were wide and the ground shook when he walked.  He was an imposing figure, but he was now trapped underground in a seemingly endless sleep.

But it was not as endless as it appeared.

The ancient texts were incomplete.  One of the missing pages stated that he would be awoken on Halloween night, 2016.  When the clock struck midnight, he would be free to roam the Earth once more.

As distant chimes rang, Sam-El Caan’s eyes regained their glow.  He did not know where he was, but he could sense his domain calling for him.  He began digging upwards towards the surface, ready to reclaim the world that he felt was rightfully his.

He emerged into the darkness of a dim crescent moon and howled as best as he could, but centuries of being buried in dirt meant his howl wasn’t what it once was.  No matter.  He would regain his full strength soon enough and this new world would be his.  He was hoping he would emerge to find a full moon – the light from that moon restoring his powers – but that was a couple weeks away.  He would retreat into the woods to wait, and when he emerged he would not be stopped.  Not this time.  Surely the ancient text had been lost a very long time ago.

He stepped into the forest in search of dark place to sit for two weeks.  What he found were a couple of teens dressed like wizards, smoking some kind of small white object.  At the sight of him, they stood up and stumbled backwards.

Sam-El Caan’s eyes glowed red as he advanced on the teens.  When he spoke, it was in his native dialect.  It was deep and filled with all the rage that had been slowing building over the course of hundreds of years.  “HOW DARE YOU LOOK UPON SAM-EL CAAN.  MY RETRIBUTION WILL BE QUICK AND COMPLETE AND IT WILL START WITH YOU.”

One of the teens had regained his bearings.  He picked up a rock and hurled it at Sam-El Caan’s face.  It entered his left eye and exited through the back of his head, causing an explosion of gooey orange viscera.

The light left Sam-El Caan’s eyes.  He stumbled and fell, exploding into thousands of twigs and what appeared to be the emptied shell of a rotten pumpkin.

The teens looked briefly stunned, then laughed and continued on with their night, the corpse of the once great Sam-El Caan lying beneath their feet.


 

Happy Halloween!

Paper Cuts: 10/28/16

pc-tales-for-a-halloween-night-2

It is October and Halloween is right around the corner.  For most of us, we are marathon watching our favorite horror franchises.  The sequels, no matter the quality, may be entertaining, but never seem to live up to the original.  And in very rare air, a sequel delivers more than the original.  John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloween Night Volume Two may be in that rare spot even stacked up against its Eisner Winning Volume One.

This second collection was ambitious.  Volume Two is actually double the size of the original. Horror Anthologies that run longer in length tend to lead to more inconsistency across stories, Tales actually bucked that trend and made the book more enjoyable.

The art in this volume is really diverse and stylized and gives each story a distinct perspective.    There is everything from black and white with scratchy lines to bright and bold coloring reminiscent of Jhonen Vasquez’s Invader Zim cartoons.  There is also appreciation for some of the stories that let the art do the heavy lifting of the storytelling.

Each writer found a way to tell their own tale of terror and no two stories felt similar.  Due to the size of each tale it is hard to say too much without giving away, but truthfully, I enjoyed each of the tales.

The only critical critique of this came in the way in the final tale, “House of the Rising Son.”  The lettering was so jarring that it really took away from some beautiful art and was an unfortunate end to a really solid great horror anthology series.

Quick Cuts:

The Traveler’s Tale – John Carpenter kicks off this book with a wonderfully realized setting and the feel of a perfect Twilight Zone episode.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5

Carnevil Max –Daniel Leister from last week’s Lord of Gore helps deliver a twisted game show tale with a spectacular creepy ending.

Ratings: 5 out of 5

The Posse –Who doesn’t love horror in the Old West?

Ratings: 5 out of 5

The Finger – My favorite.  The final panel was haunting.

Ratings: 5 out of 5

Patterns – If An Inconvenient Truth scared you, this will leave you terrified.

Ratings: 5 out 5

The Basement – An origin story to the next slasher I want to see on screen.

Ratings: 4 out of 5

So Happy – Killer Klowns from Outer Space run an amusement park.

Ratings: 4 out of 5

Just Stories – Enjoyed the black and white art of Dexter meets mountain man.

Ratings: 4 out of 5

Hands Free – Solid Art. Solid Story.

Ratings: 3 out of 5

‘Til Death –If you thought Gone Girl was scary, this kicks it up a whole new level.

Ratings: 5 out of 5

Mr. Goodnight –Very vivid art, a little short on compelling story telling.  

Ratings: 3 out 5

Safe from Harm – A little confusing, but felt like an old radio drama.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5

House of the Rising Son – Great Art. Lettering was too bad to ignore.

Ratings: 3 out of 5.

This was a ton of fun and encourage everyone to check out this book.  Also check out my interview with Amanda Deibert and Catt Staggs, the creative team behind the Til Death story talk about their creative process and more here.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

31: Movie Review

31-poster

“You know what they say: in Hell, everybody loves popcorn.”

This film tells the story of a group of wealthy individuals that abduct and torture a group of travelers. The film opens on a strong note, with a black and white introduction to Doomhead (played by Richard Brake, in the most intersting performance of the movie).  Whether it was his psychotic smile or devlishly quotable lines, he stole the show every time he was on the screen.  Unfortunately, that can not be said about the other characters of the film. From Sheri Moon Zombie’s Charly to Jeff Daniel Phillips’ Roscoe Pepper, each character had a lack of character development and seemed there merely to keep the body count high.

31-group

 

The movie started off strong with a fantastic opening monologue, but went downhill quickly from there, courtesy of an overly long and drawn out opening credits sequence. From there, we’re treated to a long barrage of sexual innuendos and conversation that doesn’t seem to flow well with what is happening on screen. It isn’t until forty minutes into the film that it begins to pick up and the jokes begin to stop.  From a visual standpoint, the movie looks fantastic. Rob Zombie is at home with beautiful scenery and fantastic gore effects. But a good-looking movie alone doesn’t always warrant the asking price to see it. The post-Hunger Games style slasher movie sounds like an interesting concept on paper, but the necessary depth or substance to keep me entertained. Some sequences contained unnecessary slow motion and dragged on for so long I found myself screaming for something to happen, just so I didn’t have to look at another slow and drawn out scene. Which I guess is the theme of the film.

31-charly-and-roscoe

The troubles I have most with this film is how badly I wanted it to be good. With Rob Zombie, his films are usually a hit or miss and he is on a bad streak of misses right now.  He could have used this as a bit of a pick-me-up. The film’s concept is great and some of the plot points were nice, but I often found myself wondering why? Why was Charly an emotional mess one minute, then totally different in the next scene?  It was like she was a totally different character from one scene to the next.  The characters’ personalities jump around too much to get attached to any of them.

31-roscoe-clown

The murders are committed by a little person dressed as Hitler, sex-crazed chainsaw wielding clown brothers and a fetish fueled clown couple who have a strong Harley Quinn vibe. Because I lacked any real connection to the characters, I didn’t feel anything when they started getting killed. The rare moments of character development were nice, usually involving either Charly or Roscoe.

31-clown

This all lead up to a fantastic forty-minute finale with Doomhead…which, sadly, left a few questions that will likely never get answered.

31 is a standard Rob Zombie movie filled with all the Zombie tropes you have come to expect from his films. If a sex-filled, redneck gore-fest with an easy-to-follow plot and fantastic cinematography is your thing, 31 will likely be right up your alley.  It’s the type of movie you watch with your friends after a couple beers or couple joints. While the overall film wasn’t great, the scenes with Doomhead were fun.  He was so interesting that I want to see him in a solo movie.

Rating: 7/10
It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best. Nothing more than a cheap rollercoaster ride.

Cons:

-Anti-Religous (Some audiences stray from that.)
-Slowly paced
-Lack of character development
-Open ended plot points that never get explored
-A sexual joke or reference every two minutes for the first half hour.

Pros:

-Looked great
-Great Score/Soundtrack
-Doomhead

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

halloween - poster

Remember when two highly successful movies were made about a silent psychopath who killed people like it was his job* and followed it up with a movie about a sinister organization making Halloween masks stuffed with Stonehenge fragments that would activate when a commercial played, turning the mask wearer’s face into a sludge of snakes and spiders?  Do you remember a scene when we saw snakes crawl out of the face of a child?

halloween - dead childDo you also remember that the main character was a doctor who just walked around banging every woman in sight?  Just every single woman.  “Hello.  I’m Dr. Daniel Challis, and…”  They never got past that point.  Boom.  Sex.  Just like that.  Always like that.
Given that he was played by sex god Tom Atkins, I guess that’s not overly surprising.

halloween - daniel challis

Good.  Because I also remember that.  I remember all of that, all of the time.

Part of me wishes the film had taken off and turned the Halloween series into a horror anthology series.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the Halloween series (except for Resurrection, because I’m a rationally thinking human being), but the idea of a horror anthology series based around the season of Halloween intrigues me, especially if John Carpenter and Debra Hill stayed on to oversee all of it.

halloween-marchingThen again, we would have lost out on Paul Rudd’s turn as Tommy Doyle and Danielle Harris’ young introduction to horror.  We also would have lost out on H20, and that is unacceptable.

halloween - kids in masks

I have grown to love Halloween III, in part because it is such a strange chapter in a fairly straightforward slasher series.  This movie came out in 1982, the same year as Friday the 13th 3D.  Each of them was the third installment in their respective series, yet they could not be more different.  I love that.

*Given the fact that Michael Myers was being ruled by a secret cabal of monks or whatever (The Curse of Michael Myers), I guess killing probably was, in fact, his job.

Boo! John Carpenter Returns to the Halloween Franchise

Boo! John Carpenter Returns to Halloween Franchise!

In case you missed it, Blumhouse has announced that they have brought John Carpenter back into the Halloween franchise.  He will be producing the next installment in the series, set to release in October 2017.

I do not like this.

As you all well know, Carpenter is the man responsible for first bringing Michael Myers into our world back in 1978, effectively giving birth to the slasher boom of the 80s.  Even after all these years, Halloween is just as good today as it was when it was released (I assume, anyway: I was -2 at the time of its release).  It looks amazing, the acting is incredible and it features one of the best theme songs in horror history.

Carpenter wrote and produced Halloween II (one of the best horror sequels ever made) and produced Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  He had success outside this series as well, with an insane filmography that includes The Thing, The Fog, Escape From New York, Prince of Darkness, They Live and In the Mouth of Madness, to name a few.

His recent history, however, has not been so kind.  The last three movies he directed were Vampires (1998), Ghosts of Mars (2001) and The Ward (2010).  The Rotten Tomatoes scores for those are 37%, 21% and 32%, respectively.  Rotten Tomatoes scores are nothing compared to the losses these racked up.  Vampires brought in $20.3 million on a budget of $20 million.  Ghosts of Mars brought in $14 million on a budget of $28 million.  The Ward brought in $1.2 million on a budget of $10 million.

For the record, I didn’t hate any of those movies, but I wouldn’t call a single one of those a good movie.  They are terrible movies, but they’re bad enough that I can laugh at them.

But he’s not directing this new Halloween movie, so let’s throw those out the window.  Get outta here, Ghosts of Mars.  He’s merely producing this movie.  So let’s look at the last two movies he produced.

Uh…
Vampires: Los Muertos and The Fog.  Yeeeesh.
Vampires: Los Muertos is best known for starring Jon Bon Jovi, Darius McCrary and Natasha Gregson Wagner.  Rotten Tomatoes has this at 20%.  I can’t find budget/box office numbers.
The Fog is a remake of Carpenter’s classic.  It stars Maggie Grace, Selma Blair and some other random people.  Rotten Tomatoes has this at 4%.  It brought in $46.2 million on a budget of $18 million, so it did pretty well there.  However, as the Rotten Tomatoes score shows, this was not a good movie.

Due to circumstances I don’t care to explain, I have seen each of these movies no less than 4 times each.  I have problems.  I know it.
Again, like Vampires, Ghosts of Mars and The Ward, I don’t hate these movies, but they are not good movies.  These are both very bad movies.  They just happen to be bad in a way that I can laugh at them.

That’s not what I want for a new Halloween film.  I don’t want a Halloween movie that is so bad it’s funny.  They tried that with Resurrection, but they tried to actually make it funny and failed miserably.  MISERABLY.  I hate that movie so much.

A producer could be anything.  Carpenter could just be put in the role as a figurehead: a way to drum up press and get people talking.  When work starts on the movie, Carpenter could be a thousand miles away, with absolutely no involvement.  He could just as easily be in some kind of on-set consultant role.  Whichever way it goes, it doesn’t guarantee the movie is going to be good just because his name is slapped on it.  This could just as easily turn into The Fog remake all over again.

Carpenter stepped away from movies after 2001’s Ghosts of Mars because he felt “burned out.”  I doubt his experience with The Ward lit any fire underneath him.  He has released two stellar albums (Lost Themes and Lost Themes II), but nothing in regards to film.  I love John Carpenter.  He has done wonders for the horror genre, but I think it’s time for him to finally fade into the cinematic sunset.

This movie could be good, but Carpenter won’t likely have much to do with it.  Call me when a writer/director is announced.