Search This Blog


Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Saturday, October 31, 2015


Not a scene from DAS BUTT.

Director Matthias Dinter's German-made NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS has quite accurately been likened to what would likely result if George Romero had directed AMERICAN PIE, and as such it's an unexpected treat and a hell of a lot of better than it has any right to be.

Phillip (Tino Mewes), Wurst (Manuel Cortez) and Konrad (Thomas Schmieder) are their high school's favorite punching bags, a trio marked for bullying and general abuse, especially uber-nerd Konrad, who has kept a detailed log of every indignity he's suffered at the fists of bullies since he was in primary school. Phillip has hopeless ambitions of nailing the snotty and openly hostile rich class hottie and Traci Lords lookalike, Uschi (Nadine Germann), while Wurst is the trio's priapic happy-go-lucky stoner/all-around party-boy (I'm figuring his lack of popularity is due to the company he keeps). Rounding out the core group of protagonists is Phillip's next door neighbor, Rebecca (Collien Fernandes), a pretty and rather self-aware Goth who was Phillip's closest friend during childhood but when adolescence hit the two briefly drifted apart and now Rebecca harbors other-than-friend feelings for Phillip, but he's too busy thinking with his cock and setting his sights on the rich bitch to notice that a good thing is staring him right in the face.

Our zeroes, er, heroes: (L-R) Rebecca (Collien Fernandes), Konrad (Thomas Schmieder), Phillip (Tino Mewes) and Wurst (Manuel Cortez).

When Phillip's attempt at asking Uschi out to the big dance results in he and his buddies receiving their umpteenth beating from Uschi's preppy Hitler Youth poster child-looking boyfriend, Wolf (Hendrik Borgmann), the desperate lads enlist the aid of Rebecca and her Goth friends to enact a Haitian voodoo ritual that will theoretically give the boys the ability to get any woman they want to fall in love with them (which does not sit well with Rebecca). The ritual goes awry and while driving back to Phillip's parents' house, the guys get into a bonghit-instigated car accident that kills all three of them. (The other two die of cranial impact injuries, while Philip's heart is pierced by a windshield wiper, so their corpses still look pretty good, all things considered.) While the love spell aspect of the voodoo ritual may not have worked, the lads soon awaken in the local morgue as fully-fledged zombies, now super-strong and impervious to pain. Making their way back to Phillip's house (it should be noted that his parents are gone for a few days), the guys discover that they are also flesh-eaters and that they can sate their carnivorous urges with raw meat.

Back from the dead and enjoying some raw steaks.

Upon returning to school the next day, the trio begin a campaign of vengeance against the bullies and jocks that results in them becoming instantly popular. Milking this, the boys announce a massive party at Phillip's house and the whole school is invited, including the now turned-on Uschi who makes no bones about her intent to fuck the newly-appointed Alpha male Phillip. During all of this, Phillip's relationship with Rebecca takes some interesting turns while Konrad, flush with power for the first time in his put-upon life, begins to go over to the Dark Side and lets his monstrous urges run rampant, igniting a humorously dire chain of events that can only be remedied if Rebecca can come up with an antidote to reverse the boys' zombie state. As the guys deal with the revolting realities of decomposition (somewhat remedied by a handy and judiciously applied staple gun), undead cannibalism and Konrad's increasing confidence and evil, the counter-spell must be pulled off within thirty-six hours of the initial zombification, so time is swiftly running out. And Konrad will not give up his newfound badassery willingly...

Working stylistically very much within the mold of American-made high school raunch flicks, the film looks and feels just like an American R-rated teen comedy, only everyone in it speaks German. And it certainly earns its R-rating thanks to liberal doses of filthy dialogue, gore, nudity, sexual situations (some of which could rightly be classified as necrophilia), drug and alcohol use, an illegal May/December romance (although admittedly I have no idea how the laws in Germany stand on teacher/underage student flings) and all the other stuff you'd expect from a film of this genre, only this time with zombies thrown into the formula for good measure. The performances are uniformly good, the script is tight and very funny and the whole thing just plain works. In fact, I would even go so far as to say NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS is the best horror comedy to come along since SHAUN OF THE DEAD, which came out barely two months prior to this. I'm guessing the reason this film didn't get the kind of attention the British SHAUN got over here has everything to do with it being in German, and while the DVD does include an English dub (watch the subtitled version to preserve the original performances), I don't recall the film ever getting a U.S. theatrical release or any kind of marketing hoopla being made when it hit DVD. That's a shame because, as previously stated, this film is a real winner and fans of horror-comedy and general audiences alike would eat it up (pun intended). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Oh, and included among the extras is the fourteen-minute alternate ending, which is worth a look to illustrate how the wrong ending could totally scuttle what would have otherwise been a perfect picture. The alternate ending seems like it was intentionally calculated to include every trite and wrong teen comedy element that we've seen beaten to death since the 1980's, and while watching it I was thanking the gods of cinema that Dinter wisely chose not to use it and go with a climax that not only made sense, but that was also as satisfying of an ending as you could want for this film.

Poster for the German theatrical release.

Friday, October 30, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Day 30: CRUEL JAWS (1995)

"I'll get you, motherfuckin' shark!!!"
—crazed shotgun-wielding Mafioso.

There are JAWS ripoffs and then there is CRUEL JAWS, a USA/Italian-made marvel of copyright infringement that liberally (and illegally) cribs its shark attack footage from JAWS, JAWS 2, JAWS 3-D, DEEP BLOOD and even the infamous LAST SHARK, itself one of the most outrageously  flagrant ripoffs ever made. I was alerted to this work of patchwork art a few years back by my pal Mindless Kirby, himself already well-schooled in bad movies by the relatively early age of eighteen, and I could not believe there could possibly be a JAWS ripoff more in-your-face than Enzo Castellari's LAST SHARK, a film withdrawn after legal action was threatened by Universal Pictures. Seriously, there was just no way. But what I did not take into account was that there would be an Italian filmmaker possessed of balls big enough to actually — and very poorly — steal footage from all of the aforementioned movies, rather than merely lift the basic template of "gigantic man-eating shark terrorizes beach resort until hunted to explosive death by a disparate crew of pursuers." And, as if that were not enough, the film also "borrows" snippets from one of the most famous movie soundtracks of all time, specifically the original STAR WARS, and even lists JAWS author Peter Benchley as one of its scripters. (It goes without saying that he was not actually involved.)

Helmed by "William Snyder" — aka Bruno Mattei, the virtuoso behind such classics as S.S. EXTERMINATION LOVE CAMP (1977), PORNO HOLOCAUST (1981), CALIGULA'S PERVERSIONS (1981), VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON (1982) and RATS IN MANHATTAN (1984) — CRUEL JAWS follows the tried and true formula of the films it rips off and splices together, mostly drawing its plot particulars from JAWS and JAWS 2. Aside from the familiar narrative template, the story gives viewers a gaggle of disposable characters that are impossible to care about, and in most cases you'll end up praying for them all to end up as the next day's floating shark's turds. There's the nerdy shark expert, a Hulk Hogan lookalike with a cute and treacly little daughter in a wheelchair (who spends her time playing with dolphins and seals at her dad's low-rent aqua show), a pitiful pack of local bullies, one of whom is the mayor's son, and, of course, the corrupt mayor who pooh-poohs the shark attacks and refuses to call off the upcoming regatta for fear of losing tourist's bucks, and their performances are uniformly piss-poor. As the so-called story perfunctorily goes through the motions, there's also a jaw-dropping subplot where the mayor — after failing to call off the regatta, which ends up with the deaths of innocents and loses tons of money as a result — is called on the carpet by his previously unseen Mafia masters and told that they will send a pair of stereotypical goombahs to take care of the shark and claim the $100,000 reward. These two morons, suddenly and inexplicably expert at handling motorboats, set off onto the high seas to kick some shark ass, armed with various firearms. Needless to say, they are horribly killed almost immediately.

As the story nears the long-overdue finish line, it is eventually revealed that the shark is actually the result of a navy experiment that has been trained to attack any enemies within its home territory — in this case a sunken Naval transport — and that revelation adds nothing whatsoever to the plot or the viewer's interest. Oh, and while the shark is described as being of the Tiger variety, all of the stock nature documentary footage and stolen segments clearly depict Great Whites.

The film's soundtrack is replete with totally inappropriate music — mostly ten-years-out-of-date generic '80's-style pop that will make you want to put your head through the nearest wall — and the cinematography is often murky as hell, rendering much of the original footage quite dark, and the editing is often incomprehensible. But what makes this mess absolutely worth sitting through is its sheer nerve as a Frankenstein's monster of cobbled-together footage from other movies, and the jarring juxtaposition of it all is akin to reliving a bad tequila and cough syrup bender. From moment to moment, the shark morphs from live nature footage to a number of fake-looking animatronics and puppets, and when the shark is blown up at the end it explodes three times, each detonation culled from different movies. CRUEL JAWS is complete and utter crap and its shamelessness is Homeric in scale, but a film of this magnitude of outrageousness is a must-see for all followers of bad movies in general and lovers of ridiculous shark flicks in particular.

Packaging art for one of the film's DVD releases. This totally doesn't rip off the classic JAWS poster art because this image includes an explosion!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


When the beast within gains the reins.

David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman are two American youths on a walking tour of Europe who find themselves in the isolated rustic Northern English town of East Proctor, the kind of place where the locals are close-mouthed around outsiders and where remnants of a pagan past are evident. Earning the displeasure of the regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb pub after Jack asks them why there's a big pentagram on the wall — a symbol that he notes to David is the sign of the werewolf (Jack's obviously seen THE WOLF MAN) — the hapless tourists find themselves booted from the establishment and, against the advice of the creepy, tight-lipped indigenous populace, wander off the roads and into the fog-enshrouded moors during a full moon, where they fall prey to…well, you have a pretty good idea if you’ve noticed the film's title. Jack doesn’t survive the attack, but David awakens weeks later in a London hospital under the care of a mouth-watering nurse (the one and only Jenny Agutter) and is visited by the mangled corpse of his best buddy. The disturbingly-mutilated Jack — who has lost none of his friendliness, charm, and sense of humor in the wake of his horrific murder — warns David that he’s now a werewolf and must kill himself before the next full moon, but if the disbelieving David had killed himself the movie would have been about twenty minutes long and pissed off an audience that came expecting some righteous monster action, so you can guess the rest.

Rearing its shaggy head just four months after the equally-classic lycanthropy opus THE HOWLING, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON upped the shape-shifting ante by having a major studio budget, a writer/director who wielded no small amount of clout in the wake of the success of his NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) and THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980), picturesque UK locations, the toothsome and talented Jenny Agutter, and FX badass Rick Baker on the makeup/creature effects, so how could it lose? Frankly, it didn’t and almost thirty-five years after the fact it still vies with THE HOWLING for top position in the hearts of most werewolf mavens. (Hell, I paid to see it three nights in a row when it came out!).

A horror movie for grownups that came out during the avalanche of brain-dead and juvenile1980's slasher pictures — their gore and nudity/sex notwithstanding — and provided a welcome alternative, AMERICAN WEREWOLF fires on all cylinders, engaging its audience with likable characters, a doomed love story, and some of the most indelible moments of cinematic horror of its decade. The foreboding atmosphere during the sequences in East Proctor fairly screams old school Universal Horror transplanted to the early 1980's, a soundtrack loaded to the rafters with songs referencing the moon is intelligently handled and never grows corny or trite, and the film especially gets extra points for Griffin Dunne's unforgettable performance as Jack, the most cheerful mangled and steadily decomposing corpse you’ll ever see.

Griffin Dunne as Jack: if ever there was a supporting role that completely steals the film it's in, this is it.

The film is also to be commended for opting to depict the cinematically-rare (though more mythically-common) fully non-human four-legged variety of "Shaggy McNasty" as opposed to the usual bipedal guy with a terminal case of five o'clock shadow. Rick Baker's practical effects puppet of David's lupine form features a spectacular and original design that skews waaaaaaay into monster territory and is about as far removed fro Lon Chaney Jr. as one could hope to get. It looks more like a demonically-possessed giant wolverine than a wolf, and as such it is scary as a motherfucker. Though only occasionally glimpsed, the beast is a nightmarish creation whose stalking of innocents through the London night and later rampage in and around a porno theater are realized to maximum visceral effect.

The beast's P.O.V. of its prey.

But perhaps the element that the film is best remembered for these days is its signature transformation sequence. A masterpiece of practical effects wizardry, David's metamorphosis into a ravenous engine of death brings what would no doubt be an grueling, agonizing physical process to vivid life, with each morphing, distending, and re-structuring of the man's anatomy shown under clear lighting and with horrifying sounds of creaking bones and muscle as the icing on the visceral cake.

David (David Naughton) looks on as his body rebels.

Very entertaining and engaging from start to finish, some find AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON's blend of humor and horror to be somewhat jarring and as a result feel that film is deeply flawed by a schizophrenic tone, but I vehemently disagree with that assessment. THE HOWLING is also quite amusing — admittedly, provided you get the in-jokes that are aimed squarely at those well-versed in their horror movie minutia — but no one ever bitches about it being a mess, which leads me to wonder if AMERICAN WEREWOLF's detractors are more willing to cut a "smaller" flick a bit more slack. Whatever the case, you’ll just have to judge AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON for yourself. Me, I fucking love it. Werewolves are my favorite monsters, thanks to their often tragic and unwilling connection to nature and all of its more rapacious and unrestrained aspects, so a werewolf story of this level of quality was more than tailor-made for the likes of myself. It had a tremendous impact on me and my friends way back when and it helped me get through a particularly rough and frustrating section of my troubled adolescence, so for that I will always have a warm place in my heart and mind for its collision of the mundane with supernatural horror of the most wrenching order. Definitely my favorite werewolf movie (alongside the original THE WOLF MAN) and also one of my very favorite films of any genre, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON get my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

A treasure: My autographed photo of David Naughton during his transformation.

Poster from the original theatrical release.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Day 28: GE GE GE NO KITARO (2007)

Meet the Yokai.

In recent years the Japanese film industry has rebooted many of the classic manga properties as live action features, especially now that special effects technology has caught up with the wild imaginings of the comics' creators. Unfortunately the majority of the reboots are turgid, uninvolving bores that amount to nothing more than something that could be used as a studio's FX resume reel, and that's a major disappointment when one considers just how awesome projects like DEVILMAN and TETSUJIN #28 (better known to us western barbarians as GIGANTOR) could have been if they had scripts that lived up to the visuals. DEVILMAN was especially trying since the studio opted to attract a larger audience by making Go Nagai's famously gory and ultra-violent story more teen-friendly, consequently cutting the balls off of a genre classic. In fact, if you ask me the only genuinely good and thoroughly entertaining classic manga reboot was the charmingly goofy CUTIE HONEY from 2004, based on another Go Nagai classic and also cleaned up for a larger audience. Or should I say it was the only good manga reboot until this first live-action GE GE GE NO KITARO adaptation?

Considering that it's a product of a culture with one of the world's richest myth bases, it was only a matter of time until the venerable GE GE GE NO KITARO (loose translation: "Kitaro of Ge Ge Ge Forest") got the live action treatment. For a decent overview of this manga and anime landmark, check in over at the Wikipedia, but the short version is that creator Shigeru Mizuki's stories revolve around Kitaro, a spirit — or yokai — boy who lives in creepy Ge Ge Ge forest with his equally supernatural family and friends, a wild assortment of creatures culled from Japanese myths and legends. Kitaro is something of a nexus between the human and yokai realms, coming to the aid of humans who fall afoul of the more sinister of his brethren, and much humor and magical mayhem ensues.

Kitaro and friends, as seen in the manga.

Kitaro and friends have been animated several times since the 1960's, both for television and the movies, and I love them without reservation. There have been countless international takes on the whole supernatural co-existing alongside our mundane existence thing — BEWITCHED and Harry Potter being the two examples that spring immediately to mind — but none have the charm and sheer fun found in Mizuki's works, and I'm very happy to say that none of it is lost in the translation to live action.

German-American/Japanese pop star Eiji Wentz as Kitaro.

As "progress" causes the forests of Japan to dwindle, the indigenous spirits are being driven from their ancestral homes and they're none too happy about it. A bunch of Kitsune, powerfully and ancient fox creatures, seek to drive out the inhabitants of the housing developments going up over what used to be their forest by any means necessary and hire the disreputable Rat Man (Yo Oizumi) and his gang of monsters-for-hire to get the job done. Tired of being (harmlessly) terrorized by the unruly yokai, a little boy who dwells in the development sends a letter — via the supernatural mailbox located deep in a nearby forest — to good guy yokai Kitaro in hope that the spirit can get the other monsters to knock off their nightly harassment. Kitaro receives the plea and soon puts things right, but that's just the first ten minutes of the film, which leaves plenty of time for world-class asshole Rat Man, the yokai answer to Eric Cartman, to get up to more self-serving mischief, namely stealing a magical gem of incredible power from the Kitsune so he can hock it at a human gem dealer's shop (NOTE: humans know that monsters exist, so this isn't that big of a deal, although some humans still need a bit of convincing).

Yo Oizumi as the amusingly offensive Rat Man: if ever there was a towering douchebag who just doesn't give a fuck, it's this guy. And, God help me, I love him.

This theft sets all manner of mishegoss into motion and it's up to Kitaro and his bizarro group of friends to save the day, lest an angry Kitsune lord destroy the human world and rebuild things under his own rule.

GE GE GE NO KITARO is a hell of a lot of fun and a visual feast featuring a who's who of mythological critters, seamless CGI and makeup effects, a yokai nightclub that you'll want to hang out at, and the latest rendition of the famous and infectious Kitaro theme tune, a song familiar to native anime fans since the 1960's and heard in every filming of the series since. I can hear it even now: "Ge...Ge...Ge Ge Ge no Ge..." (And you can too if you click here for a link to three of the animated series openings, ranging from the B&W sixties intro through the current TV version.) Plus there's a doomed romance between immortal Kitaro and a human girl thrown in for good measure; Kitaro's dad warns him against getting involved with a mortal female because humans can die, something of which he is only too painfully aware. And while the movie is based on a children's comic, what may fly as suitable entertainment for kids in Japan doesn't necessarily work over here insomuch as the look of the monsters and some of the effects could be perceived as scary by the very little ones in the audience, so know your tyke's limitations before throwing this one into the DVD player. I'd say this is safe for the six-and-olders.

Bottom line: if you're unfamiliar with the monsters of Japanese myths and legends, creatures as well-known over there as Dracula, Frankenstein, Jason, and Freddy are to us, place your trust in me and immediately rent GE GE GE NO KITARO. It's out on DVD in the States, and for more yokai fun I also recommend — though not as strongly — YOKAI MONSTERS: 100 MONSTERS (1968), YOKAI MONSTERS: SPOOK WARFARE (1968, the best of this series), YOKAI MONSTERS: ALONG WITH GHOSTS (1969), and THE GREAT YOKAI WAR (2005). And keep your eyes open for the sequel, GE GE GE NO KITARO 2: SONG OF THE THOUSAND-YEAR CURSE (2008), which is aimed at an older audience, so it's a much darker animal than this first installment.

Poster for the original theatrical release.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Day 27: DR. CYCLOPS (1940)

A publicity shot that's not in the movie but one that ABSOLUTELY gets across the point of its scale-derived horrors.

Visually-impaired Dr. Alexander Thorkel (Albert Dekker) summons a trio of fellow scientists — two biologists and a mineralogist — to his remote Peruvian lab so they can confirm some of his findings that his borderline-blind eyesight prevents him from verifying for himself. Along with an unexpected extra scientist, the visitors are dismissed by the incredibly rude Thorkel once their usefulness to him is done, but they opt to stick around after being intrigued by what appears to be Thorkel's discovery of a rich vein of the radium/uranium ore pitchblende, while questions are raised as to what exactly has happened to the considerable number of experimental animals that Thorkel had imported for his research. When the doctor's native assistant, Pedro (Frank Frank Yaconelli), notes that his beloved horse has gone missing and yet hears the animal's signature whinny, Thorkel reveals just what he's been up to, namely utilizing a radiation process to shrink living mammals down to doll-size. Acting all nice, Thorkel invites the party into the lab's shrinking chamber to see the shrinking apparatus up close, at which point they are locked in and, to their abject horror, reduced against their will. Now around a foot tall, the shrunken victims escape into the doctor's yard, an area surrounded by Peruvian jungle and populated with all manner of wildlife that could easily do them in at a moment's notice. 

Meet the good doctor's cat, Satanus.

But the true menace is Dr. Thorkel, whose general assholism pales in comparison to his amoral, complete and utter madness and evil. When he discovers that the shrinking effect is not permanent and that that his victims are slowly returning to their original proportions, the doctor's veneer of scientific obsession drops away and he stands revealed as a cruel and murderous giant, not unlike the cyclops of classical myth.

The concept of humans being reduced to assorted small sizes is an old sci-fi trope that has been explored endlessly, on 1960's TV in LAND OF THE GIANTS (1968-1970), most recently in ANT MAN (2015), and perhaps to most classic effect in THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957), but that film's take on the shrinking angle was more about the human/existential experience of such a happenstance, while DR. CYCLOPS goes  straight for the jugular when depicting just how awful it would be to find oneself trapped at a size where virtually every living thing around you is suddenly an oversized apex predator. A small caiman becomes a ravenous dragon and a common house cat gains the gravitas of a rampaging tiger when one is stuck at one foot tall, and the film milks the horror of skewed proportions for all it's worth. Though ostensibly a sci-fi entry, DR. CYCLOPS is at heart a straight-up horror yarn whose impact is like a sledgehammer to the guts. Looking like a vintage pulp magazine cover brought to life, thanks to its early Technicolor process lending it an unnatural semi-sepia effect, the film's narrative provides several sequences of outright terror that are intense even by today's standards and must have been truly shocking some seventy-five years ago. I won't reveal everything but the scene where Thorkel kills Dr. Bullfinch (Charles Halton) by smothering him with a wad of cotton held in calipers is imbued with a sense of no-way-out dread that really messed with my head when I was an under-ten.

Dr. Thorkel (Albert Dekker) prepares to murder rival scientist Dr. Bullfinch (Charles Halton).

Fast-paced and genuinely scary, DR. CYCLOPS is an old school treasure of the highest order that holds up quite well and is suitable for the whole family, though it does contain some material that can warp the kiddies if they take some time to really think it through. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Poster from the original theatrical release.

Monday, October 26, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Day 26: THE BURNING (1981)

There used to be a camp not far from here, just across the lake. It was called Camp Blackfoot. No one goes there anymore. Everything burnt down. This camp had a caretaker, and his name was Cropsy. Now, this Cropsy was a drunkard... a sadist, and he got real pleasure out of hurting... scaring. And he had these garden shears. The kind with long, thin blades. He carried them all the time, wherever he went. And he had this kind of demonic way of looking at you. One time, Cropsy really went after this kid from Brooklyn, followed him around night and day. He made this kid's life a living hell. But this time, he chose the wrong guy, 'cause the kid and some of his buddies had planned a little prank. Only problem was, the gag went wrong. The next thing anybody knows, Cropsy's trapped alive and burning in his bunk. They try to get him out, but the fire's so fierce, they can't reach him. All they can do is stand outside and listen to him cry out in agony. They say his smashed his way through the bunk room door in just a mass of flames. And as he burned alive, he cried out, "I will return! I will have my revenge!" They never found his body, but he survived. He lives on whatever he can catch. Eats them raw, alive. No longer human. Right now, he's out there. Watching, waiting. Don't look; he'll see you. Don't move; he'll hear you. Don't breathe; you're dead!

-The legend of Cropsy, as retold in THE BURNING

Those of us who are of a certain age no doubt recall (fondly or not) the age of the "slasher" movie, a period in our youths that enjoyed a heyday between roughly 1980 and 1984. The genre was kick-started by the unexpected success of the independently-shot, major studio released FRIDAY THE THIRTEEN (1980) and from that cheap and gory template exploded a seeming avalanche of like-minded and mindless "body count flicks" with absolutely nothing on their minds other than making a quick buck by projecting as much Karo syrup blood and naked tits across the screen as possible. Sex and violence are both obvious box office draws so the fusion of them would theoretically ensure a lucrative take, thus filmmakers all over the place sought to rake in some of that cash by churning out low-budget, by-the-numbers gore-fests, most virtually indistinguishable from one or the other.

During this flourishing of sanguinary cinema, FANGORIA magazine would feature cover stories chronicling each new slasher flick to issue from the pipeline, and one of the most intriguing-looking was 1981's THE BURNING. The magazine article gave gorehounds page after page of outrageously gory images that certainly piqued our curiosity and got us very interested in seeing the film, but shortly before THE BURNING was due to come out the backlash against slasher movies began in earnest and the genre was forced to knuckle under to censorship complaints in order to keep an R rating and avoid earning the dreaded X, which would have kept out all moviegoers under the age of eighteen. (Anyone who has ever been an enterprising teenage fan of material that's allegedly "adult" enough to earn a movie an R can tell you for a fact that it's pretty easy to get in to R-rated movies because the staff at most movie theaters simply do not give a fuck, just so long as cash crossed through the ticket window's threshold.) This pointless backlash essentially ended up cutting the balls off the slasher genre by preventing the films from being seen as intended, with many being released to screens with such thorough sanitizing that the movies became frisson-free parades of terrible acting by clearly overage "teenagers" that may or may not have provided even the requisite bare tits (which, back in those days, were refreshingly all-natural), so audiences were not satisfied and the genre inevitably shriveled up and died when the money stopped rolling in. All of which is a long-winded way of providing some background leading up to a discussion of THE BURNING, a film that was a glaring casualty of the backlash and released worldwide in several heavily-edited versions, each reportedly being an almost complete waste of the gorehound's time if not for some truly lovely actual boobs gracing the screen.

Now available on DVD in its uncut form, THE BURNING surprised the hell out of me for a number of reasons, including the fact that it's the brainchild of the Weinstein brothers and is in fact the first film from Miramax. As you no doubt gathered from the legend at the top of this piece, the movie has to do with the accidental and utterly horrible immolation of a summer camp janitor/groundskeeper named Cropsy, only the narrative proper deals with the tragic aftermath of that prank gone wrong and opens five years later, once a hideously burn-scarred Cropsy is released from the hospital. A rotten asshole of a human being in the first place, the now monstrous Cropsy has had five years in which to stew over what happened to him and to allow thoughts of gruesome vengeance to twist his mind, so after killing a whore almost immediately upon hitting the streets, Cropsy makes his way to Camp Stonewater in upstate New York (the summer camp just across the river from Camp Blackfoot, the site of his immolation), where he gets down to the business of viciously and randomly murdering innocent teenagers.

If this sounds like the basic outline to a garden variety slasher opus, it pretty much is, only this time around the movie actually takes time to flesh out its psycho-fodder cast for about forty-five solid minutes that are never boring and features a cast including very recognizable young actors, most making their screen debuts, including:
  • Fisher Stevens-from the SHORT CIRCUIT films and many other roles
  • Brian Backer-instantly recognizable as nebbishy and virginal Mark Ratner from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
  • Leah Ayres-unforgettable — and not in a good way — as the ultra-annoying reporter in the Jean-Claude Van Damme martial arts semi-classic BLOODSPORT
But by far the most well-known cast member is Jason Alexander (age 21 when the film was shot), aka SEINFELD's George Costanza, complete with a full head of brown hair, in the unlikely role of an under-18 camper. He looks every bit his age and it took me a while to realize that he wasn't supposed to be playing one of the counselors, but the familiar delivery and comedic chops were already in place and firing on all cylinders.

Yes that's SEINFELD's Jason Alexander in the number jersey, complete with hair and playing someone who's supposed to be a camper, not a counselor. FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH's Brian Backer sits in front of him, while SHORT CIRCUIT's Fisher Stevens sports a happenin' striped shirt.

If the film eliminated the slasher angle entirely, what remains would have made for a passable summer camp teen comedy, depicting as it does the most irresponsibly-run place one could ever send their kids to for the summer. There's a certain amount of supervision but the counselors take absolutely zero notice of the fact that campers play poker for cash stakes and smoke and drink right in front of them, to say nothing of very obviously engaging in sex in the woods, but then again the counselors are engaged in exactly the same activities themselves, sometimes with their underage charges, so I guess it's all okay. (Where was Camp Stonewater when I needed it, namely during my awful and unwilling stay at Camp Hi-Rock in the summer of 1979? Not a hope of beer or pussy at that gulag, goddammit!) But while such activities often serve as the direct cause of teen mutilation in the majority of slasher flicks and unintentionally (?) drive home a puritanical lesson that having sex, indulging in mind-altering intoxicants and having fun of damned near any kind in one's all-too-fleeting youth is "bad," THE BURNING treats such common teen adventures as simply being a part of life as it was back in those days, leaving Cropsy's motivation as being purely revenge-driven.

The plot is obviously nothing worthy of great literature, but as an E.C. Comics-style horror yarn it's simply perfect. After the first forty-some-odd minutes of character development, two counselors take a decent-sized group of campers downriver on an overnight camping excursion, and upon arrival at their destination Cropsy gets to work on his agenda of retroactive abortion, stealing the party's canoes and stranding his victims in a situation reminiscent of the old "fish in a barrel" setup. By that point we've gotten to know the characters well enough to care about most of them, so when Cropsy kills them off one by one you won't necessarily be happy about it (unlike the majority of these movies, wherein the teens are such a bunch of obnoxious assholes that you actually end up rooting for the killer and want to award him a commendation and the key to city when his deadly job is done). Particularly tragic and horrifying is the utter massacre of about six campers as they attempt to paddle upriver on a makeshift raft in search of help, only to meet their untimely demise on the business end of Cropsy's ever-present hedge-trimming shears. That sequence is particularly nasty and quite memorable, especially when Fisher Stevens attempts to shield his face with his hand, only to lose all his fingers in a fountain of gore as Cropsy deftly snips them off.

The whole story feels like a properly told scary campfire yarn and it brought me right back to my fondly-remembered years as a camp counselor, when Camp Mahackeno's director instructed us during training that we were not to tell the kids scary stories of escaped, hook-wielding, disfigured maniacs for fear of traumatizing the living shit out of them. It made me think of the days when the usual outdoor activities got rained out and we'd retreat into the large utility barn to watch projected VHS movies that would offend no one, and oh how I longed to be able to delight the kids with movies like THE BURNING and other such shiver-inducers...

So the bottom line on all of this is that THE BURNING is definitely worth the viewing time of the seasoned gorehound and the curious NetFlix renter. Unlike many of its contemporaries, it's never boring, it delivers on the graphic violence, and reminds us of why the days before the plague of breast implants were sacred indeed. TRUST YER BUNCHE and check this one out, especially now that it's finally presented in the way it was meant to be experienced. Sheer brainless fun, and definitely better than most of the tepid so-called shockers that scarcely merit an R these days.

Poster for the original theatrical release.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Day 25: TWINS OF EVIL (1971)

Sexual repression, misogyny, and "religious" zealotry: A dire formula.

TWINS OF EVIL, the last of Hammer's Karnstein Trilogy and a film I'd heard was not all that, despite it starring a pair of very, very cute twin sisters who were not afraid to get nekkid, was a movie I almost ignored. Well, I'm glad that I put forth the effort because TWINS OF EVIL came from out of nowhere to become my favorite Hammer vampire flick. No disrespect to Christopher Lee's work as Dracula, but this film works solidly for me from start to finish, something I can't say about most of Lee's films.

Taking place in that signature Hammer world that's like some particularly grim fairytale (pun totally intended), TWINS OF EVIL opens on an ominous note as we see a group of witchfinders dragging an innocent woman from her hovel and burning her at the stake. They are the Brotherhood, led by the fanatical Gustav Weil, played by Hammer mainstay Peter Cushing in what may be his most intense performance.

Peter Cushing as the fanatical Gustav Weil.

Basically a pack of sexually frustrated religious fanatics and misogynists who can't deal with the existence of sexy women, The Brotherhood is feared throughout the land for their sadistic activities, but the public can do nothing by way of protest because The Brotherhood has the support of the government. Into this not exactly female-friendly environment come the lovely Gellhorn sisters, Maria and Frieda (played by Mary and Madeleine Collinson, respectively), just in from Venice in the wake of their parents' deaths and now they are entrusted to the care of their uncle, who, unfortunately for them, is Brother Weil.

Frieda (Madeleine Collinson) and Maria (Mary Collinson), the title characters.

Upon seeing their "disrespectful" attire, Gustav's dislike of the girls is instantaneous and he relegates them to their room, where they spend a lot of time hanging out (quite literally, if you get my drift) in their diaphanous nighties. It is there that we get to know the girls' unguarded personalities and they are quite easy to tell apart, thanks to the lusty-eyed Frieda being something of an enthusiastic "bad" girl with an interest in boozing and men, while Maria is sweet, innocent and decidedly virginal, as well as being the never-heeded voice of reason in their sibling dynamic.

Upon their arrival in town, the tasty twins catch the eye of every creature with a Y chromosome and in short order they are informed of the castle across the way from their uncle's house, a textbook example of the kind of place in horror movies where you just know great evil resides. It's the home of the sybaritic Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), a sleazy and totally evil aristocrat who would be Number One on Brother Weil's hit list if not for his connection to the government, and he's introduced when The Brotherhood goes to burn another innocent woman and finds her about to get her hump on with the Count.

Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas): giving the amoral a bad name.

In the exchange between Brother Weil and the Count during that sequence, we witness the interesting contrast/comparison between the two characters, one being balls-out and unashamedly evil, and the other committing heinous atrocities but deluding himself into believing he's doing God's work, and it sets the two on paths of character development that bears satisfying fruit as the film progresses. Anyway, upon hearing about the forbidden pleasures to be had up at Castle Karnstein, Frieda practically drips like a broken fridge at the prospect of spending some quality time there, while her sister implores her not to consider such pursuits.

Frieda, yearning for corruption.

Meanwhile, the Count earnestly seeks to be even more evil than he already is, openly proclaiming his desire to become an active agent of Satan and going so far as to conduct a black mass in his dining hall, complete with a naked local peasant girl — who is equipped with an impressive briefly-glimpsed '70's bush — as a sacrifice. Dissatisfied with the performance of the so-called professional Satanists brought in by his chief servant (where one found those back in the days before Craig's List is anyone's guess), the Count dismisses them and himself prays to the Devil in what amounts to a job application, and in no time the spirit of his infamous vampiric lesbian ancestor, Countess Mircalla Karnstein (Katya Wyeth), manifests, fucks him senseless and puts the bite on him before returning to her infernal rest, thus transforming him into an undead suckface and he could not be happier.

A Karnstein family reunion: Mircalla (Katya Wyeth) returns from Hell.

Once happily vampirized, the Count embarks on a wanton and unholy killing spree, setting his sights on the clearly interested Frieda as a very personal "fuck you" to her uncle.

The lusty Frieda, as first seen by Count Karnstein. Ah, the subtlety of Hammer's filmmaking...

Quicker than you can say "girls gone wild," Frieda sneaks out of her uncle's house and hightails it to Castle Karnstein, where the Count turns her into a vampire and offers her his understandably horrified girlfriend as her first kill.

Frieda, fully vamped-out.

From that point on, Frieda becomes a full-blown force in direct opposition to common decency and starts feasting her way through the immediate populace, all while innocent Maria realizes something is quite wrong and the hunky boar-hunting choirmaster at the girls' needlepoint school (who coincidentally happens to be an expert on the occult in general and vampires in particular) begins fancying Maria, a sentiment that is definitely mutual. Needless to say, these plotlines eventually collide with apocalyptic results, and no one comes out of it unscathed.

The twins in their room: guess which one's the newly-minted undead suckface?

Following THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970) and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) as the final installment of the trilogy, TWINS OF EVIL kicks the shamelessly exploitative lesbian angle to the curb, presumably in favor of the titillating twin thing, but the two do not spend even one second face-deep in each others' humid and furry recesses, which is surprising since the Collinsons reportedly did exactly that three years earlier in SOME LIKE IT SEXY, one of the innumerable European softcore flicks, a film shot when they were seventeen (!!!). Hailing from Malta, the mirror-image beauties came to the attention of the American public when they became PLAYBOY's first twin centerfold models in the landmark skin-mag's October 1970 issue.

Needless to say, many an imagination was put into carnal overdrive at the mere thought of the geometric configurations possible with this pair of stunners, and their centerfold has since understandably become the stuff of legend.

Mary and Madeleine Collinson, PLAYBOY's first twin centerfold models. Jumpin' Jesus in a basket of honey-glazed chicken...

Sadly, TWINS OF EVIL proved to be the last acting work of the Collinsons but their legacy lives on in the hearts of vampire fans and Hammer devotees. What I would not give for their autographs on this behind-the-scenes shot...

This is only a third of the shot in question; the rest can be seen in author and Hammer expert Wayne Kinsey's excellent book HAMMER FILMS: A LIFE IN PICTURES (2008).

Along with the indelible presence of the Collinson sisters, TWINS OF EVIL offers a plot that's sure to keep vampire fans glued to their seats and is a firm reminder of the time before Anne Rice ruined vampires by making them into unscary fops, a cultural blight that opened the door for the even more odious pussification found in the TWILIGHT series (aka "Transylvania 90210"). Hammer's trademark Gothic sensibility is in full effect here, aided and abetted by Peter Cushing's fantastic performance as Brother Weil, and the expected amount of gore and boobs that put the company on the map. Though quite tame by today's standards, the "adult" content found here was the good stuff back in the days and it still serves its purpose, yet its excesses are nothing that I would not allow my nieces and nephews to see.

Madeleine Collinson's "rightie": not a threat to western civilization. Quite the opposite, actually.

The sexy bits are handled with considerable good taste and would mostly go right over the heads of the under-tens — a naked boob here and there notwithstanding — and the gore, while shocking, is of the bogus but fun red paint variety familiar to anyone who's seen even one post-1966 Hammer flick. For example:

And this:

The film also contains what may be the best Hammer beheading on record, but I'll let you see that one for yourself when you check out the movie.

TWINS OF EVIL definitely doesn't deserve its rep as a feeble late entry in Hammer's vampire cycle, and I'm guessing it wears that ignominious mantle due to audiences who'd enjoyed the Sapphic elements in the two previous Karnstein movies being irked at the loss of the girl-on-girl action. Whatever the reason for that assessment, it is an unfair cross that the movie bears, but now the film can be re-evaluated on DVD by those who did not get to see it thanks to it being infrequently run on TV or any of the numerous cable movie channels (although I hear it has run fairly recently in uncut form on Turner Classic Movies). If submitted as is to the MPAA nowadays for a rating, TWINS OF EVIL would most likely garner an R for the very brief nudity, but it's really a hard PG-13 if you ask me, so TRUST YER BUNCHE and add it to your Netflix queue.

Poster from the original theatrical release.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Day 24: ZOMBIELAND (2009)

It's been said by various highbrow film critics and analysts that horror movies reflect the societal zeitgeist, so I don't know what the past decade-plus's spate of zombie movies has to say about our collective state of mind. Films about the undead are nothing new but there just seem to be a lot of them lately and they vary widely in quality, and I'm not really the guy to comment on them fairly from a zombie fan's point of view but I will say that ZOMBIELAND is a fast-paced and fun take on the whole "it's the end of the world and the hungry dead are everywhere scenario." Kind of a comedic head-on collision of a Romeroesque apocalypse and the visceral thrills of a "shooter" video game, the film has little on its mind other than being an amusing, violent popcorn flick, and that's a goal at which it succeeds quite well.

Just a typical day in ZOMBIELAND, U.S.A.

ZOMBIELAND drops the audience right into a world already crawling with zombies, and while it's bad enough that legions of ravenous flesh-eaters are literally every goddamned place, what's even worse is that these aren't the rigor-ridden shamblers as seen in most horror films of yore; rather they're quite spry and able to sprint after you, so unless you're in good shape, that's your ass.

The film's ostensible hero is "Columbus" (Jesse Eisenberg), so named for his intended destination, where he hopes against all odds to find his parents still alive. He's a college-age nerd and loner whose lifetime of friendlessness has given him time to think and develop an analytical mind, and once the zombie plague breaks out he's ready for it with a list of basic common sense rules relating to the world's new and utterly deadly status quo. With damned near everybody (un)dead, it's a simple matter to appropriate vehicles and high-gauge weapons, but when Columbus totals his car, he hits the road on foot and eventually is given a lift by "Tallahassee" (Woody Harrelson, looking exactly like a comedic version of his Mickey Knox character from NATURAL BORN KILLERS), a redneck genius at zombie-killing who shows up in an SUV equipped with a cow-catcher up front. The two set off together and then encounter a pair of sisters, "Wichita" (Emma Stone) and "Little Rock" (Abigail Breslin), a couple of smart, ruthless and totally survival-oriented chicks whose personal philosophy can be summed up as "trust no one but each other and look out for Number One." These two give the guys quite a hard time and outfox them on a few occasions before teaming up with them and more or less aimlessly journeying through "Zombieland" (the nickname for the world at large) and becoming a loose-knit family in the process.

The family that slays together, stays together: (L to R) Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson).

To say more would give away a lot of fun stuff — especially a major surprise cameo that I know for a fact has long since been let out of the bag in numerous online forums, but I'm not gonna do that; in fact, if anyone starts to tell you about the cameo sequence, punch them in the mouth, Hard — So I'll just stop right here and instead offer a little advice.

ZOMBIELAND is thoroughly entertaining, very funny, and is definitely worth your time. In terms of attitude, it's America's answer to SHAUN OF THE DEAD (though admittedly not as good), and the appetite for destruction that is so hard-wired into the American psyche is given full unintentional (?) reign. However I do have two warnings about the film:
  1. As previously stated, do not let anyone tell you about the cameo sequence.
  2. Giving away nothing in the plot, much of the film's running time is spent clearly establishing Wichita and Little Rock as ruthless, cunning, survival-minded opportunists who are perfectly suited to strategically getting by in a world overrun by flesh-eating zombies, yet during the final act they do something completely stupid that the audience by that time understands with absolute certainty that they would NOT do. The move in question violates what they (and we) know about what attracts zombies en masse and no one in the audience I saw it with bought it when the script called for a needless bit of conflict. Luckily there was still a lot of gore, violence and humor to follow, and what came before was so good that I was willing to let the major scripting fuckup slide.
So with that said, check out ZOMBIELAND. And if you have kids who want to see it, I say it's perfectly suitable for any who are around ten and older, provided they can handle the gore. The cursing is nothing they don't hear everyday at school (or, if truth be told, at home), there's no sex, and the violence is nothing new to them if they've played some of the more violent adult-oriented video games (c'mon, don't delude yourself into thinking that they haven't), and when you add a general sense of good-natured fun to those elements, I'd say it's really little worse than an exceptionally gory PG-13. And for those of you who like to have these things spelled out on a numbered rating, I'd give this a very strong four out of five, with the one star it requires for a perfect score being held back solely for the aforementioned very stupid script fuckup near the end.

Lesson to be learned: let no zombie stand in the way of Tallahassee's quest for Twinkies.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Always on the lookout for a good compilation CD, especially around the Halloween season, I was fortunate to stumble across this comprehensive collection of two decades-worth of "death rock" classics. Once an inexplicably popular subgenre of American pop music (with the occasional British offering thrown in for good measure) the death rock ouvre began as tales of star-crossed young lovers who were parted due to not receiving their parents' blessings, engaging in stock car racing or some other such teen woe before meeting a horrible demise in a flaming car wreck. Not my idea of romantic but that kind of stuff was big back in the days, with "Teen Angel" serving as the template from which the genre would arise, reaching its peak with the Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" (a tune conspicuously missing from this disc, but the compilers instead gave us another Shangri-Las downer, the overwraught "Give Us Your Blessings").

The Shangri-Las: "Yeah, we're from Queens. So fuckin' what?"

Virtually all of the songs here will flat-out crush any life and happiness in the room if you're stupid enough to play it at a party, with the prize for most depressing being a toss-up between Ferlin Husky's "The Drunken Driver,"a song that not only has the nerve to feature a long-absent father mowing down his own kids on the very day he's returning home to them, but also has the mangled and expiring kids give him an extra guilt-trip by demanding an explanation with their dying breath; "Patches" — not to be confused with the equally-uber-depressing 1970's hit by Clarence Carter, this one tells of a rich kid whose parents don't approve of his white trash girlfriend, so he's forbidden to see her and she commits suicide, after which he solves his dilemma by offing himself; and "Mother, Mother (I Feel Sick)," in which a woman's lifelong playing of headgames and emotional manipulation of others catches up with her when she discovers she has a terminal illness.

Don't Worry, Be Happy" this ain't (thank God!), but at times it wallows so shamelessly in its tear-jerking that you can't help but laugh your ass off. The nauseating "Once You Understand" by Think comes off like a "relevant" song you'd hear perfromed as intentional humor on a show like GET A LIFE or something (it would have fit in perfectly with "Zoo Animals on Wheels"), and dredges up memories of the ultra-saccharine "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing." It's just a hippy-dippy chorus of "things get a little easier, once you understand," repeated ad infinitum, as sort of punctuation to scenery-chewing "sketches" of teenagers and their dysfuctional relationships with their stereotypical "establishment" parents (this song has late-1960's/early-1970's written all over it in that  trite BILLY JACK way). Mom and dad bitch out their admittedly whiny kids over every conceivable thing, such as not wanting daughter to visit a certain part of town because they "don't like the kind of people living there," son's too-long hair, lack of trust that daughter's not getting laid when she's supposed to be babysitting, the kids wasting their lives on "foolish things," son not having a job in which he works "twelve hours a day, six days a week, to pay for food and board" just like dad did, and so on, culminating in dad berating his son on how "there's more to life tha joining a group or playing your guitar." Son responds with, "Yeah, dad? What is there to life?" Then "life' gets repeated several times with a "spooky" echo effect as that fucking chorus escalates into full-blown tambourine/piano/handclapping idiocy before it all comes to an abrupt halt and we hear a voice ask a "Mr. Cook" if he has "a son named Robin, aged 17." When Mr. Cook replies in the affirmative, he's told that his son has died from an overdose and he'd better come down to the stationhouse. The father's anguished sobs continue through the end of the song as the chorus starts up once more; perhaps this would have had some kind of tragic effect if we were told that Mr. Cook was the gruff dad heard throughout the song, but we have no idea who this guy is, and he sounds completely different from the way the father sounds on the rest of the record, so our ability to care at all just gets whizzed down the song's metaphorical leg. And what happened to mom and the daughter? Who the fuck knows?

But while "Once You Understand" is unintentionally funny, Jimmy Cross' infamous 1964 classic "I Want My Baby Back" is genuinely hilarious and downright gleefully offensive. In what is a contemporary parody of the death rock style in general, Cross relates the tragic death and dismemberment of his girlfriend while they're on their way home from a Beatles concert and they run smack into the Leader of the Pack. Distraught over his loss, Cross wails about how he wants his baby back, how he misses her "oh so much" and "can't live without her touch," as the sounds of earth being dug up with a shovel register in the background. When his tale of heartbreak is finally told, Cross opens his girl's coffin, gets in with her corpse, closes the lid, and finishes by singing "I've got my baby back!" Necrophilia rock is a tough sell some fifty-one years after the song was released, but when it arrived in '64 it was quite controversial, what with it being in generally questionable taste as well as coming less than ten years after the Ed Gein case, an event that still resonates nearly six decades later, so you can imagine that it still hadn't faded from the public consciousness at the time.

Ed Gein: murderer, cannibal, amateur tailor, and possible inspiration for Jimmy Cross' "I Want My Back."

I have no complaints about this compilation other than the omissions of "Leader of the Pack" and some "classics" from the early-1970's, namely "D.O.A." by Bloodrock — a song relating the point of view of a corpse on a morgue slab — Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" (a strong contender for the title of most maudlin song of all time), "Rocky" by Austin Roberts (a bald-faced ripoff of "Honey" that some consider to be even more maudlin), "Run, Joey, Run" by David Geddes (guy gets girlfriend pregnant, girlfriend's dad chases guy with shotgun, girlfriend's dad accidentally kills his own daughter when she takes a shotgun blast meant for the boyfriend), and of course "Timothy" by the Buoys, the only song about cannibalism ever to crack the Top 20, as well as having been written by Rupert Holmes, the diabolical mastermind behind "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)." Come to think of it, there are enough omissions to warrant expanding this into a perfect, kitschy two-disc set, but what the hey? Worth every cent of its cost, DEAD! THE GRIM REAPER'S GREATEST HITS is a lot of fun, provided you're in the mood to be buried beneath an avalanche of Top 40 morbidity. And if you're curious, the full track listing can be seen below.

1. Terry - Twinkle
2. Give Us Your Blessings - The Shangri-Las
3. Endless Sleep - Jody Reynolds & The Storms
4. Death Of An Angel - Donald Woods & The Vel-Aires
5. Condition Red - The Goodees
6. I Want My Baby Back - Jimmy Cross
7. Dead Man’s Curve - Jan & Dean
8. The Drunken Driver - Ferlin Husky
9. Johnny Remember Me - John Leyton
10. Last Kiss - J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers
11. Patches - Dickey Lee
12. Once You Understand - Think
13. The Death Of A Surfer - The Riviares
14. Dead! - Carolyn Sullivan
15. Psycho - Jack Kittel
16. Ebony Eyes - The Everly Brothers
17. Requiem (For A Girl Born Of The Wrong Times) - Betty Barnes
18. A Beginning From An End - Jan & Dean
19. Tell Laura I Love Her - Ray Peterson
20. The Dream - The Fox
21. Teen Angel - Mark Dinning
22. Mother Mother (I Feel Sick) - The Martin Sisters
23. The Bed - Walter Jackson
24. Let's Think About Living - Bob Luman