Friday Book Review: The Dark Sea Within (Collection) by Jason V. Brock

Sea within



Jason V. Brock is a writer, editor, publisher, and documentary filmmaker who lives in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t have his bio on hand, but he has edited and appeared in a number of benchmark publications, and over the past ten years, has established himself as one of the titans in modern speculative fiction.


I say speculative fiction because Brock rejects the mantle of “The New Weird,” the modern day scribes who’ve appointed themselves the successors of H. P. Lovecraft. After reading his latest collection “The Dark Sea Within” (Hippocampus Press), I can’t blame him. Fiction like this transcends labels.



The stories in The Dark Sea Within are almost uniformly strange in that they are unexpected. Brock is today what H. P. Lovecraft was in the 1920s and ‘30s: An innovator whose fiction lies beyond clearly defined commercial genres. This is not to say that Brock is a Lovecraft imitator. He is not. He is, however, an author in the mold of Lovecraft. In an age where mundane tales of mummies, ghosts, mad scientists, vampires, and cackling, mustache-twirling villains where all the rage, Lovecraft dreamed beyond the rim of space and time. His fiction was strange, it was fresh, it was different. Jason V. Brock’s fiction is like that. Brock is a dark dreamer who dares to color outside the lines. He does not slavishly follow any one man, or trend, he creates his own dark, fantastic worlds.


“The Shadow of Heaven” is one of my favorite entries. A United States naval vessel responds to a distress call in the ice choked sea off Antarctica, and its crew slowly discovers that a dark force is at work. I was reminded of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (based on the John W. Campbell Story “Who Goes There?”). Not because Brock wanted me, the reader, to, but because he effortlessly crafted the same sense of hopeless, snow swept desolation that made “The Thing” such an effective horror piece. “Epistles from Dis” is another favorite. It takes place after a pandemic has ravaged the world, and begins with two scavengers encountering a bizarre new society along the Southern California coast. I was reminded of Pat Frank’s “Earth Abides,” and, to a lesser extent, The Road Warrior. I could even see shades of Matheson’s “I Am Legend” in its attention to scientific detail: Brock, like Matheson, tells us what the plague is and how it works. Many authors (myself included) tend to jump right in. People get sick. They die. Maybe they come back as zombies or vampires or circus clowns. No one knows how it works. Look, an explosion. Oooo. Ahhh.


I want to make it abundantly clear that Jason V. Brock is his own writer. I’ve compared him to both H. P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson, but not because he is one of their many imitators, but because he embodies the best qualities of both: Lovecraft’s dark and boundless imagination, Matheson’s crisp prose, sense of adventure, and attention to detail. These are things that all good writers must possess, and Brock does, in spades. He is certainly one of the best modern authors I’ve read. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he is one of the only authors in horror/sf/fantasy/weird/blahblahblah today who can not only write, but also think. And in fiction, that is the most important aspect of all.


I foresee a long and fruitful career for Jason Brock. A long, fruitful, and well deserved career.





The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Twenty-Four: Anthropophagous (1980)




I think I’ve said this before, but just so we’re clear, Ima say it again: Italian horror movies are fucked, bro. I’m not expert on Italian horror cinema, but I’ve seen enough to recognize a trend, and that trend is gore. Blood, guts, fucking eyeballs popping out of heads.


One movie that is infamous for its violence is Anthropophagous, a little flick by a guy named Joe D’Amato. In it, a bunch of Eurotrash tourists wind up on a deserted island where a cannibal eats everyone he comes across (dude ate, like, the entire town). He’s all fucked up looking, and you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s a zombie, but nope: He’s just a regular run-of-the-mill cannibal. As we learn a little late in the film, he was a normal bro until he and his family were lost at sea. His son died and he wanted to eat him, but the mom thought that was fucked up, so dude killed her and went crazy.


D’Amato manages to craft a fair amount of tension, especially during the sequence where the tourists huddle in an abandoned building during a nighttime thunder storm. Anthropophagous is an off-screen presence at that point. We don’t see him, but we know he’s there, lurking in the shadows. As far as Italian horror/cannibal/zombie movies go, Anthropophagous is light on the gore…save for one disturbing scene. This scene is…let’s just say it’s probably the only reason anyone even remembers this movie. It’s that bad. See, one of the tourists is like eight months pregnant. Anthropophagous corners her in this creepy fucking crypt/catacomb/whatever the fuck it was and…he-he rips her fucking baby out and eats it. In front of God and everyone.


I don’t know how to feel about that. There’s a part of me that’s like “Whoa, that’s fucked…alright!” and there’s another that’s all “Whoa…that’s fucked…fuck that.” I mean to say: Horror films aren’t supposed to be happy, happy, joy, joy fun time. Jason isn’t supposed to be an anti-hero, you’re not supposed to root for Freddy or Leatherface, you’re not supposed to kick back and watch…I dunno…Bloody Severed Heads Part 5 and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Horror is supposed to be horrifying, it’s supposed to scare and disgust and repel and shock and leave you cold and breathing heavy. Horror is not a fucking safe space for where SJWs can come when they’re triggered by something they don’t like. On the flip side, this dude seriously filmed a scene where a fucking cannibal rips a baby out of a woman’s womb and eats it. You’d have to be a stone cold motherfucker not to feel something about that. I realize I can’t really complain because I’ll literally contradict everything I’ve said in this paragraph, but still…damn. As a parent and a normal functioning human being, it was pretty hard to watch.


There’s another scene that people might find difficult. Toward the end, Anthropophagous gets cut open and starts eating his own intestines. That’s nowhere near as bad as eating a baby, but it’s still kind of gross.


Overall, Anthropophagous isn’t a must see. It was fun, and suspenseful, but aside from fetus feeding, it really doesn’t offer anything you can’t find in a thousand other horror movies from the period. It’s routine, run-of-the-mill stuff. If you have some time to kill and you just wanna watch whatever, great. If you want to get the most out of your hour and a half, though…pick something else.



The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Twenty-Three: Mother’s Day (1980)



Tomorrow is Mother’s Day (right? I think it is, anyway) so I thought, “Hey, why not review Mother’s Day?”


I’m like the Dreamcast; I’m always thinking.


The first thing you should know about Mother’s Day (which is really the only thing I knew going in) is that it is a Troma movie. I don’t know much about the company, or its history, or anything like that, in fact, I’m not ever sure I’d ever seen one of their movies prior to this, but its reputation certainly preceded it. Troma Entertainment, in my mind, is associated with cheesy, low budget horror and sci-fi movies like Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead and Cannibal! The Musical. Again, I’ve never seen these movies, but I’ve heard of them, and by the time I got to Mother’s Day, I associated Troma with stupid D-list movies.


Mother’s Day, therefore, surprised me.


Mother’s Day follows a group of women who were friends in college as they meet for their annual vacy get together. Every year one gets to pick their destination; this year, one picked camping in the woods. Nice. Nothing bad ever happens in the woods.


Well…something bad happens.


They’re kidnapped by a couple of inbred redneck types and taken to their ramshackle house where their loving, but psychotic, mother watches happily while they commit rape and murder. Two of the friends manage to escape, and formulate a plan to get back at the killers. They return to the house, kill the boys, then their mother, and walk off into the sunset, victorious.


That’s not exactly what happened, but it should have.


Mother’s Day, whether intentionally or by accident, recalled “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” in many ways, not to mention Psycho, because mom. There was plenty of tension (especially when the two surviving friends are creeping through the house and trying to escape without being seen), and the characters were all likeable. The good characters, that is. And that’s mainly because even though they were different (one was a mousy pipsqueak type, the other a fashionista, and the third…I forget, maybe she was outdoorsy?), they loved each other, and that showed through. You actually felt their pain as they tended to their dying friend.


But one thing (and one thing only, come to think of it) sank this battleship: Queenie. Fucking Queenie.


Early on, while the girls are escaping, momma sees something watching her from the woods and flips her top, screaming about someone name “Queenie” coming to kill her (the only Queenie I know is “Little Queenie” by Chuck Berry, and I don’t even know that very well). Later, while one of the brothers is chasing the two escaped friends, the other wants to go help, but mother makes him stay with her, raving about how he needed to protect her from Queenie. Basically, as far as I recall, Queenie was momma’s sister. She was born deformed, or became deformed, or…some damn thing, I don’t know. Basically Queenie was all messed up and tried to kill momma, then fled into the woods. The son she begs to protect her confronts her about Queenie, saying that “grandpa” told him he killed Queenie. Even though dude’s crazy and possibly inbred, he comes to a pretty heavy conclusion: Momma’s making Queenie up to keep her sons close by.


After momma and her boys are killed, our heroines make their way into the woods, and are this close to getting help when a fucked Sasquatch looking thing jumps them. This, apparently, is Queenie, and those were our heroines until Queenie had them for lunch.


Alright. What the fuck? For one, Mother’s Day didn’t need a fucking albino Bigfoot knock-off. It was doing a damn good job as a backwoods slasher/rape and revenge movie. Queenie was not needed, and (I’m speaking for myself here) not wanted. It’s like making a bomb ass…I dunno, chili…and then dumping wood shavings in it. Well, it was good until you just fucking put your ass over it and started dropping turds.


And…I actually liked the characters. They were well done, convincing, and actually developed over the course of the movie. I was rooting for them. I wanted them to win. Then in the last two seconds they get thrown to some dweeb who really had no business being in the movie in the first place.


I’ve seen a lot of good horror movies shoot themselves in the foot by adding elements that just don’t gel, and every time I sadly shake my head. Why? To what purpose? Were they afraid that their meatballs weren’t good enough on their own, so they had to add sprinkles and chocolate frosting to liven them up? You just ruined a good movie for no reason whatsoever.


Up until the last two seconds, Mother’s Day was a good movie. I’ll shout that from the rooftops. It was surprisingly good, and totally subverted my expectations. Then Queenie came along, and disappointed the hell out of me.


Future filmmakers of the world…be careful what you throw in the pot. Chances are, your dish is fine, and the dirty diapers you’re about to drop in just aren’t necessary.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Twenty-Two: Funeral Home (1980)

Funeral Home




Imagine you’re an ar-teest. You see something (a movie, a painting, a book) and like it so much that you do exactly the same thing (only a little bit differently). Feel like a plagiarizing asshole? You should. Because you are.


Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh. After all, I just wrote a twenty-one-thousand word novella where two psychos take people hostage in their home months after watching a movie where two psychos take people hostage in a home and said, “Gee, that’s cool. I wanna do that.” Still, 1980’s Funeral Home is a total rip-off whereas my story was “heavily inspired by.”


Here’s the deal: This teenage girl moves in with her grandmother for the summer in order to help her turn the old, creepy family funeral home into a cheery, sunny bed and breakfast. Grandma’s alone since grandpa ran out, and she’s decided to do her. You go, girl.


Only there’s a problem: Grandpa’s actually living in the basement, and he’s a total dick, pissing and moaning because over his granddaughter being there, driving grandma to tears. We never see him, but he hear him whispering, and boy, does he sound creepy. What’s up with him, anyway? Is he a zombie?


People start dying, because of course they do. One of them is a houseguest who’s looking for his missing wife…the wife who ran off with grandpa. So that’s why he left his family. Men, always thinking with their dicks.


After getting curious and hearing grandma and grandpa arguing, grandbaby (I forget her name. It’s not important anyway) sneaks in to have a look, and lo and behold, grandpa’s a nasty dead body sitting in a chair. Grandma pops out of the shadows with an ax (and wearing very manly attire), and when she talks, it’s the creepy grandpa voice from earlier. What a Psycho!


The granddaughter survives with the help of a local boy she’s been seeing, and after granny’s arrested, it’s revealed that she found out her husband was cheating on her, killed him and his mistress, and kept his body in the basement, you know, the whole Norman Bates treatment.


Yes. Funeral Home is basically Psycho with the genders reversed. Oh, in Psycho it was a motel and here it’s a bed and breakfast. That’s kind of like when Superman puts on his Clark Kent glasses and thinks no one recognizes him, but everyone totally does; you’re not fooling me, Funeral Home AKA Psycho.


I’ll admit though: I didn’t see the twist until it was staring me in the face. I like to think this is because I wasn’t expecting a virtual remake of an earlier movie, but I’m probably just stupid, so, there’s that. Someone smarter than I am would probably have seen it coming a mile away. I didn’t. I went down into that fucking basement expecting a reanimated corpse of some kind, and instead got a beefy woman in a plaid shirt and jeans. Serves me right, really.


Other than being a rip-off, Funeral Home wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t something I’m going to tell my kids about when I start indoctrinating them into the horror genre. Well, maybe, but like “Yeah, Psycho was cool, right? There’s this total rip-off called Funeral Home where it’s a woman. Lol. She’s all dressed up like a lumberjack and uses an ax. It was lame.”


If I remember correctly, Funeral Home hails from Canada. After Shivers, I expected a little more from my friends up north.


Never trust a goddamn canuk.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Twenty-One: The Last Voyage (1960)

the last voyage



Alright, alright, you got me: This isn’t a horror movie at all. It’s what people back in the day called a “disaster film.” The Towering Inferno (1974) is one of the more famous examples of this cinematic genre. The Poseidon Adventure (1972) is another (I guess every Titanic movie ever made is as well). They still make movies like this today, but they suck, just like everything else today (Split and Get Out included). Back in the old days, though, they could really shake ‘em down.


The Last Voyage starts with the captain of an aging liner on one of its last ocean crossings getting an ominous note from one of his officers: FIRE IN THE BOILER ROOM. Oh, snap! Luckily the S.S. Claridon is a hardy veteran and no punk bitch. She’ll just walk it off.


Below decks, a bunch of stokers/engineers (including a big, slick, shirtless black man, a shocking sight in 1960, I’d imagine) fight to quell the flames. They get-r-done, but all the safety values are fused shut by the fire and the ship can’t let off steam or something. I don’t know. I’m not a fucking scientist. Anyway, a giant explosion rips through the center of the ship. Cliff (Robert Stack of Unsolved Mysteries fame) and his wife and daughter are trapped in their cabin, little Jill (or was it Julie? I forget. Cute kid, though) is perched precariously on a shelf over a gaping hole while mom (forget her name entirely) is pinned under what looks like a piece of hull. Cliff rescues his daughter and desperately tries to free his wife to no avail.


Meanwhile, on deck, the captain and his chief officer argue about whether to assemble the passengers and start putting them off in the boats. The captain is a stubborn old cuss, and doesn’t want to do it. Below decks, the black dude (Hank), and a bunch of guys fight to pump out the water rushing in and to shore up a bulkhead. If that bulkhead gives, the Clairidon is doomed. Dum-duh-da!


Eventually Cliff makes his way to the boiler room in search of a torch. Hank, realizing the bulkhead will give any minute, helps Cliff get the torch (and attendant big ass tank) to his cabin just as the bulkhead collapses in a spectacular rush of water. They don’t have all the necessary parts for the tank, however, so, shit.


On the bridge, the captain gives the order to lower the boats and gets an earful from the chief stoker, who calls him a boob or something. The captain responds with a manly slap.


In the chaos, Cliff entrusts Hank with little June (or Jill or Jacky, whatever). Hank gets her to a lifeboat and returns to Hank and mom’s side. He’s totally committed to helping. Good dude.


Cliff eventually gets the chief stoker to come help, but the water is rising and there’s no getting wifey out. Cliff prepares to meet his doom.


Luckily, a lifeboat returns from rescue ship with the necessary part, and Hank arrives just when it looks like all is lost. He and the stoker-boss free mom, and they all escape as the ship begins to flood, swimming off the flooded boat deck just as the Caldoon slips beneath the waves. Oh, as for the captain, he’s crushed to death when a funnel falls onto the wheelhouse. His last words were basically crying because the boss stoker dude yelled at him. The captain was vapid and all about image, you know.


The first thing I have to say about this movie is: The effects are great. Really. This doesn’t look like a movie from 1960. They did a damn good job. The secret seems to be that they used a real ship (the S.S. Ile de France) that was headed for the scrapyard and really took it to task. Smashed things, partially sank it, actually toppled the funnel onto the bridge. The shipping company was so appalled that they vowed to never allow another one of their ships to be used in such a way again (I get it was their flagship, but come on, it was headed for the chop shop anyway). You don’t get special effects like that from green screens and computers. Another reason old movies are better.


The acting was good, not overdone like in some other movies from the period. The tension also keeps tight until the very last minute. Some might argue it was a little much, but I was okay with it. Come on, it’s a fucking movie.


My one complaint (and it’s a minor one) is that we don’t get a long shot of the ship going down: Just a glimpse of one of its remaining funnels disappearing. But, hey, whatever. I was looking for a movie where a ship sank and I got it. Plenty of shots of panicked crowds, lifeboats, listing decks, water gushing in. Really cool movie. Five middle fingers.



The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Twenty: Psycho Cop 2 (1993)

Psycho Cop 2


Oh, shit, here comes Psycho Cop again!


In 1989, some asshole mental patient escaped from his hospital and “infiltrated” the police force. He was crazy, he was a Satanist, he killed people. Really, this dude was all kinds of fucked up. After attacking a bunch of teens partying it up at a posh mansion getaway in the woods, get took a giant wooden spear to the chest and died.


Or did he?


The answer is no. No he didn’t.


Thanks to…the powers of darkness Joe Vickers AKA Gary Henley AKA Psycho Cop is back on the beat. While stuffing his face with donuts at a coffee shop, he overhears two white-collar yuppie types planning an illicit, after hours bachelor party at the office. One dude is a smartass, wiseguy type, the other’s a dork. Smartass loudly asks Dork about the sweet, sweet Mary Jane in Dork’s briefcase. Psycho Cop perks right up. People having fun and not dying? Not on my watch!


He follows Smartass and Dork to their office, Dork all paranoid because Psycho Cop’s following them, and Smartass blowing him off, because of course he would. At the office, they hook up with the groom-to-be (this fat, sweaty slob) and, after everyone’s gone home, they bribe the night watchman to look the other way while they sneak in booze and strippers. Also in the building is this chick named Sharon who’s working late and an adulterous couple living an Aerosmith song. Psycho Cop tricks the night watchman into letting him in, kills him, and then goes after the others. Slob and a stripper wind up dead on the roof, the adulterous couple get theirs, and Dork, Smartass, Sharon, and the remaining two strippers are confronted by the realization that all the bodies they keep finding are being made by Officer Vickers. Smartass and the strippers die, Dork is seriously wounded (twice), and Sharon manages to make it out of the building where Vickers corners her and starts whipping her ass. A bunch of patrons in a bar across the street see, and then gang up on Vickers while some weirdo films it all from a balcony (The Revenge of Rodney King, take one!). In the end, Sharon, Dork, and Vickers are in the same hospital. Vickers, using that ol’ black magic, kills the guards posted to his room and bursts through the door to kill again.


The first Psycho Cop was an all-around shitfest. It was generic, it was uninteresting, it was like a thousand other slasher movies no one cares about. And the guy who played Vickers…ugh. I’ve seen better acting at kindergarten theater productions. Psycho Cop 2, on the other hand, is not a bad movie. The guy who played the smartass (I’ve looked for his name, but I can’t be bothered to find it…I can’t even remember the name of his character) was actually a pretty fun guy. The smart aleck shows up in a lot of horror movies, and usually gets on your nerves. This guy, however, delivered a couple genuinely funny lines. I also liked the setting. I know there have been horror movies set in office buildings (I can’t think of one off hand, though), but it’s something you don’t see all that often. Summer camp? Yeah, yeah. College campus? Sure. Suburbia? Totes. Office building…that hasn’t been done to death. The characters are also a little older than your typical cannon fodder. Thirties, I’d say, give or take. All that office space made for a rousing game of cat and mouse as Sharon tried to hide from the onslaught that was Vickers.


Speaking of Vickers…maybe I was used to it at this point, but his shtick wasn’t as godawful this time around. Then again, I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to movies. I can overlook or even embrace bad acting if I’m having fun. If it’s a snooze cruise to Suck City, I’m libel to be less than nice.


When it comes to the Psycho Cop series (do two movies constitute a series?), skip the first and just watch this one. They got it right with Psycho Cop 2…or as right as they could. At the very least, it’s better than both Maniac Cop movies put together, so there’s that.


Now off to finish putting together by Joe Vickers cosplay. The other neckbeards at Stokercon are gonna flip.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Nineteen: Psycho Cop (1989)

Psycho Cop



Some movies are more memorable for the performance of their casts than for, well, anything else. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 would be a footnote if not for the astronomically bad overacting of the lead. Sleepaway Camp 2 would be just another unremarkable late eighties slasher pic if it weren’t for the chipper, upbeat killer Angela played by the inimitable Pamela Springsteen.


And Psycho Cop would be nothing without Robert R. Shafer.


Psycho Cop is closer to Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 than Sleepaway Camp 2. Pamela Springsteen was a great actor. Shafer, on the other hand…


The movie opens with a newly married couple being brutally murdered in a secluded spot by Joe Vickers, a policeman is who a fucking Satanist (and possibly a psycho). Sometime later, a group of good looking yuppies arrive at a rural mansion to do a spot of partying. On the way there, they incur the wrath of Vickers, who follows them in his squad car.


Vickers picks the kids off one by one, starting with the caretaker and working his way down. Several of his victims are beguiled by his uniform. Certainly a cop will protect us from the murderer loose among us! Wrong!


A couple of good cops do eventually show up, and reveal that Vickers is really Gary Henley, an escaped mental patient who managed to join the force. Gee, do they just give anyone a gun?


Vickers is eventually killed and that’s it.


There isn’t much to the plot, and what’s there is basically a rehash of the same basic story that slasher directors had been telling since Halloween in 1978: Crazed man kills teenagers. Guys like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Sean S. Cunningham realized that you have to take that basic premise and dress it up to get noticed. Whether it’s great acting, crazy gore, good writing, a unique villain…every slasher movie needs something to set it apart, because they all tell the same story, and if you have fifty people telling the same story at any given time, you’re going to have to do something to break out of the pack.


Psycho Cop does nothing to break out of the pack. It is generic, boring, and poorly acted. I mean, the idea of a cop killing people is interesting. That basic thumbnail has my attention. But you need more than just a premise. You need to go somewhere with it.


I mentioned Robert R. Shafer earlier. Shafer is the only reason this movie is not completely buried and forgotten…and he achieved that by delivering one the worst performances I have ever seen from an actor. A big, fucking lumbering tree trunk could have done better. He delivers all of his lines in this cheesy monotone, and his one liners suck. Most one liners do, mind you, but this asshole takes the cake. I don’t know what graveyard the filmmakers dug him out of, but they should have left his dead ass there.


Yet, I was intrigued enough to watch the sequel. And you know what? I actually liked it…


The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Eighteen: Drive-In Massacre (1977)

drive in



It’s been my experience that any movie with “massacre” in the title is worth a watch. Even if it’s not great, it’s never downright awful (at least in a bad way). Drive-In Massacre continued that trend.


A drive-in original (yes, movies were made to show exclusively at drive-in theaters back in the day…apparently), D-IM opens with a couple getting it on in the front seat of a sweet ‘70s ride at a California drive-in. The chick wants to bang, but the dude wants to watch the opening of “the picture” because, even though he’s seen it four times, it’s apparently that damn good. While he’s reaching out the window to grab the clip-on speaker (if there’s another name for it, I don’t know it; I’m a millennial), someone comes up and lobs his head off with a sword. The effects were good enough that I was like, “Oooo, shit.” The lady gets it next, right through the throat.


The next day, a pair of overweight homicide detectives show up at the drive-in to question the employees. There’s the manager, Austin Johnson, a big, bald, Anton LaVey son of a bitch who pisses and moans more than a woman on the rag (“My name’s Austin and I have to work for a living, wah-wah-wah”) and Germy, a simpleton who sweeps up. Before being turned into a drive-in fifteen years ago, the land was a circus; Germy was a sword swallower and Austin dealt with knives too, it’s revealed later, but he was never any good at it…how can you swallow a blade when you’re too busy bitching?


That night, another couple is killed while a peeping tom looks on. Well, the peeping tom doesn’t actually see the crime, but, he was peeping a moment before. Germy had previously mentioned the guy to the detectives, saying he “moved around” a lot and never stayed in one spot. The night of the second murder(s?), Germy gets his tag number and passes it onto the detectives, who pay the owner a visit. I forget the dude’s name. I think it was something like Dingleberg (Dingleberg….). Dingleberg has a rap sheet (apparently for sex crimes), and while being grilled by the fuzz, admits to peeping into the car, saying “I only wanted to beat my meat!” Twiddle-Dee and Twiddle-Dum (I forget their names too; I’m bad) search his car and find a sheet covered in blood, prompting Dingleberg to run. He says he hit a dog, but don’t they all? Turns out he was telling the truth.


Sometime later (that night, probably), the Fuzz Brothers set up a stake-out at the theater and watch Dingleberg doing his thing. While they’re distracted, a woman sitting alone in a car after her boyfriend stormed off (she wouldn’t put out) is decapitated, and Dingleberg’s throat is cut, eliminating him from the suspect pool.


The case gets a break, however, when some psycho wipes two people out with a machete and takes a little girl hostage in a warehouse. The cops show up, blast him, and pat themselves on the back for a job well done, but, uh-oh, the psycho escaped from a hospital that morning, making it impossible for him to be the killer.


Deciding it must be that miserable bastard Austin, they fly to the drive-in. Germy, who Austin previously fired, shows up before them demanding his back pay and goes into the projection booth. Shadows on the movie screen show Austin being killed with a sword (Germy mentioned having a sword collection before he went into the booth). It’s him, right? Nope. Fat and Fatter find Austin dead…and Germy dead too. Text appears on the screen explaining that the killer was never captured and that murders have occurred at other drive-ins across the country. The movie ends with a voice claiming to be “the manager” and telling everyone to remain calm, but a killer is loose in the theater.


Look, I liked this movie. The acting was good enough that it never broke my suspension of disbelief, the gore scenes were realistic enough, and the overall story itself was enjoyable enough. Austin was such a miserable malcontent that I couldn’t help but like him. I bitch a lot too. I was hoping he’d have more screen time.


The sequence at the warehouse drags, though. We get a good ten minutes of the crazed guy chasing the girl around, then the cops show up, then they chase him, then they all exchange gunfire. I read online that that scene was added to pad the movie’s runtime (the finished product was only, like, 75 minutes). It was stuck in and it feels like it. The ending with the text and voice loses whatever punch it may have packed when you’re watching it on a cellphone in bed, but this was a drive-in movie and, as such, I took the ending in context and appreciated it for what it was. William Castle did a lot of similar stuff in the sixties. I remember reading about one movie where these creatures got into your back and tingled or something, and in theaters, the seats were rigged to vibrate and a voice implored everyone to scream, as screaming killed the creatures. It’s hokey, but, you know, novelty’s nice every once in a while, and getting the audience involved makes for an actual experience, even if it’s kind of dumb.


Overall, this was a fun little movie. Definitely worth the price of admission, if only for a man wailing “I just wanted to beat my meat!” in self-disgust.


The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Seventeen: Terror at Tenkiller (1986)

Terror at Tenkiller


There’s a video out there of an early NASA test launch probably from the early sixties. In it, the rocket falls over and explodes on the launch pad.


That’s Terror at Tenkiller, a cinematic failure so dull that I was considering abandoning ship halfway through. In it, two college girls named Jana and Leslie (Jana looks like she’s pushing forty, but maybe she’s just an older student?) drive out to Jana’s father’s cabin on Tenkiller Lake. Leslie is dealing with drama from her caveman boyfriend, Josh, and Jana figures a summer away would do her good. After they arrive, Jana tells Leslie a fanciful story her father (apparently a writer) told her about why Tenkiller Lake was called, well, Tenkiller Lake: An Indian maiden was wronged by another tribe (it’s been less than twenty-four hours since I saw it, but I can’t remember how) and responded by killing ten of its bravest warriors; the last, she drags to the bottom of the lake until they both drown, presumably shouting “Allahu akbar!”


Tenkiller Lake is a nice place and all, but the summer vacay is ruined by two things: Josh keeps calling and harassing Leslie and Jana, for one, and for two, some psycho is running around killing people. In fact, the movie opens with a woman named Denise getting her throat slit.


The killer is revealed to be this dude who works at the marina named Tor, whom Jana takes a shine to. Knowing fairly early on who the killer is robs this lametastic crapfest of any suspense it may have possibly gained. Slasher films work best in my estimation if the identity of the killer is concealed until the last possible minute.
Anyway, Jana and Leslie receive a number of disturbing phone calls from someone they assume to be Josh. The caller (Tor, as we know) apparently has a thing for Leslie. In the end, Tor kills Jana and takes Leslie hostage, talking this big game about loving her and how she’s sweet and perfect and ugh, yuck, blah. She belts him and runs. Meanwhile, Josh tracks her down and arrives just in time to get his throat cut. Good. Fuck him. Tor knocks Leslie out and loads her into a dinky ass rowboat. She revives, purposely tips the boat, and swims away while Tor drowns. In a voiceover, Leslie posits that Jana’s Indian maiden dragged Tor down to his death. Oooo. Spooky. Except that’s not it at all. Dude obviously drowns. He fails around like he’s never seen water before, which is funny, considering he works at a marina and boats every day.


Aside from being boring and predictable (I figured Leslie would drown herself and Tor like the Indian maiden, and while that didn’t happen, it came close), Terror at Tenkiller is just so generic. And it plods. Oh, and we can’t forget the terrible acting. Really, there’s nothing to recommend it. No good effects, no interesting or unique kills/settings/premises/etc. It’s like canned squid. It’s on the supermarket shelf, but really has no reason for being.



The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Sixteen: Three on a Meathook (1973)



This movie should have been awesome. It’s grainy, it’s early seventies, it’s inspired by Ed Gein, it’s got the word “meathook” in the title, and the last time I saw a meathook in a horror movie, it was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the best movies ever made, genre notwithstanding (come to think of it, TCM was grainy and early seventies too).

I first heard of this movie about five years ago when I was writing an article on Ed Gein and the films he inspired (if you don’t know who Gein is, look him up; I don’t have time to recount his whole case history). I didn’t watch it, but from the title and the movie poster alone, I imagined a highly psychological horror film about a Gein-like killer holding a girl (or girls) hostage and showing them the depths of human depravity.


That’s not what happens at all.


Three on a Meathook opens with a gaggle of college girls spending the weekend at a lake (actually it opens with two people screwing, but that doesn’t matter). As they’re frolicking topless in the water, a creeper passes by in a rowboat.


On their way back, the girls break down and who should come along in his old piece of shit truck but the creeper. His name is Billy and he’s a gangly, not entirely handsome good ole boy. Seems nice enough. He offers to let the girls stay the night with him and his pa on the family farm. When they arrive, Pa doesn’t seem too happy about the guests, telling Billy “You know what happens when you get around women.” Billy promises to sleep in the shed.


Even so, the girls are butchered in the night. Pa finds them and goes to Billy, who doesn’t remember the murders. Pa promises to “take care of everything” and sends Billy into town to see a movie. After stopping by his mother’s grave and asking for her guidance (saying that if he’s killing people, he should be put away), he hits a bar and meets a lovely waitress named Sherry. After a day of bonding with Billy, Sherry promises to come out to the farm on Sunday with a friend.


When Billy tells Pa, Pa gets upset, fearing more carnage. Even so, Sherry and her friend Becky arrive on Sunday. Pa, visibly drunk, treats the girls hostilely but serves them dinner; his famous meat (he has a special way of smoking it). That night, Pa slips into Becky’s room and murders her. I knew it! The next day, while looking for her friend, Sherry goes into a locked shed and finds a bunch of women hanging from meathooks. She runs inside and finds Pa chopping up a human limb. When asked what he’s doing, he replies, “Making supper,” and attacks her. Billy appears and struggles with Pa, who knocks him down. Just as Pa is about to bring a meat cleaver down on Billy’s head, a random old woman runs in and winds up getting hit instead.


Billy: “M-Ma?”




The last scene is a psychological exposition ala Psycho where a head doctor explains to Billy that while Billy was away for a summer years ago, Ma got sick with cannibalism (didn’t know that was a disease) and Pa, being the loving husband that he is, buries an empty coffin and keeps Ma locked away, feeding her human parts. Pa’s a sensitive man. His mind snaps at what he’s doing, and he convinces himself that Billy’s the killer. Doesn’t make sense, I know.


Here are my complaints:


1) I don’t know if it was the quality of the upload (I watched it on Youtube) or what, but there were a couple times the picture started rocking back and forth. What, was this thing filmed on a boat?


2) Pa sends Billy into town and mops up the mess about twenty minutes in. For the next twenty to twenty five minutes, we see Billy in town, picking up some supplies for the farm, going to see The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman, and going to a bar where there’s this long and boring sequence of a band playing seventies music (and not the good kind). It got on my nerves. I wanted to see more about Billy, Pa, and the murders, not a bunch of assholes in sequin suits. It really bogged down the movie.


3) The twist was stupid. I mean, I didn’t see it coming, but that doesn’t make it a surprise, it makes it totally random and head-scratchingly lame. “The nature of your mother’s disease is cannibalistic.” What fucking disease? What disease turns people into cannibals? What, it’s a zombie movie now? I get they were trying to rip Psycho off, but damn. Funeral Home did it better. The twist wasn’t a twist to me because it didn’t blow my mind. It made me rub my eyes in disbelief. Maybe I’m being too hard on it, but that’s how I felt, rational or not.


I suggest seeing it because it’s there, but you can skip it and be ‘ight.


Uh...I can explain.

Uh…I can explain.