The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Six: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

silent night

 

 

Summary: Santa Claus loses his mind and goes on a sick killing spree in this heartwarming holiday classic scored by Slayer, Anthrax, and Public Enemy.

 

Okay, that’s not what happens. SNDN opens on Christmas Eve 1971. 5-year-old Billy watches as a piece of shit dressed like Santa brutally murders his parents (I know, it sounds stupid, but it kind of makes sense: The killer needed a disguise for his big night of knocking over gas stations for pennies, and, hey, a guy dressed like Santa at Christmas? Draws less attention than a flak jacket and a fucking ski mask, right?).

 

Billy and his infant brother Ricky are shipped off to an orphanage ruled by an asshole nun calling herself Mother Superior (more like Motherfucker!). All through his youth, Billy is tormented by this wheeled bitch. At one point, he freaks out at Christmas and decks a guy dressed like Santa (for which Mother Dick whipped his ass).

 

At eighteen, Billy’s a strapping (though shy) lad, and the one good nun (I forget her name, but she was chill) gets him a job at a toy store. Billy excels, and it looks like all that Santa bullshit is behind him.

 

Wrong.

 

Christmas time rolls around, and Billy gets kind of ansty. Okay. Understandable. Just lie back and think of England.

 

Oh, the toy store Santa is sick, and the boss wants Billy to fill in? Capital idea. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

 

Yeah. Something went wrong. Billy flips his lid and turns into his intepetation of Santa…a force for vengeance. Dressed as the jolly red elf, Billy runs around and hacks at least a dozen people to death with an ax (including Linnea Quigley, who, of course, bares her weird, misshapen chest) all the while yelling “Punish!” It’s pretty funny.

 

Billy caps off his Christmas with a visit to the orphanage, where he confronts Mother Superior and calls her “naughty” a bunch of times (it’s like how the villain always pauses to tell James Bond his evil plan instead of just killing him).

 

Before he can hack off that asshole nun’s head, Billy is gunned down by a cop and drifts off to death, leaving Christmas safe once more.

 

Just kidding. Ricky jumps up and starts calling Mother Superior naughty too. Gasp? Sequel? You bet your ass! Silent Night, Deadly Night 2…coming this Garbage Day!

 

I was actually surprised by the psychological aspect of this movie. I expected a quick info dump at the beginning, but the first half of the film is dedicated to Billy’s tortured childhood, which really made him someone you could at least emptheize with. We know in the Friday the 13th franchise that Jason was an ugly kid who drowned, but we didn’t really get to see what he went through. With Billy, we do. We see him having nightmares about the night his parents were murdered; we see the terror and anzity that came upon him every Christmas; we see an emotionally disturbed young boy who needs help, love, and tenderness instead get the shit kicked out of him. Maybe the scenes focusing on his backstory could have been trimmed a bit, but by the time Billy starts work at that toy store, we feel like we know him, and maybe even care for him. He’s not just a faceless slasher hiding in a bush, he’s Billy, he had a rough start, but he’s a good kid…

 

Silent Night, Deadly Night caused quite a stir when it was released. Parents protested the depiction of a killer dressed as Santa Claus (though it had been done before, most notably in the Tales From the Crypt movie (1972) and in Christmas Evil (1980). Ebert and his sanctimonious gal pal Siskel weighed in. Of course they didn’t like it. They like NPR and community theater where everyone pretends to be oh-so-fancy like Squidward on his day off, but in reality flip burgers and pick their noses just like everyone else. It was pulled from theaters after a week or so, and, if I recall, didn’t do too well financially because of it. Shame. This movie is well-produced and well-written with believable characters and a strong overarching narrative.

 

The second one, however…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Five: Where Have All the People Gone? (1974)

Where

 

This movie gives me an erection.

 

Really, I’m all warm and tingly just thinking about it. WHATPG? (okay, that doesn’t work) is like a summer fling: Hot and heart-pounding but over too soon.

 

It starts with some science dude (Peter Graves) and his teenage kids exploring a cave in the California mountains, looking for…science, I guess. Anywhere, there’s an earthquake, and they narrowly escape. Back topside, they find their buddy (who wasn’t sciencey enough for the science club) all messed up and blind. He talks some wild shit about a bright flash or something (you could say he was…blinded by science) and eventually dies before they can get him down the mountain, turning into a fine red powder (Tang, anyone?).

 

In the nearest town, our intrepid heroes find that everyone has been turned to powder, and that the phones don’t work. Worried about mom back in L.A., they set off west, coming across several others survivors, including some asshole who jacks their ride, a rabid dog, and this snot nosed little kid. After a few additions to the team, they make it back to L.A. and, yep, everyone’s dead, including mom. It ends with them adjusting to their new lives. Awww.

 

I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies, so maybe I’m biased, but I love this movie. I mean, it’s certainly better acted and written than I had any right to expect from an early seventies made-for-TV movie. My only complaint is this: It’s too short. Like, one hour and thirteen minutes short. There’s so much more that could have gone into it had it been given a good two or even three hours. So much conflict, so much drama, so much story. It’s like…it’s like an appetizer. You’re at Applebees, you’re hungry, the chicken sliders look good, so you order them…only to eat them and then spend an awkward ten minutes staring at your plate, still hungry but not brave enough to order something else like a fatass, so you go home and make a Hot Pocket, which you eat despite the middle still being cold because nihilism. I love this movie but it simply isn’t enough. I’m a big man, America; a big, big man. Where Have All the People Gone? should have been a miniseries. A long fucking miniseries.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Four: Dracula the Dirty Old Man (1969)

Drac Dirty

 

There’s a saying I heard once: If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.

 

See, it’s clever because, you know, hippies are all burned out from weed and LSD and shit. LOL.

 

But it’s just as well if you don’t remember the sixties, because nothing made any fucking sense. I have a theory. JFK’s head was Pandora’s Box, and that asshole Oswald opened it when he shot him. Things made sense up until 1963. Then BAM, middle class college kids railing against “The Man” (AKA their parents AKA the people paying for them to be in college and not in Vietnam playing tiddly-winks with the NVK), weird music, weird movies, Charles Manson, acid everywhere.

 

Then, at the tail end of it all, Dracula the Dirty Old Man.

 

Basically, it’s like this: Dracula turns a reporter into a werewolf-thing and sends him out to find hot young blood. This servant (his name was Jekyllman…or was it Jekyll Man?) snatchers women and takes them to Dracula’s desert lair, whereupon Dracula stripes them semi-nude (lots of titties in this one, boys) and bites them while stammering about how beautiful they are and how Jekyll Man is good, and next time he wants a redhead, and blah, blah, blah). In the end Jekyll Man comes to his senses and overthrows Dracula, saving one or more women. I don’t know. It’s been a while.

 

Now, that run down I gave makes DTDOM sound kind of cool. That’s because that paragraph up there has more narrative cohesion than DTDOM. It felt like a collection of scenes slapped together with no care to the overall story. It goes without saying that this was a low budget film, so the effects, acting, and production values aren’t the greatest. It’s charming, like it is with most old drive-in/B/grindhouse/exploitation movies, but it still doesn’t feel like a complete movie. Also, in Dracula’s lair, women are chained up passed out and half-naked, which isn’t politically correct. Not that I give a shit, but, hey, different times.

 

It has this trippy, far out late sixties softcore porn vibe that I really didn’t like. It’s…it’s one of those things you have to see for yourself. Maybe I’m way off base here, but that’s just how I felt. I didn’t regret devoting the hour plus it took to watch it, so it’s not a total wash.

 

Man, dig those sixties. Like, wow.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Three: Cutting Class (1989)

Cutting Class

 

I fucking hate this movie.

 

You won’t hear me say that very often because, let’s be honest, I have very low standards when it comes to horror movies…just I like do with women. Give me something, anything, to work with, and even if I don’t particularly like what you did, I’ll nod in respect. But Cutting Class can go to hell.

 

Starring Brad Pitt as a douchy, piece of shit jerk-ass jock, Cutting Class is what I think of as a Hollywood picture. Most of my favorite movies came from starving filmmakers with a vision and an uncompromising drive to make a good movie. They’re like…the cool hippy kid, you know? Hollywood pictures are The Man. Uptight. Square. The establishment. As soon as I saw Brad Pitt’s fucking name in the opening credits, I knew I’d make a mistake. He’s a Hollywood guy, and Hollywood guys play in Hollywood pictures. Some might be in something cool when they’re starting out, but usually they’re in the glittery, glamory fucking stupid Big Hollywood productions.

 

Cutting Class is centered around this fucked up weirdo named Brian who comes out of a mental hospital after killing his abusive father. He’s a real fucking creep. Long black coat like he’s a groupie for The Cure or something. He starts stalking Brad Pitt’s girlfriend, Paula, who’s home alone while her big shot attorney dad (Martin fucking Mull) is off on a fishing trip. Brad Pitt, who was once Brian’s best friend, starts being a total dick. Even though Brian’s creepy, Pitt’s such a meathead that you can’t help hate him.

 

Anyway, people start dying (Martin Mull gets an arrow in the opening scene; instead of dying, he’s cursed to spend the entire movie walking home through swamps, mountains, and flapping fields of flaccid penises) and Brian gets the blame. Brad Pitt and some of his friends break into the principal’s office, find Brian’s records from the hospital, and make copies to distribute to everyone in school. Everyone then makes fun of Brian’s shock treatments.

 

After a teacher is killed in school, Brad Pitt chases Brian off and the whole town turns on him. He comes to stupid Paula and asks for help, showing her a picture that incriminates Brad Pitt. The next day, a Saturday, they wind up at school, and for a while it seems like Brad Pitt might really be the killer, which would have been a nice twist, but no, it was actually Brian, and he and Brad Pitt fight to the death.

 

As a slasher, Cutting Class is watered down and plain. No breasts, no cool kills, hardly any gore, and Brad Pitt is a colossal asshole. It was hard not to sympathize with Brian, especially when it’s revealed that he killed his asshole father and not, like, a bunch of nuns who moonlighted as orphaned kittens.

 

It’s really the character dynamic that makes this movie so fucking stupid. See, Brad Pitt’s character was a total dick throughout the entire thing, and for over half the movie, Brian is painted as being wrongfully accused, which, if you ask me, makes the audience feel for him. When you’re making a slasher movie, and the killer is one of the characters we’ve met already and don’t suspect, you have to be careful not to go crazy making him likeable. Showing him laughing and smiling and being cool is fine. The audience is like, “This guy’s alright. I like him.” Make him out to be the victim of a witch hunt spearheaded by an ill-tempered bully who constantly pressures his girlfriend for sex and shows up at her house drunk off his ass in hopes of getting laid, and you make the audience really fucking like him. You make them root for him. Then when he’s revealed to be the killer, no one’s like, “Whoa! I never saw that coming!” They’re like, “Really? Fucking really?”

 

Our hero is Brad Pitt. A loud-mouth bully who does everything in his power to make us not like him. That’s the guy we’re supposed to be cheering for.

 

See, about half way through Cutting Class, I was beginning to think that Brian wouldn’t be the killer. I was thinking that instead of being a total waste of celluloid, it would have something profound to say about not judging people, about not jumping to conclusions, about not going full-on Joe McCarthy based on someone’s past. “Oh, you took Russian literature in high school? You must be a Red!”

 

But no, Cutting Class had nothing intelligent to say. The people behind it were simply cashing in on a cinematic trend established by people who actually did have something to say. Guys like Romero, Fulci, Carpenter, and Craven all produced beloved horror films, and you know why? You know why they’re so beloved? Because if they didn’t create nightmarish and surreal environments (Fulci), they had something to say. Maybe something social. Maybe something political. Maybe something about humanity, about human nature. Something. Anything. For a minute there, I honestly thought Cutting Class had something it wanted to say. Nope. It was just a stupid, overproduced piece of crap with moments of yuck inducing comedy (the movie begins with Martin fucking Mull telling his ugly daughter not to cut class while he’s gone, and when he staggers into the street and is nearly run down by her and her D-Bag bf Brad Pitt. He explains that Brian shot him with an arrow, blah, blah, blah. Then he looks at Paula and says with all the gravity of an 80s sitcom dad, “You’re not cutting class are you?” Paula simply shrugs and gives a face like, darn it, caught! Cue laugh track).

 

Fuck this movie. Fuck Martin fucking Mull, fuck Brad Pitt, fuck that ugly, bug-eyed asshole who played Brian, fuck that Penelope-Cruz-on-crack looking bitch who played Paula, and fuck Rospo Pallenberg, the director. His treatment of The Stand sucked too.

 

Just like Cutting Class.

 

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Two: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Sleepaway Camp

 

Sleepaway Camp: A gender bending good time.

 

With this movie, you’ll have a ball…maybe two.

 

A meaty story that cuts close to the bone.

 

Okay, okay, I’m done now.

 

For those of you who’ve seen 1983’s Sleepaway Camp, you probably get what I’m talking about. For those of you who haven’t, let me set the stage.

 

The movie opens with two kids and their dad boating on a lake. They’re knocked from the boat, which then runs them over, killing the dad and the son but sparing the daughter. The daughter, Angela, goes to live with her cousin Ricky and her weird aunt. Flash forward a bunch of years. Ricky and Angela are packed off to summer camp. Angela, quiet and shy, immediately earns the scorn of her cabin’s bitch clique, and just about everyone decides to make her time at camp very unpleasant. Ricky, who’s probably the best cousin in the world, constantly sticks up for her, even going so far as to attack some older boys who made fun of her.

 

Then the murders began.

 

First, a fat, sweaty cook who tried to molest Angela gets a giant cauldron of boiling water dumped on him. Then…I don’t know, more people die. Sleepaway Camp isn’t very creative in that respect. If you’ve seen literally any slasher movie, you’ve seen the first hour or so of Sleepaway Camp. The only death that really stands out to me was this: Jock dude’s taking a shit, right? There’s a window above the toilet, okay? While he’s taking care of business, someone cuts the screen and tosses in a bee’s nest. The bees sting him, he runs away, he later succumbs to his wounds. I can honestly say I’ve never seen that before…but it was kind of dumb, so it all evens out.

 

Anyway, Ricky’s best friend (I forget his name) winds up like liking Angela and they kiss and stuff. Mean girl Judy, the biggest bitch at camp, tries to steal him away because fuck Angela. Angela sees them kissing in the woods and gets upset. Ricky’s BF runs after her, “Angela, wait!” Typical middle school bullshit.

 

One night, there’s this big dance, and a couple of people are killed, including Judy (now her death reaaaally stands out because…well…she’s killed with a curling iron…and it…you know…goes in “there.” The camp administrator dude, this sleazy, track suit wearing used car salesman looking piece of trash named Mel comes to the conclusion that Ricky is the killer. “That goddamn kid, always sticking up for his cousin…he’s doing it.” He attacks Ricky, but winds up taking an arrow to the face on the archery range.

 

Meanwhile, Angela meets RBF down by the lake for what one can only presume is a little sexy time. We cut back to some of the camp counselors realizing, shit, niggas be dyin, and heading off to round up Ricky, Angela, and RBF so they aren’t killed too. They find Ricky, who is alive, and then a naked Angela cradling RBF’s yucky severed head. When Angela stands up and facing them…dude, she has a penis!

 

In a flashback, we see that the daughter didn’t survive the boating accident, the son did, and when he went to live with his aunt, well, she already had a son but reaaaally wanted a daughter. Roll credits.

 

That twist is, if you ask me, the only reason Sleepaway Camp has any sort of lingering presence. If it weren’t for that, it would probably had sank to the bottom of the barrel thirty years ago, never to be heard from again. Back then (but certainly today), Angela’s transgendered state is a point of cultural contention. Some trans groups see her as a groundbreaking character, while others feel she was politically incorrect and cast trans people in a bad light. My opinion?

 

Look, I’m a true crime buff. I’ve forgotten the case histories of more serial killers than you’ve probably ever even fucking heard of. A lot of these guys (maybe not most, but more than just a coincidental amount) were dressed as girls in childhood. I don’t think that alone accounted for their nature, but it certainly didn’t help. If we can go on and on about how a trans child shouldn’t be forced to present as the gender they were born with because it might cause some kind of mental trauma or issues or what have you, then I’m certain we’re smart enough to realize that the reverse is also true: Being forced to present as a gender you don’t identify with could cause some sort of trauma. Yes, Angela’s gender was played for shock value, in a way, but was handled in a manner most neutral.

 

Hey, this boy watched his father and his sister die in front of him when he was very young. He suffered trauma to the head. His crazy aunt forced him to present as a girl while he was a normal cis-gender male type. This created conflict and confusion in a mind already traumatized. The final straw was summer camp. Not only was Angela picked on, she was around a butt load of “normal” boys and girls, who were not confused about who they were or what they were attracted to. Perhaps Angela was attracted to some of the girls in her cabin, but felt wrong about it, or was attracted to boys but felt wrong about it. Maybe she grew to resent how “easy” the other kids had it. Maybe she hated them because they were comfortable in their identity. Add to that the incessant bullying and the previous trauma, and viola, murder spree.

 

However you take it, Angela and her identity make this movie, and while it’s interesting to discuss and analyze, that’s…that’s not really a good thing. None of the characters are all that memorable, none of the deaths (besides Judy’s) are worth mentioning, and the story itself spends most of the time just not being interesting. I wouldn’t call Sleepaway Camp a “gem.” It’s more of an oddity. A roadside curio. Yes, I think it is significant enough that every horror buff should see it (even if you know the twist…which, going in, I didn’t), but if you do miss it, well…whatever. You can’t win ‘em all, right?

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day One: Tourist Trap (1979)

Tourist Trap

 

 

Six months ago (give or take), I decided to use the magic of the internet to watch all the classic horror movies I missed. The Universal movies (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf-Man), Alien (1979), The Thing (1982), and…whatever others I didn’t catch.

 

Yeah. That didn’t happen. Perhaps naturally, I veered off the rails and found myself devouring obscure B-movies from the seventies and eighties, mainly generic slasher films. Basically, I’ve spent the past half year watching a lot of dreck. But good dreck. And, occasionally, I’ll land on an all-around masterpiece. What follows is my attempt to review the movies I’ve seen. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

***

 

 

You’ve seen ‘em, I’ve seen ‘em. All along America’s highways, they lie in wait, using dark magic (and advertising) to lure unsuspecting travelers into their yawning maws. They’re tourist traps. They sell trinkets and souvenirs, or offer a glimpse at The World’s Biggest Pumpkin (NEXT LEFT!). You usually see the first signs for them fifteen or twenty or even thirty miles out. By the time you reach them, you’re so amped you just have to stop.

 

Then you’re disappointed. That pumpkin is whack and the junk in the gift shop looks ugly. Ugh.

 

Just be glad you missed Slausen’s Roadside Shitshow. That place sucks.

 

See…I’m at a loss for words here. How do I describe Tourist Trap? It’s like Carrie meets Psycho meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Motel Hell. A group of friends break down near an abandoned tourist trap (get it?) inhabited by a dotty old farmer named Slausen (Chuck Connors). Before long, our heroes are trapped in a house crammed with mannequins and stalked by a deranged killed in a creepy doll’s face mask. The killer is Slausen’s whacked out brother Davy, who displays bizarre mental powers: He moves things with his mind and literally brings mannequins to life. Not like he turns them into people or anything, no, they’re still mannequins, but they’re alive. Trust me, it’s an unnerving sight to see.

 

Anyway, in a twist that you might see coming a mile away (I did), Slausen is revealed to be Davy, and steals away one of the surviving women to make his bride. In a display of his powers, he turns a mannequin into a real woman and breathes life into some creepy killer doll or something. I don’t know. I was too busy being astounded. Busy showing off, he doesn’t see his captive going for an ax…

 

Tourist Trap is a genuinely suspenseful film with some legitimately unnerving scenes, such as a group of mannequins, their mouths opening and closing in a breathy chours of the damned, looming over a fallen and terrified woman. The killer’s mask is high octane nightmare fuel. Connors plays his part as the psychotic telekinetic with gusto, at one point sitting in a chair and laughing merrily as a George Custer automaton fires live ammunition at a victim attempting to duck and hide. As a twenty-five year old man, I wasn’t in the least bit scared, but had I seen this movie as a kid, I probably would have pissed myself.

 

Speaking of kids, Tourist Trap is almost entirely devoid of blood and gore and, despite the disturbing subject matter, secured a PG rating, so the whole family can enjoy.

 

Tourist Trap is a bizarre, must-watch gem. Five middle fingers.

 

 

 

Shades

Well, it’s been a while, but, hey, reasons, you know? I spent much of 2016 putting together The 3rd Spectral Book of Horror Stories and adjusting to life in Albany, New York (oh, yeah, I moved). Anyway, I’m back with a couple new things, including a brand new story collection. See what people are saying about Shades:

 

“Editor and author Joseph Rubas has something… With dream-like vignettes, and sharply drawn characters, he places readers in the thick of nightmarish worlds populated by lonely people, often in sad or desperate situations. But his work never leaves us hopeless, only disquieted, and SHADES, his third collection, is ample evidence of a writer to watch – for all the right reasons.” – Jason V Brock Two-time Bram Stoker Award nominee (editor, author, filmmaker)

 

 

Aokigahara would be my best-of-book nomination, with Midnight, Paint, Potter’s Field and the plain nasty Fury scoring highly in the sick entertainment stakes, but they all got something. Richard Laymon fans will likely appreciate all the carrying on in the woods (the aforementioned Potter’s Field reads like a budget Mess Hall)” – Dem Bones, Vault of Evil.

 

“An exceptional short story collection, SHADES showcases author Joseph Rubas’ strong literary talent and extensive imagination. For me, it also served as an introduction to Mr. Rubas’ writing, and an invitation to extend my interest in his work. I was impressed by the consistency of the high quality of this collection.” – The Haunted Reading Room

 

 

“Joseph Rubas really delivers the scares in this collection of unexpected twists and exciting plot-lines. His work is fresh and original, and rich with dark delights. Don’t miss this book of frights; and keep your lights on at night when you read it.” – Jeani Rector, Editor of The Horror Zine

 

 

High praise from cool people. Watch out for new releases (The 4th Spectral Book of Horror Stories will be out Easter, and it’s a doozy!).

 

 

A Few Words With Jim Johnson (Wrestling Promoter)

Jim Johnson was, at one time, one of the most powerful wrestling promoters in the south. During the territorial era of the sport, Jim was a major player in Western Tennessee Championship Wrestling and Mid-Tennessee Wrestling. He was gracious enough to sit down and talk to me about his early years in the business, and the infamous 1982 Jack Steele incident, where Johnson and several others allowed a wrestler to be beaten to death by angry fans.

 

 

 

Q: How did you get into wrestling?

 

A: Well, I was cleaning office buildings in Memphis…about 1970. One of the places I did belonged to Western Tennessee Championship Wrestling, the big promotion at the time.

 

Q: Can you explain what you mean by “promotion”? For the listeners who don’t know much about wrestling?

 

A: A promotion is a company. Like WWF. Back then, there wasn’t one or two big promotions like there are today; there were a bunch of little ones, and they were regional. You know…self-contained.

 

Q: You caught the eye of WTCW promoter Jerry Barnett. Correct?

 

A: Yeah…Jerry was a big ‘ol fat bastard. Loved the guy. He’d be in his office late every night and we’d talk while I was taking his trash out. One day in 1971, he asked me, “Jim…you ever think about wrestling?” [Laughs] I said “Hell no. What’d I wanna do that for? Get my ass kicked every night? Shit.” That’s when he explained the business to me.

 

Q: That it was fake?

 

A: Pretty much.

 

Q: What happened from there?

 

A: Well, Jerry put me in a match against one of their lower card guys. September 15, 1971. We were at the Memphis Coliseum taping for TV, and I didn’t do very well. Jerry liked the promo I cut, though. He said I was a big loud mouth son of a bitch and he wanted me to be a manager. I didn’t know how to manage. Basically, I’d come out to the ring with my guy, talk trash, help him cheat when the ref wasn’t looking. That kind of thing.

 

Q: So you were a heel?

 

A: Yeah. Bad guy.

 

Q: You did well.

 

A: I did. I got good at the business. I’d help Jerry come up with ideas and things like that.

 

Q: When did you go to Nashville?

 

A: 1976. The promotion there, Mid-Tennessee Wrestling, wasn’t doing too well, so he thought he’d send me and I’d help turn it around.

 

Q: Did you?
A: I did. By 1978 we were big. We’d do shows in Chattanooga, Louisville, even Knoxville. Sometimes I’d drive back to Nashville from a show at two in the morning with thousands of dollars in the glovebox.

 

Q: Did you carry a gun?

 

A: Of course I did. Like I said, I’d be on the road late at night all by myself with thousands of dollars. I also needed it just in case people got too crazy.

Q: At the shows?

 

A: Yeah. You gotta realize, wrestling was a big deal in the south back then. No one knew it was fake, they thought what they were seeing was real, and tempers flared. Me being the heel manager to heel wrestlers, sometimes I’d have to show my gun to keep fans from mobbing us when we were trying to leave the arena.

 

Q: When did you become the promotor?

 

A: 1979. The guy Jerry had me working under, Big Bill Fisk, had a heart attack and I took over. Jerry wanted to buy the promotion out, but I wouldn’t let him. [Laughs]. I liked what I had going.

 

Q: When did you meet Jack Steele.

 

A: [Sigh]

 

Q: I’m…

 

A: I met him in 1980. Jerry gave me a call and said he had this new guy who was gonna be big, but that he was a babyface [Good guy] in Memphis and he’d do better as a heel. Asked if I’d take him. I said yes. That was Jerry’s way of paying me back for not selling out.

 

Q: Can you tell us a little about Jack?

 

A: He came into my office his first day in town. Big dumb bastard with blond hair. I honestly think he was kind of retarded.

 

Q: He was difficult to work with?

 

A: Very. Very difficult. Couldn’t follow direction. Didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. Rough.
Q: He liked hurting people, right?

 

A: Yeah, he did. Sadistic. In wrestling, you have to put your trust, and your faith, in the other guy. It’s like a highly choreographed danced. You’re flying around, throwing punches, kicking…and it’s all faked, but you have to know how to do it, and you have to care enough about the other guy not to actually hurt him. I can’t tell you how many times guys would have heat [Animosity] between each other, and take it out in the ring. You don’t pull a punch and let it land real, what are we supposed to do? All you have to say is “It was an accident, boss,” and I don’t know any better. Jack…he’d hurt people. You can slap and hit someone and make it not hurt, just like they did in vaudville. Jack wouldn’t do that. He’d hit you for real. He’d really choke you. When he’d pick you up to do a body slam, he’d squeeze your balls just because. There was something wrong with him. After a while, no one wanted to wrestle him.

 

Q: Why didn’t you fire him?

 

A: We had a contract. We signed it on July17, 1980, and it was up on July 17, 1982. I didn’t have the money to deal with lawsuits or anything like that, so I usually let guys ride. I did the same with him. I took him aside and chewed his ass a little, but that didn’t do anything.

 

Q: He was also successful, though.

 

A: Well…yeah, he was. I don’t know what it was about him, but he got more heat from the crowd than any other guy I’d ever seen. I was still playing the heel manager, so naturally he was under me. Standing by the ring while he wrestled, I got…you know…a vibe from the crowd. They hated him.

 

Q: What happened with Bob Stevens?

 

A: [Sighs] Bob was our top face. He and Jack had a feud during most of 1981. In November they had a match in Louisville. I was at ringside, and I distracted the ref so Jack could hit him in the groin. Well, he really hit him in the groin…so hard, Bob never wrestled again.

 

Q: Were you mad?

 

A: Was I mad? Hell, yes, I was! I suspended the big dumb fuck and almost didn’t bring him back in, but I needed money.

 

Q: He was still doing…still hurting people?

 

A: Yeah.

 

Q: And you had enough of it.

 

A: I did. I called Jerry and let him have it. He calmed me down and we talked. I told him I wanted the bastard to get a dose of his own medicine, and would he help me. He said yeah, what did I have in mind? I told him, and he agreed.

 

Q: You went to Memphis?

 

A: Yeah, me and Jack. The champ in Memphis at the time was Davey Gaston. Young, good-looking kid. Everyone loved him. Me and Jerry set them up in a series of matches during June and July. A feud angle. Hyped it. The last match was July 15. The crowd was all fired up from Jack, and me talking trash. At the end of the match, I had Jack give the kid a low-blow when the ref wasn’t looking. He won. And to add insult to injury, it was a title match.

 

Q: I bet the crowd wasn’t happy.

 

A: No, they weren’t. I went backstage with Jack to get ready to go. While I was in the locker room, Jerry had a few of his guys go out into the crowd and start working it, you know? “That son of a bitch took the title! He’s a cheater!” I left the building about fifteen minutes later and got in my, went around to the side door, and parked. About fifteen people were waiting for Jack to come out.

 

Q: What was your plan?

 

A: I was gonna let the crowd play a little. Then I was going to walk up with my gun, wave it around, and, when they were gone, I was gonna scrape Jack off the ground and take him home. On the way, I was going to tell him exactly what happened and why. Then on the 17th, I was going to decline to renew his contract.

 

Q: Only it didn’t happen that way.

 

A: No. Jack took a shower, so he was a little bit in coming out. When he finally did, the crowd grabbed him, dragged him out, and started in. I remember he was on the ground trying to cover his face, and everyone was kicking him, hitting him, screaming. I waited five minutes, then I got out, ran over, “Hey, get out of here, you rednecks or I’m gonna shoot you!” The people scattered and…

 

Q: Jack was dead.

 

A: Yeah. Southerners took their wrestling very seriously at the time. Someone brought a knife. Or a couple people brought knives. He was stabbed something like sixty times. His nose was broken, his head was caved in. Someone tied a noose around his neck, so they think they were going to lynch him before I came up.

 

Q: What did that do to you? As a promoter?
A: It ended me. There was a big investigation. I went to jail, Jerry went to jail, his buddies went to jail…even though they weren’t a part of the mob, you know? They just whipped them up and told them where Jack was gonna exit from.

 

Q: How long were you in jail?

 

A: Three years. I got out in August 1985 and got a job working for Jim Crockett in the Carolinas. I couldn’t be on TV because of who I was, but I worked in creative. I stayed when it became WCW but left in 1989. Since then, I’ve been out of the business.

 

Q: Do you regret it?

 

A: What I did to Jack?

 

Q: Well, that and being away from wrestling.

 

A: Well, yeah. I didn’t mean for him to get killed. I just wanted him to get roughed up a little. As for being away from wrestling…yeah, I miss it sometimes, but with the way the business is now, you know, like a big corporation…I don’t think I’m missing much.

 

Thanks again to Jim Johnson.

Back in…Red?

Looks like I haven’t posted in a while. Shoot. Well, I have a good reason, honest: I moved from Sunny Central Florida to Snowy New York State (Albany area, to be exact) and started a new job. My relationship of four years also came to an end. No need to comment how sorry you are (all my beautiful, adoring fans). Hey, shit happens, right?

 

Since I last posted I have self-published a novella and am gearing up to self-publish my novel: Dracula 1912, which takes Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dr. Van Helsing and drops them onto the RMS Titanic. How’d that happen, you ask? Well, you gotta read the book.

 

That novella I mentioned is doing pretty well. Downloaded tens of times. The Rocking Dead: Seasons 1-3. It’s a spoof of The Walking Dead. Yeah. That’s all you need to know right there!

 

Anyway, sit tight, I’ll be back and posting my drivel regularly before you know it.

 

P.S. Almost forgot to mention: I’ve also been busy editing the Third Spectral Book of Horror Stories for Spectral Press, a project that means a hell of a lot to me. The Spectral BoHS series is like a modern day version of the Pan Book of Horror Stories…or any of the other old horror anthology series’. I’ve selected some fantastic tales by some wonderful writers. It should be out in October. More later. – JR.

 

 

Guest Post: The Corruption of Horror by Anthony Servante

This week’s guest post is an insightful examination of the genre by a man who knows his stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Anthony Servante.

 

***

Horror is a state of aversion when we do not look away. What repulses us attracts us as well. That accident on the freeway where the body parts liter the lanes. We crane our necks to catch a glimpse as the police wave us by the crash scene cordoned off by several glowing red flares. It is at once horrific and beautiful. The lovely lights of flares and headlights covering the awful scene. It is a voyage by Marlow down the beautiful Congo River that leads to the “horrors” experienced by Kurtz in HEART OF DARKNESS (1899) by Joseph Conrad. As readers, we take a trip through beauty to reach horror when we read works of the Grotesque.

 

Allow me to elaborate.

 

When balanced with Beauty, Horror becomes a work of Romantic Grotesqueness. Since the Age of Romanticism (late 1700s to mid 1800s), the literature of the Grotesque exemplified Nature and Imagination paralleled. Nature defined as that lovely mountain, but also that tiger ripping a man apart, for both are part of nature. Add Imagination as the exaggeration of nature, the writer describing the haunted mountain or the demon substituted for the tiger. In the author’s hands, nature takes on Grotesque elements, namely, Horror and Beauty, for both become as one in the work of the writer. This is the literature of the Romantic Age.

 

In the writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Mary Shelley, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, we can see the original concept of Romantic Horror (or the Groteque). In DER SANDMAN (1817), Hoffmann juxtaposes a mysterious figure who steals the eyes from sleeping children with a love triangle between the narrator and a potential victim. In FRANKENSTEIN: The Modern Prometheus (1818), Shelley compares the beauty of birth and life with the creation of a human being from dead body parts. In RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER (1798), Coleridge contrasts the wisdom of agedness with the teachings of Life in Death (a beautiful woman skeletal in appearance) and Death (appearing as a skeleton) who gamble for the life of the aged mariner. Here are the elements of Horror (child abuse, graverobbing, and man’s random relation to death). Here, also, we have a woman finding true love, a monster blessed with high intelligence, and a man who escapes Death to grow wise and pass along his wisdom to the younger generation who’ve yet to meet (that is, understand) inevitable death.

 

Today, however, Romantic Horror has been stripped of its element of Beauty. For the sake of clarity, I can list many authors who continue the tradition of the Grotesque (e.g., the Bizarros carry on the tradition, especially writers like Gina Ranalli), but in this age of ebooks and shock value horror stories (from film to paperbacks), Beauty has been replaced with Gore and Sensationalism. In my interview with Sarah Karloff, daughter of Monster Icon, Boris Karloff, she told me that her father didn’t care for the word “horror” to describe his movies; he preferred the word “terror”, the subjective reaction to horror, that is, repulsion. Think back to our example of the traffic accident, a freeway strewn with body parts: A terrified person would not be attracted, only repulsed. Karloff saw his films as terrifying, designed to scare, not to provoke awe. The Grotesque provokes awe. Horror alone provokes repulsion.

 

In the Horror literature nowadays Gore has replaced Beauty. In what I termed the Aesthetic Grotesque, a subjective correlative, Horror and Gore have become its own oeuvre. It provokes morbid fascination rather than awe or respect. We have the Snuff genre, Extreme Gore, and Torture Porn. It has become a form of Gore worship that exploits gory pictures and stories for their own sake. The abandonment of Romantic traditions in the literature of the Grotesque has given way to an individual appreciation (aesthetic) of that which would otherwise be repulsive. Today’s horror reader celebrates excess in blood and mutilation as an end in itself.

 

We witness this overkill in the cinema of violence where excess is a challenge that must be surpassed by each new film-maker who takes up the gauntlet (Japanese Manga horror gleefully ups the ante on the gore scale). It is more than “cult” literature and film; it seeks to replicate realism with its book descriptions and film special effects to tantalize both reader and film-goer to question the authenticity of the gory scene at hand. We’ve come to expect buckets of blood to gush from a wound Monty Python-style, even as our rational mind tells us there isn’t that much blood in the human body. It is a corrupted branch of the Grotesque that exaggerates the gore and relishes the deliberate elimination of Beauty.

 

But let’s be clear about the definition of “Beauty”. By this word I do not mean only the attractive. I also include well-plotted stories, well-developed characters, Grand Guignol as an outlet for mounting suspense (as opposed to an entire work of Grand Guignol, which is a contradiction of its intent). It is Salome carrying the head of John the Baptist as opposed to Quasimodo carrying the decapitated head. It is heroism in a zombie apocalypse. It is sacrifice to save a young girl from demon possession. It is the ying to the yang in meditation. It is balance in literary exposition.

 

So, besides balance, what is missing in today’s Horror market that breaks with tradition? Simply put—Beauty. In the movie THE WILD BUNCH, director Sam Pekinpah paints a work of beauty with his gory finale, a bloodbath filmed like a gentle ballet. It is not an easy task to accomplish, but Pekinpah was a maestro. He made Gore beautiful. And that’s what’s missing today: An attractive goriness. What we have instead is gore for the sake of gore, bereft of beauty or attractiveness. A zombie eats a human face for two pages. The writer pads the work with gore rather than provoke the readers’ desire to glimpse the horrific scene and linger. It is pornography without love. It is aversion without romance. It is a creepy guy on a long long date, where the girl dreads being driven home by this person. Very unlucky girl.

 

Lucky for us, the reader can simply close the book. And many a book of horror gets closed today. The lost art of creating the Grotesque by combining elements of repulsion and attraction remains elusive in the hands of self-published writers and small presses. There’s no perfect formula that I can give here for the perfect work of Horror. I can only observe and report the trends of Horror and Terror, for I very infrequently encounter a good work of the Grotesque.

 

But just to show that there are a few who can accomplish what the Romantics created hundreds of years ago in literature, I shall name a few authors who should be sought out and emulated: Hank Schwaeble, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry, Graham Masterton, William Cook, and Ray Garton. I must keep my list small for the sake of brevity on this piece of nonfiction. Should you wish to learn more about authors who echo the tradition of the Grotesque, visit my blog and see what’s new.

 

 

Anthony Servante is a retired college professor. He has taught English and American Literature. He writes literary criticism for a Literary Journal under his real name. Anthony Servante is his pseudonym for writing about Horror on his blog, the Servante of Darkness. Although he covers music, film, art, and poetry, his main interest remains the fiction of Horror.

His books include:

KILLERS AND HORROR: INK BLACK, BLOOD RED (2013), a study that compares authors who write fictional serial killers with real serial killers.

http://www.amazon.com/Killers-Horror-Ink-Black-Blood-ebook/dp/B00GC03P1I/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451993704&sr=1-3&keywords=anthony+servante

EAST LOS: Death in the City of Angels (2012), a Noir novel about a drunken detective who sobers up to find a serial killer beheading young gang members in 1970 East Los Angeles.

http://www.amazon.com/East-Los-Death-City-Angels/dp/1503236226/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451993929&sr=1-4&keywords=anthony+servante

Anthony Servante has also written for Serial Killer Quarterly (SKQ):

http://www.amazon.com/Serial-Killer-Quarterly-Vol-1-No-2-ebook/dp/B00MPUZS0K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451993929&sr=1-1&keywords=anthony+servante

His blog can be found at:

http://servanteofdarkness.blogspot.com/