The Horror! The Horror! Our Top 10 Reasons to Spook on Down to the 4th Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION

Posted on: Sep 27th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Illustration by Monsterama guest Kat Hudson

What are you up to this weekend? We’re monster mashing it up with a helluva killer Kool Kat extravaganza and more at the 4rd Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION, creeping and crawling into town this Friday-Sunday, Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta! From legendary actors to ghastly séances, here are our top reasons to get your classic monster fix at MONSTERAMA!

1)  THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI SCORED LIVE. Valentine Wolfe is back for another year, providing an eerie auditory experience as they accompany Robert Wiene’s 1920 classic silent horror film, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, Saturday at 1pm!

2) HOUDINI SEÁNCE. You won’t want to miss MONSTERAMA’s first ever séance! And who better to raise your spiritual expectations with a conjuring of medium debunker and escape artist extraordinaire Harry Houdini, than ghoulish guests Kool Kat Shane Morton, Daniel Roebuck and Marcus Koch! Raise your spirits Friday at 11pm!

3) SILVER SCREAM SPOOK SHOW.  Kool Kat Shane Morton, a.k.a. ghost host with the most, Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spook Show featuring the Go-Go Ghouls and guest, Dick Miller will terrify with a live spook show followed by a spook-tacular screening of Roger Corman’s THE TERROR (1963) on 16mm, Saturday beginning at 4pm!

4) FANGTASTIC FILM AND TWISTED TELEVISION.  It’s monster movie madness with screenings of horrorific classics (mostly screening in 16mm) including Charles B. Griffiths’s DR. HECKYL AND MR. HYPE (1980), featuring guest Dick Miller; Roman Polanski’s THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967); Lainie Miller’s 2014 documentary, THAT GUY DICK MILLER; Roy Ward Baker’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970); an unannounced Ballyhoo Motion Pictures documentary; and a special adults only (21+) screening of guest Brian K. Williams’ newly released SPACE BABES FROM OUTER SPACE with special guests Allison Maier and Ellie Church, and a slew of more slaying cinema! Or get terrified T.V.-style  throughout the weekend and catch screenings of THE OUTER LIMITS – “The Sixth Finger” and “The Architects of Fear”; STAR TREK – “Devil in the Dark” and “Mirror Mirror”; made for TV movie, THE QUESTOR TAPES (1974); and you won’t want to miss a super rare screening of Kolchak THE NIGHT STALKER and more!

5) CINEPROV RIFFS THE LOST WORLD. Madness, monsters and prehistoric creatures, OH MY! Hilarity ensues as New MST3K writer Larry Johnson and CINEPROV riffs Irwin Allen’s THE LOST WORLD (1960) Friday at 9pm!

6) SPOOKTACULAR GUESTS. Catch some killer guests, including Sybil Danning (BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS); BarBara Luna (STAR TREK); Dick Miller (GREMLINS; ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL); visual effects expert Gene Warren Jr. (PET SEMATERY; ELIMINATORS); horror history expert and documentarian, Kool Kat Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; creaturific artist Kool Kat Mark Maddox; Kool Kat Ricky Hess (HORROR HOTEL); filmmaker and set-dec dresser/buyer Kool Kat Dayna Noffke (“Under the Bed”); film score composer Tom Ashton (The March Violets); Kool Kat Shane Morton, ghost host with the most, a.k.a. Professor Morte; glamour ghoul Kool Kat Madeline Brumby, actress Allison Maier (FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS) and more!

7) MONSTER MAKEOVERS.  Get gore-gous with monster make-up galore as part of this year’s Makers Track! You won’t want to miss SSFXLAB’s “It’s Alive” event, creating Frankenstein’s monster in 3 different ways; SFX for the smallest creatures in your life, with the “Littlest Monster Maker,” event featuring mom/daughter duo, filmmaker Kool Kat Dayna Noffke and ultra spooky Vivi Vivian; and win some monstrous prizes with the annual FACE-ON make-up contest! And don’t forget to stick around for a creeping cornucopia of frightful faces and monster masks!

8) WARPED WRITERS & LITERARY PANELS. Writers make the monstrous world go ‘round, so check out guest authors, Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker’s great grand-nephew (DRACULA THE UN-DEAD); John Farris (THE FURY); Sean Linkenback (THE ART OF JAPANESE MONSTERS); Charles Rutledge and vampire aficionado J. E. Browning (GRAPHIC HORROR: MOVIE MONSTER MEMORIES). And you won’t want to miss out on some wicked panels of the literary variety including “Our Favorite Trashy Horror Novels,” with Jeff Strand, Clay Gilbert and Eddie Coulter; “Dracula 120th Anniversary Spectacular,” with Dacre Stoker, J.E. Browning and Kool Kat Anthony Taylor; “Nevermore – A Poe Tribute,” with Kool Kat Mark Maddox and Mike Gordon, and so many more!

9) SCARE-TASTIC SHOPPING. Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both classic horror memorabilia, cult classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories. So come on down to the dealer’s room and check out all the toys, collectibles and monstrous goodies you can get your ghoulish little hands on!

10) MONSTER PROM. Hey all you boils and ghouls, get frightfully funky at this year’s Monster Prom, Saturday at 8:30pm! Dust off the old rat-infested tux, clear out the cobwebs, shine up your shoes and get ready to do the Monster Mash, and maybe even Time-Warp into the wee hours of the morning, hosted by Professor Morte and DJ Deathskiss!

MONSTERAMA main con hours are Fri. Sept. 29 from 4 to 12 a.m. (with screenings at noon and registration at 3pm); Sat. Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and Sun. Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more info, visit the MONSTERAMA official website here.

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: It’s Monster Madness as Anthony Taylor, Monster Kid and Con Co-Chair, Dishes on the 4th Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION

Posted on: Sep 26th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Anthony Taylor, official Licensing & Brand Manager for the Bram Stoker Estate, author and one helluva monster-kid, co-chairs Atlanta’s favorite classic monster convention, MONSTERAMA, creeping into its fourth hellacious year at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta this weekend, Friday – Sunday, Sept. 29-Oct. 1!

Prepare for a ghastly three days of ghoulish proportions filled to the blood-curdling brim with old-school horror connoisseurs like Sybil Danning (BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS); BarBara Luna (THE DEVIL AT 4 O’CLOCK; STAR TREK); Dick Miller (THE TERMINATOR; GREMLINS; ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL); visual effects expert Gene Warren Jr. (THE TERMINATOR; PET SEMATERY; ELIMINATORS); author John Farris (THE FURY); horror history expert and documentarian, Kool Kat Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; creaturific artist Kool Kat Mark Maddox; Kool Kat Ricky Hess (HORROR HOTEL); filmmaker and set-dec dresser/buyer Kool Kat Dayna Noffke (“Under the Bed”); Victorian chamber metal musicians Valentine Wolfe; film score musician/composer Tom Ashton (The March Violets); Kool Kat Shane Morton, ghost host with the most, a.k.a. Professor Morte; glamour ghoul Kool Kat Madeline Brumby and so many more! Get wicked and haunt on down to MONSTERAMA for a weekend of monster madness!

In addition to his duties as MONSTERAMA’s “Monster Kid in Chief,” Taylor has authored THE FUTURE WAS F.A.B.: THE ART OF MIKE TRIM, released in 2014; ARCTIC ADVENTURE, an official THUNDERBIRDS novel released in 2012; VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA: THE COMPLETE SERIES – VOL. 2, released in 2010, and more. He’s also penned hundreds of articles published in horror, sci-fi and film fandom publications such as SFX MAGAZINE, VIDEO WATCHDOG, FANGORIA, SCREEM MAGAZINE, HORRORHOUND MAGAZINE, FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and more!

ATLRetro caught up with Anthony Taylor for a quick interview about his monster kid memories; the importance of preserving film and classic popular culture; and this year’s maniacal MONSTERAMA madness!

Illustration by Monsterama guest Kat Hudson

ATLRetro: MONSTERAMA invades Atlanta once again and we couldn’t be more excited! As a life-long monster kid, can you fill us in on the creation of this labor of love and tell us what prompted you to bring a weekend full of classic monsters to the heart of Atlanta?

Anthony Taylor: I’ve attended conventions like Wonderfest in Louisville, KY, and Monster Bash in Mars, PA, for many years and enjoyed them immensely. I’d always wished there was a similar show here in Atlanta. I waited around for that to happen for so long that I finally decided to put it on myself, and Monsterama was born in 2014. Though predominantly focused on classic horror films, we embrace monsters of all genres and media, and try to provide a great weekend for people who like them.

Pop culture/sub-culture conventions, such as MONSTERAMA, are great ways to preserve film and television classics. Why do you think these types of events draw larger crowds year after year? In your role(s) as convention director/Co-Chair, are you seeing larger and larger turnouts at these types of events each year?

I’m not certain they are drawing significantly larger crowds every year; at least not the more focused ones. Dragon Con, absolutely; they appeal to multiple genres and generations. We have grown consistently since 2014, but I know some shows that report a shrinking fan base simply due to the age of the films and media they cover – the fans and those still into them are dying off.  That’s why I feel it’s important for conventions like Monsterama to keep the banner flying. If we don’t, sooner or later no one will care about these stories that we cherish. In my opinion, “millennials” just don’t seem to see film as an art form, by and large. It’s a way to waste two hours and then on to the next distraction to many of them. The films we celebrate are definitely art and deserve to be preserved.

The guests that have appeared at MONSTERAMA have been monsterific, from Ricou Browning to Lynn Lowry to Victoria Price to Caroline Munro to Zach Galligan and so many more. What can you tell our readers about this year’s guests? Anything exciting planned? And who are you hoping to snag for future conventions?

We’ve got FABULOUS guests this year! Dick Miller, the guy from every Roger Corman and Joe Dante movie ever made, will be with us, as will Sybil Danning from BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and THE HOWLING 2, to name a few. Daniel Roebuck from LOST and Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN movies will be signing for free all weekend! We also have BarBara Luna from STAR TREK and the OUTER LIMITS, Academy Award™-winning special effects master Gene Warren, Jr., Lynn Lowry (as you mentioned), and so many more. The complete list is on our website here. Next year I’d love to get John Saxon, as I’ve enjoyed all of his performances.

Not only are you seasoned in the areas of classic film and television fandom from the behind-the-scenes running of conventions, but you’re also a published author (ARCTIC ADVENTURE, an official THUNDERBIRDS novel, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA: THE COMPLETE SERIES – VOL. 2, along with articles published in several fandom magazines). What compels you to write? And what is it about classic pop culture that makes you want to share it with your readers?

I like sharing my joy in all things popular culture with other people. I don’t want to just share my own nostalgic vision on a lot of these subjects — I want to provide readers with context so they can enjoy art on a deeper level. A good example is the graphic novel WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. To anyone who picked it up after 1989, when the Berlin wall came down and glasnost pervaded Eastern Europe, it has a completely different meaning than to those of us who read it while still under the threat of nuclear war. Of course, now might be a good time for a re-read of Watchmen… I’ve written hundreds of articles and interviews for film magazines exposing what goes on behind the camera because that informs what goes on in front of it. Context makes you view art in a completely different light.

Which classic monster and/or movie would you say is the most neglected and what do you think makes them worthy of attention?

I’ve got a few lesser-known favorites, chief among them I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and CURSE OF THE DEMON. They both work to frighten or creep out the viewer on a very base level, and both are visually striking. They both create tension via a sort of poetic nomenclature and subvert the viewer’s expectations. I could recommend many films, but if you haven’t seen these two, add them to your list!

Can you tell us a little about some of your favorite monster kid memories?

The first monster I was ever fascinated by (like many) was King Kong. When I was six years old, I traded a few comic books for a gorgeous poster of angry Kong towering over New York City, Fay Wray in his hand– and it scared me so much that I couldn’t sleep with it on my wall! My mom had to re-hang it in my closet so it wouldn’t keep me up at night in terror.

We see that you’re a huge fan of classic toys and model kit building. Do you remember the first model kit? And more importantly, do you still have it?

Around the same age, I began to see ads on the back of comics for Aurora monster model kits and could barely contain my desire for the whole set. The first one I coveted was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but the first one I actually bought and built was the Phantom of the Opera. I eventually got Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature and a few more. Unfortunately, my originals do not survive, but I have re-issues of all of them now. Knowing they’re safe in my storage unit gives me a warm, completed feeling from time to time.

I’m sure all monster kids are dying to know — how does one become the licensing & brand manager for the Bram Stoker Estate? That’s got to be one big dream come true. Can you tell us some exciting things you’ve got planned regarding Stoker’s Estate?

I met Dacre Stoker, who runs the estate and is Bram Stoker’s great-grand nephew a few years ago and we get along well. After seeing his presentations on Bram and Dracula several times, I began to realize how much branding potential was being wasted by not having someone overseeing these matters. I spoke with Dacre and we eventually put together an agreement that made me Licensing & Brand manager for the estate. I’m working with companies in the retail mystery box realm, jewelry, tabletop gaming, and others to try and create products that will extend awareness of Stoker and his works. It’s going pretty well so far.

What was your first taste of monstrous terror, and which classic monsters are your favorites?

Aurora Classic Monster model kits

Kong! I also love the many creations of Ray Harryhausen, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Creature From The Black Lagoon. I used to be an indiscriminate collector of monster merchandise, but now I’ve narrowed things down to just a few favorites. I no longer feel the need to own everything ever made!

What about your favorite classic television series?

Gerry Anderson’s UFO – the only monsters in it are humans and humanoid aliens, but the protagonist is a bureaucrat, out on the watchtower keeping the Earth safe from invaders. He’s a hero with a briefcase, and the writing of the show made a big impression on me when I first viewed it. There are lots of great miniature effects and explosions, cute girls in silver cat suits, and groovy music, but it remains one of the most engaging and serious television programs I’ve ever seen.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

I’m afraid my days of being cutting edge are long past! I mostly listen to’70s and ’80s punk and new wave, with a general leaning towards jangly guitar riffs by bands like The Church, or Crowded House. I haunt Netflix and Amazon Prime for new films and shows like THE OA or THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE (also starring Monsterama guest Daniel Roebuck). I read a lot of bad speculative fiction but I’m genuinely amazed when something as good as Jeff VanderMeer’s BORNE comes along. I like Sirius radio now that I have it, but wish it were priced more reasonably. I’m a huge fan of Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing, especially THE REMAINS OF THE DAY and NEVER LET ME GO.

And back to one of our favorite classic monster conventions, MONSTERAMA – anything extra special in store for con attendees this year? Any special events planned we should put on our calendar? So many great things!

Friday we have a concert by our heavy Victorian metal house band, Valentine Wolfe, a tongue-in-cheek séance to raise the spirit of Harry Houdini, Cineprov will be riffing on Irwin Allen’s production of THE LOST WORLD, and we’re screening guest Brian K. Williams’ film SPACE BABES FROM OUTER SPACE, with stars Ellie Church and Alison Maier in attendance. Saturday is the Silver Scream Spook Show screening THE TERROR, which co-stars our guest Dick Miller, plus our annual Monster Prom where we have truly fabulous door prizes. Valentine Wolfe will also be providing a live, original musical score for the classic German film, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. Dacre Stoker is bringing some of Bram Stoker’s personal effects to display as well. Sunday the Atlanta Radio Theater Company will be performing BRIDES OF DRACULA live onstage. All this plus many other panels, screenings, exhibits, contests, and demos all weekend long!

A. Taylor and Monsterama 2016 guest, Caroline Munro

And last but not least, what are you up to next? Can you give us some details on any other projects you’re currently working on or will be in the near future?

My partner and I are launching a new convention in Atlanta next Easter weekend called SPY CON. If you’re a James Bond, Kingsman, Man From UNCLE or other Spy-fi fan, you won’t want to miss it! We’re still early in the process, but details are available here. And of course, work has already begun on next year’s Monsterama, which will be classic Sci-Fi and space-horror themed, and is slated to take place at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta Oct. 5-7, 2018.

 

 

 

 

All photos courtesy of Anthony Taylor and used with permission.

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RETRO REVIEW: Don’t Get Them Jolly! GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH Brings Hell-iday Cheer to Splatter Cinema at Its New Location Cinevision!

Posted on: Dec 7th, 2014 By:

splattergremSplatter Cinema presents GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990); Dir. Joe Dante; Starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Christopher Lee; Tuesday, Dec. 9 @ 8:00 p.m.; Cinevision Screening Room; Tickets $10 (cash only); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Splatter Cinema is back! After a brief spell hosting films at the Chambers of Horror Halloween haunt, Splatter has teamed up with ATLRetro Kool Kat Ben Ruder’s Enjoy the Film and the Cinevision Screening Room to bring us the brilliantly bloody and the sublimely sickening. And while this month’s feature probably isn’t the first flick to spring to mind when you think “splatter,” its wildly imaginative and horrific effects work, combined with its completely uninhibited attitude, all add up to a perfect way to kick off a new era of Splatterdom this holiday season. Because after a seven-year search for a 35mm print, they have returned to bring you…GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH.

There are people who sincerely believe that a sequel is automatically inferior to its predecessor. They’ll tell you, for instance, that STAR WARS is a de facto better movie than THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK because it laid the necessary groundwork for the latter film’s existence. These people are what I like to call “wrong.”

Case in point: GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH. Now, don’t misjudge my feelings: I unabashedly love the original GREMLINS. It’s one of my favorite Christmas movies and I’ve gone on about it at length here before. But I have a special place in my heart for its sequel. And that place is front row center. While GREMLINS paints a raucous picture of monster-fueled anarchy breaking out in idyllic Small Town, USA, GREMLINS 2 is pure madness in the Big Apple from start to finish.

As opposed to the more direct plotting of the first film, the storyline in GREMLINS 2 is more a series of hooks from which director Joe Dante can hang gags; and as such, it’s pretty all over the place. After the death of Gizmo’s owner Mr. Wing, the mogwai falls into the hands of the science division of Clamp Enterprises (headed by the always-welcome Christopher Lee). He is rescued by old friends and coincidental Clamp employees Billy Peltzer and his fiancée Kate Beringer (Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, reprising their roles from the first film). However, a series of accidents cause more mogwai to be created, and havoc erupts in the locked-down Clamp Center as the gremlins plan to escape into New York City. There are constant sub-plots about disgruntled cable-show hosts, Billy’s job prospects and his flirtatious boss, out-of-town visitors, etc. But as I said, they’re mainly there to provide launching pads for parodies and jokes.

gremlins-al lewisWhile the first movie evoked the feeling of Chuck Jones Looney Tunes shorts with its self-referential send-ups of Spielbergian cinematic suburbia, it still played within the confines of a Spielberg movie or a late-period Jones cartoon. It was dark and violent, but still warm in the way that producer Steven Spielberg’s family films and so many of Chuck Jones’ later cartoons frequently are. Jones’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, for instance, lets us relish the Grinch’s delicious villainy by softening the blow with redemption and acceptance. Lessons are learned, people get better, and he—he himself, the Grinch—carved the roast beast.

GREMLINS 2, on the other hand, channels pure bizarro Jones. I’m talking DUCK AMUCK. THE DOVER BOYS AT PIMENTO UNIVERSITY. DUCK DODGERS IN THE 24 ½TH CENTURY. It’s almost nothing but wall-to-wall psychosis and fourth-wall breaking. It knowingly and overtly parodies GREMLINS. (At one point Leonard Maltin shows up to pan the first film, and is attacked and devoured by mogwai.) It features Christopher Lee as…well, Christopher Lee playing a villain. Sure, the character is nominally Dr. Catheter, but the point of his presence is for Christopher Lee to be identifiably playing Christopher Lee playing a villain—much like how he shows up in THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN to play Christopher Lee playing Dracula. There are countless in-jokes hidden away in background details, like some Will Elder story in a 1950s issue of MAD. There are parodies of other films, like RAMBO, THE WIZARD OF OZ, KING KONG, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and many more. Daniel Clamp, the head of Clamp Enterprises with a burgeoning cable television empire, is a parody of both Donald Trump and Ted Turner. Even Al Lewis’ late-1980s stint for Turner as “Grandpa” hosting horror flicks on TBSSUPER SCARY SATURDAY is parodied. Hulk Hogan shows up for no good reason whatsoever. A plot turn that sees the mogwai become genetically mutated not only allows a Wile E. Coyote-esque “super genius” gremlin to exist, but also creates a hotsy-totsy female mogwai in order to bring us some “Bugs Bunny in drag” sequences. And to drive the point home completely, Bugs and Daffy Duck bookend the movie. If the first movie let the insanity of a Warner Brothers cartoon invade our mundane reality, this movie rejects your reality and substitutes its own.

All this to say that there is nothing in this movie I do not love wholeheartedly. Far from being sleek and streamlined, this movie is maximalism in action: gag piled on top of gag, with everyone involved in the movie completely game. Joe Dante is at his peak here, with impeccable timing and incredibly nuanced detail all in the service of pure wackiness. Christopher Lee gets to show off his rarely utilized comic chops. Tony RandallTony Randall, people!—is absolutely perfect as the super-intelligent Brain Gremlin. Dick Miller has a sizeable role, and that’s practically reason enough to see it right there. The screenplay by Charlie Haas (OVER THE EDGE, MATINEE) captures just the right balance of meta-humor and cleverly constructed plot dynamics so that we are never just bogged down in jokes; there’s a solid through-line that propels us along. Throw in the typically top-notch (and at times both monstrous and disgusting) effects work of Rick Baker and his crew, along with the gift of a bigger budget, and you’ve got a sequel that is every bit the equal of its predecessor, if not surpassing it.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

 

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Mall Insecurity: Just A Few More Chopping Days Left Until Splatter Cine-mas at the Plaza Theatre

Posted on: Dec 9th, 2013 By:

Splatter Cinema presents CHOPPING MALL (1986); Dir. Jim Wynorski; Starring Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Barbara Crampton, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov; Tuesday, Dec. 10 @ 9:30 (photos and merch table open @ 9); Plaza Theater; Trailer here; Facebook Event Page here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

In the middle of the holiday season, when shopping centers are teeming with masses of bargain-hungry consumers, who doesn’t wish that a few bloodthirsty killbots could be unleashed to thin out the crowds? Look no further than the Plaza Theatre for some vicarious thrills as Splatter Cinema presents CHOPPING MALL!

You know, there was a time when a Jim Wynorski movie meant something. Granted, it didn’t mean much. But you knew what you were getting when you saw his name on the screen—an exploitation movie that didn’t take itself seriously in the least, and that sent itself and the genre up for affectionate ribbing. In short, a kind of low-rent Joe Dante flick (which makes sense, as both directors came from the benches of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures farm team). This is best exemplified in his two most fully-realized movies: his 1983 feature debut THE LOST EMPIRE (a comic variation on THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME but with a lot more nudity) and his more successful follow-up, CHOPPING MALL.

CHOPPING MALL answers the age-old question, “what would happen if mall security was handled by robots, and a freak lightning storm caused them all to go kill-crazy on a bunch of teens partying in a furniture store after-hours?” This question has plagued theologians, philosophers and scientists for centuries, and finally found all of its potential ramifications explored in full, rich, intellectual detail in the hands of Jim Wynorski. The answer, of course, is “well, the kids would start dying in hilariously bloody ways, and it would look a lot like DAWN OF THE DEAD if, instead of zombies, there were really cheap robots that looked kind of like Number 5 from SHORT CIRCUIT, yet acted like the ED-209 from ROBOCOP.”

Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov in CHOPPING MALL (1996).

Wynorski’s direction is perfectly adequate for this. It’s not pushing any envelopes or even trying to be groundbreaking in any way, but it’s tight and well-paced, creating a fun sense of tension while at the same time allowing you to chuckle at the complete outlandishness of it all. The movie hides its cheapness reasonably well, making the most of its Sherman Oaks Galleria setting, and features a host of familiar faces to distract you from the low budget. Among the teens getting slaughtered are Kelli Maroney from NIGHT OF THE COMET, Tony O’Dell from HEAD OF THE CLASS, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2’s Russell Todd and scream queen Barbara Crampton of RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND fame. Cameos are provided by the always-welcome Dick Miller (as Walter Paisley, his character name from A BUCKET OF BLOOD) and the delightful team of Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov, reprising their roles of EATING RAOUL’s Paul and Mary Bland.

In short, CHOPPING MALL is just a whole hell of a lot of fun, and one of the better (and bloodier) ways to blow off steam this time of year. If you want to turn your over-taxed, shopped-out brain off and have a riotously good time, you could hardly do better than watching a shopping mall turn against the idiots populating it. And don’t forget to show up early and get your photo taken in a gore-filled recreation of one of the movie’s scenes! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Let’s All Go to the Horror Con! Our 10 Best Retro Reasons To Attend DAYS OF THE DEAD ATLANTA

Posted on: Feb 1st, 2013 By:

What are we doing this weekend?! We’re heading down to the Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, one of the most Retro of downtown hotels, to hang out with thousands of horror fans at the second annual Days of the Dead. Last year, we drove all the way to the golf-cart-riding Stepford Wife wonderland of Peachtree City, but was it worth the hour-long commute. Hell, yeah, if only to hang with super-friendly and nice Kate Rambo of ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, aka Dey Young, and have her sign a photo to us “I have never done detention in my entire life”! Alas Dey won’t be there this year, but if anything, there is a larger rogues’ gallery of monster, scream queens and heroes! OK, money’s tight, but where are you going to spend it? The Mall? And besides you have to worry about real zombies there.

1) BUTCH PATRICK! Yes, the original Eddie Wolfgang Munster from THE MUNSTERS, one of our two favorite Retro horror-sitcom TV shows. Sure, he’s more than all grown up now, but we can’t wait to hear any memories he might be willing to share about growing up at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

2) RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD REUNION! OK, who didn’t want to party with a spikey red-headed Linnea Quigley getting drunk and dancing in a graveyard in this quintessential ’80s zombie black comedy. Days of the Dead has gathered Linnea and seven other starts of the cult classic which spawned four sequels. See everyone on stage at a noon panel. Don’t eat people, we say! Brains!

3) RIFF RANDELL! We’re still fantasizing of hanging with the Ramones and blowing up our high school, even after all these years, so we can’t think of anything more awesome than to meet and get the autographs of P.J. Soles who played Joey’s biggest fan in cult classic ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979). In case you’re too young to know this cult classic, get yourself educated by readingMark Arson’s Retro Review here. Oh, yeah, P.J. was in a few other obscure horror movies like CARRIE and HALLOWEEN.

4) HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES/DEVIL’S REJECTS Reunions! Rob Zombie’s two best movies aren’t actually Retro but they sure look that way, being tributes to the over-the-top exploitation flicks of the 1960s and 1970s. DAYS OF THE DEAD has rangled 13, by our count, of the cast, but we have to admit we’re most excited about Mr. Machete himself Danny Trejo, Michael Berryman, who also gave us the willies in Wes Craven‘s THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1966)and Sid Haig, one of those rare B-movie icons and character actors whose career spans the decades from Jack Hill’s blaxploitation films of the 1970s to the chaotic, creepy Captain Spaulding. Quite frankly you scared the sh-t out of us and since we’re not easily scared, for that we salute you, Sid, as a true master of horror. A reunion panel is Saturday at 1 p.m.

5) PATTY MULLEN! Get ready for Splatter Cinema’s Tues. Feb. 12 screening of Frank Henenlotter‘s FRANKENHOOKER (1990) at The Plaza Theatre by meeting the actual Frankenhooker!

6) DICK MILLER! Poor Murray Futterman can’t escape our favorite feel-good holiday movie monsters GREMLINS (1984) even on vacation. We promise we’ll be polite to the consummate character actor and won’t bring our Stripe along to ruin his con. We also haven’t forgotten that he was in the original Roger Corman-directed LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) and played the police chief in ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.

7) GUNNAR HANSEN! Leatherface in the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). He’ll even be on a panel with Marilyn Burns, the only survivor of the original rampage, on Sun. at 1 p.m.  Nuff said.

8. COMICS ARTISTS! Hopefully by now you’ve read our exclusive interview with James O’Barr, creator of THE CROW, who will be bringing along  pages from his new THE CROW: THE ENGINES OF DESPAIR series. If not, check it out here. Also at Days, look for two of our favorite Atlanta-based artists, Chris Hamer, a master of the quirky creature and bonafide Kool Kat, and Jason Flowers, who recently completed work on THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD trading card series for U.K. sketch card company, Unstoppable Cards. All three will be bringing con-exclusive prints and new works, so be sure and seek out their tables.

9) SPOOKTACULAR SHOPPING! Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both macabre memorabilia and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories. One booth we’ll definitely be stopping by is that of Athens, GA-based artist Jeanne the Maskmaker, who crafts one of a kind visages worthy of the Red Death’s Masquerade Ball.

10) PHANTAMAGORIC PARTIES! On Friday night, wear your craziest, creepiest costume to the Monsters Ball at 11 p.m. followed by karaoke at half past the witching hour. Then on Saturday at 10 p.m., Atlanta’s own most extreme Halloween attraction Chambers of Horror presents a concert by Fiend Without A Face  featuring Brent Hinds of Mastodon, followed by the MurderBall and Side Show Party, featuring Captain Stabb-Tuggo and Maybelle’s Sideshow, a Chamber-of-Horror-themed burlesque show, a costume contest, prizes and the Wheel of Torture.

Days of the Dead main con hours are Fri. Feb. 1 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sat. Feb. 2 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun. Feb. 3 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Door prices are $55 for  a weekend pass and $25 for a day pass. Park at the hotel for only $5 with validation from front desk (valet parking exempted). For more info, visit http://www.daysofthedead.net/atlanta/.

 

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Retro Review: Deck the Halls With Splatter Cinema: GREMLINS Invade the Plaza Theatre!!!

Posted on: Dec 10th, 2012 By:

Splatter Cinema Presents GREMLINS (1984); Dir: Joe Dante; Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Hoyt Axton; Tue. Dec. 11 @ 9:30 p.m.; Sun. Dec. 16 @ 3:00 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

One of the most notable aspects of the classic Warner Brothers Looney Tunes series of cartoon shorts is that while they were created for the enjoyment of children, they were written to also entertain those parents accompanying their kids to the theater. They’d frequently wink at the audience, breaking the fourth wall and commenting on the ridiculousness of what was transpiring. Few directors have the right touch to pull this off in live-action filmmaking the way that Joe Dante does, and fewer films succeed at this to the extent of GREMLINS.

From his more cartoonish collaborations with Allan Arkush (HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL) to his somewhat more restrained horror features (PIRHANA, THE HOWLING), Dante’s modus operandi is to pepper his films with sly humor that acknowledges the fact that we’re all watching a movie. In the hands of some, it could come off as condescending—a kind of “look at us: we’re intentionally making a bad movie, hyuk hyuk!” attitude. But Dante loves this stuff too much to be condescending. In his hands, it all comes across as gleeful subversion; he seems to say that it’s okay to have fun with this medium and the things we love about it. That it’s okay to throw in a special appearance by Robby the Robot for a laugh because who doesn’t love Robby the Robot? That casting Dick Miller in every movie you make and frequently crediting him as “Walter Paisley” (his character from A BUCKET OF BLOOD) is fine, because Dick Miller is a legend and A BUCKET OF BLOOD is fantastic! More than even Tarantino, Joe Dante is the movie nerd’s movie nerd. His films take the attitude that they can have fun with established movie tropes because you should be having fun, and nothing is more fun than the movies.

Which brings us to GREMLINS. Like the classic Warner Brothers cartoons (hey, there’s Chuck Jones in the bar scene!) and Dante’s previous work, it blissfully screws with expectations about what you’re watching. And what it’s playing around with is Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Like E.T., the film is about a small-town kid who winds up taking care of an adorable, otherworldly creature, gets in over his head and madcap antics ensue. The first twist to the formula is that Billy (Zach Galligan), unlike E.T.’s Elliot, is college-aged, pursuing his old high school crush (Phoebe Cates) and still living with his folks. But still, that’s not such a departure that it necessarily alters the story dynamic, right? I mean, after his dad (Hoyt Axton) presents him with a precious little Mogwai named Gizmo, even if he breaks the final two of the creature’s three rules (1. Keep him out of bright lights. 2. Don’t get him wet. 3. Never feed him after midnight.), how bad can it get? It’s a Christmas movie, for crying out loud!

GREMLINS' Gizmo is darned cute when he's not wet. Warner Brothers, 1984.

Things can get really bad.

Rather than the film conforming to the E.T. template by having a force from outside threaten the poor little guy and his human pal, and eventually giving us a warm and affectionate send-off, Dante and screenwriter Chris Columbus have Billy make a couple of boneheaded mistakes and potentially doom the entire town. Thanks to Billy, an army of scaly, green and ugly little beasties are running about the place and gleefully killing and eating townspeople just for kicks. Gremlins are gruesomely killed in food processors and microwaves. Phoebe Cates recounts a horrific story about her father’s death. Nobody is safe. It’s almost as if Dante knew that the movie-going public would see Gizmo looking like a little bipedal pug and making high-pitched Howie Mandel noises and generally being so adorable you can barely stand it, and bring their kids to unwittingly witness THE MOST VIOLENT PG-RATED FILM OF ALL TIME. Okay, maybe INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM has it beat, but not by much, bucko. Instead of the heartwarming and heartbreaking farewell of E.T., Billy’s family gets chewed out at the end as a proxy for the entirety of Western Civilization being a bunch of jerks. And all the while, you can practically hear Joe Dante, standing just off-screen, laughing himself half to death.

Predictably, parents were horrified. One of the teachers at my high school refused to let her kids see the film because the Gremlins “were obviously demons from the pit of Hell.” Outrage from Responsible Parents over the violence in this (and yes, in TEMPLE OF DOOM) is what led to the establishment of the PG-13 rating. But kids? Kids ate this up. They ate it up like pancakes covered in ice cream. Because even if the Responsible Parents didn’t get it, the kids did. And the Irresponsible Parents (like mine, bless ‘em) got that this was all a huge, happy joke.

Don't be fooled. The caroling GREMLINS aren't here for good cheer. Warners Brothers, 1984.

Unfortunately, GREMLINS wasn’t originally released at Christmastime. Fearing that they had nothing to offer for competition during the summer of GHOSTBUSTERS and (again) TEMPLE OF DOOM, Warner Brothers rushed the release of the film and pushed it up by six months. It’s a shame, too, because despite the absolutely epic violence of the film, it’s practically the perfect Christmas movie. Let’s face it: the best Christmas entertainments are fueled by a perverse viewing of Things Going Wrong. Would IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE be what it is without spending the vast majority of the film watching everything that could possibly go wrong in George Bailey’s life go even worse? Would HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS be as enjoyable without watching the Grinch attempt to ruin everybody’s life? Santa Claus in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET may just actually be insane. RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER runs away from home and hangs out with a bunch of losers and reprobates. There was that YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS. It’s not A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS without watching Chuck’s life spiral into a void of existential dread. Christmas is a time for joy and merriment…and bloodshed and death.

…All of which makes GREMLINS the perfect choice for Splatter Cinema to screen at the Plaza Theatre this month. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense at first (Spielberg produced it! Its hero is a little fuzzy critter!), sit back and enjoy one of the few Christmas movies to fully embrace the notion that over-the-top violence can be joyful.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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