Nightmare in Downtown Atlanta: Our Top 10 Retro Reasons to Attend Days of the Dead 2016!

Posted on: Feb 3rd, 2016 By:

elviraIt’s crazy how time flies and also totally terrifyingly awesome that the Days of the Dead will be celebrating its fifth frightening year at Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, this Friday-Sunday Feb. 5-7. Our favorite part is that this horror media convention celebrates not just contemporary cinema but retro classics. In other words, there’s plenty to please both the gore-fan and the Famous Monsters Kid. Here are 10 of our top things to do this year.

bdwms1) ELVIRA. Need me say more than that the Mistress of the Dark will be gracing our presence. You can catch the beautiful Cassandra Peterson on all three days but she’ll only be onstage Q&A’g Friday night at 9 p.m. and only in her full dark costumed regalia on Saturday.

2) BILLY DEE WILLIAMS. The original Star Wars trilogy gangster, Lando Calrissian, will be in the house on Saturday (Q&A at noon) and Sunday, as well as Jeremy Bulloch the man behind the mask of Boba Fett, the ultimate bounty hunter.

3) SID HAIG AND BILL MOSELEY. Returning once more are two of the sweetest sinister guys in show businesses. 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 and Bill Moseley scared the sh-t out of us in THE DEVIL’s REJECTS, and since we’re not easily scared, for that we salute you both!

raimi4) TED RAIMI, i.e. Sam’s zany acting brother, is also on this year’s guest list. Horror fans will always love him for EVIL DEAD II, but his acting resume is long and full of fun including recurring roles on such TV series as SEAQUEST 2032 and playing Joxer on HERCULES and XENA:WARRIOR PRINCESS.

5) HEATHER LANGENKAMP & PJ SOLES. These ladies won horror hearts as two of 70s/80s swellest scream queens for their turns in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and HALLOWEEN, but to us, PJ will always be Riff Randell eating pizza with the Ramones and toppling Principal Togar in one of our favorite cult movies ever, Roger Corman‘s unparalleled ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.

sidhaig6) KANE HODDER & TONY TODD, the actors behind two of the most iconic 80s monsters, JASON VOORHES and CANDYMAN, will be lurking. Be sure to stop by and blow them kisses, then duck and run!

7) TOO MANY TO NAME THEM ALL! Check the Website for more stars from such horror/splatter classics as POLTERGEIST, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, CHILD’S PLAY, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE HITCHER and more!

8) SPOOKTACULAR SHOPPING  Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both macabre movie memorabilia, cult classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories.

9) MACABRE MAKE-UP, CREEPY COSTUMES AND PHANTAMAGORIC PARTIES!! Check the schedule and on-site flyers, but highlights include Friday night CELEBRITY SCARYEE-OKEE at 11 p.m. and Saturday FX MAKEUP CHALLENGE (4:30 p.m.), THAT DAMN TATTOO CONTEST (6:30 p.m.) VIP PARTY (8:45 p.m.), costume contest (10 p.m.) and CARNAGE dance party (11 p.m.)

costume10) FRIGHTENING FILMS! The JABB 48-hour film festival featuring new and classic indie horror shorts (both US and international), animation, features and con exclusives. One special treat, or maybe trick, is DEVIL DOGS OF KILO COMPANY, a Marines vs. Nazis thriller performed with toy soldiers and tanks, introduced by voice actors/stars John Dugan (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) and Kane Hodder, Sat. at 5 p.m.! And we admit nothing says creepy to us so much as a clown costume contest–catch that right after at 7 p.m. during the pre-release party of CIRCUS OF THE DEAD introduced by DOLL BOY director Billy Pon.

Days of the Dead main con hours are Fri. Feb. 5 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sat. Feb. 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun. Feb. 7 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with parties going late into the night on Friday and Saturday. Kids under 10 and military free. For more info, visit http://www.daysofthedead.net/atlanta/.

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The Horror! The Horror! Our Top Eight Retro Reasons to Go to DAYS OF THE DEAD 2015

Posted on: Feb 4th, 2015 By:

pinheadWhat are we doing this weekend?! We’re heading down to the fourth annual Days of the Dead at Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, Friday-Sunday Feb. 6-8.

1) HELLRAISER REUNION! The sinister Cenobites may be masters and mistresses of inflicting a puzzling kind of pain, but we’ve met the actors who play them and can attest they are nastily nice. See Pinhead himself Doug Bradley, Valentina Vargas, Barbie Wilde, Nicholas Vince and Simon Banford together on one stage at noon on Saturday and signing all weekend.

2) ANGUS SCRIMM! Yup, it’s PHANTASM‘s one and only Tall Man. Hear him talk at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

3) RIFF RANDELL! Don’t tell Principal Togar but the one and only P.J. SOLES is back. Yeah, she’s been in HALLOWEEN, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS and other screamin’ festures, but to us she will always the rebel with a Ramones of a cause of ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979). Oh, wait what the hell, Togar herself is going to be at Days of the Dead, too–yes, the amazing Mary Woronov. We are not worthy! Please send us to Detention now.

Rock_'n'_Roll_High_SchoolPoster4) THE DEVIL’S REJECTS!  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 and Bill Moseley scared the sh-t out of us in Rob Zombie‘s best neo-exploitation flick THE DEVIL’s REJECTS and since we’re not easily scared, for that we salute you both! Together again with fellow REJECTS William Forsythe, Leslie Easterbrook, Ginjer Lynn, PJ Soles, Mary Woronov, Duane Whitaker, Dave Sheridan and in his first son appearance Michael Alcott all on one stage at 1 p.m. on Saturday and signing all weekend.

5) BUTCH PATRICK 50Th ANNIVERSARY APPEARANCE. Yes, it’s really been 50 years since THE MUNSTERS debuted on American TV. Little Eddy Wolfgang Munster himself is back.

6) DAVID NAUGHTON! KANE HODDER! TONY TODD! COREY FELDMAN! JAMISON NEWLANDER! JOHN DUGAN! JOHN KASSIR! MORE! The guest list just seems to go on and on with Retro-horror goodness including the original AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, our favorite Jason Voorhees, the man who mixes it with love and makes the world taste scary, the Frog Brothers that sucked it up to THE LOST BOYS, a certain “Granpa” with a Texas chainsaw, and the man whose voice creeped us out so many times hosting TV’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT, and more stars of horror now and then.

6) SPOOKTACULAR SHOPPING  Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both macabre movie memorabilia, cult classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories. Vendors include Kool Kat Kyle Yaklin, master of the Creature From the Black Lagoon mask and suit.

the_devil__s_rejects_clown_by_emomickeymouse-d33m0007) MACABRE MAKE-UP, CREEPY COSTUMES, CREEPY CARNEY ACTS AND PHANTAMAGORIC PARTIES!! Check the schedule for make-up demonstrations, VIP parties, Monsters Among You Wicked Costume Showdown Saturday night at 10 pm followed by the Monster Ball. On Friday night, learn SFX make-up and costuming from elite level costumers at the 9 p.m. Monsters Among You: Origins panel, followed by a frightening Friday Night Party featuring Circus Envy and the Deadly Sins, the sideshow antics of Captain and Maybelle, karoake with celebrity guests Felissa Rose (SLEEPAWAY CAMP) and prolific scream queen Tiffany Shepis, who also recently starred in ATTACK OF THE MORNINGSIDE MONSTER, made by Kool Kats Jayson Palmer and Chris Ethridge.

8) FRIGHTENING FILMS! Lead actor Dave Sheridan hosts an exclusive sneak preview of zombie comedy THE WALKING DECEASED with cast & director Q&A and free giveaways at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Throughout the weekend from 5 p.m. Friday through 4 p.m. Sunday, the JABB 48-hour film festival  ranges from a shorts block on Friday to 1980s Saturday morning cartoon favorites to acclaimed, hard-to-see indie horror features such as Ryan Lieske‘s ABED (Sun. 3 p.m.), awarded 2013 Best Feature at Atlanta’s Buried Alive Film Festival and based on the Elizabeth Massie zombie short story.

Days of the Dead main con hours are Fri. Feb. 7 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sat. Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun. Feb. 9 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with parties going late into the night on Friday and Saturday. For more info, visit http://www.daysofthedead.net/atlanta/.

 

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Retro Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cabin in the Woods: EVIL DEAD 2 Is a Vicious, Nasty, Bloody, Frightening and Smart Movie!

Posted on: May 28th, 2013 By:

Rock & Roll Monster Bash presents EVIL DEAD 2 (1987); Dir. Sam Raimi; Starring Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry and Dan Hicks; Sunday, June 2; Starlight Six Drive-In; Buy tickets here; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

It’s Rock & Roll Monster Bashin’ time, ladies and gents! And if you’ve spent all day celebrating at the Starlight Six Drive-In, there’s no better way to cap off the night than with a double-bill of fright featuring folks messing around with books they ought not be messin’ around with. And they don’t come any better than Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD 2.

It was 1983 and I had started sailing awkwardly into teenagerhood. FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND was on the verge of closing up shop, and I had been steadily supplementing my reading material with FANGORIA. A video rental store named Video Land had just opened up in town to provide stiff competition to the local movie house (the Royal Rocking Chair Cinema), and my main after-school preoccupation was scouring the shelves of the horror section to rent whatever I hadn’t seen yet. And one day, there it was: the Thorn/EMI plastic clamshell case for THE EVIL DEAD. In the coming years, I must have paid for half of Video Land’s entire inventory just from renting that movie over and over again. It was mindblowing. Just a vicious, nasty, bloody, frightening and smart movie—not just script-wise, but so audacious visually that it was like few things I’d seen to that point.

So when FANGO started reporting that Sam Raimi was teaming back up with Bruce Campbell to make EVIL DEAD 2, I was rabid. And then, the Royal put up the poster for it as a coming attraction. I pestered the hell out of the people running the place about when they were going to get it, and every time, they’d say “soon.” Maybe it would be that they were holding over that week’s show. Or maybe it would be that a big release was coming in the next week that they had to run instead. But every time, something different. And they must have had that poster up for a year. Like they were doing it out of spite, just to taunt me or something.

So, like so many others like me who were living out in the pits of Nowheresvilles all across the country, I had to wait for it to come out on video to see it. And when I finally got my grubby mitts on it…it was a comedy?

Because how can you follow up a movie whose own closing credits describe it as “the ultimate experience in grueling terror?” By piling on the excesses of the first until it becomes so overloaded with the wacky that it collapses in hysterics. (And by describing the result in its closing credits as “the sequel to the ultimate experience in grueling terror.”) Where the first film was visually inventive, this took every lesson learned from that first movie and asked the question, “how can we do this BIGGER?” If THE EVIL DEAD used the whip pan as a stylistic device, let’s do everything in whip pans. Lots of blood all over the place in the first movie? Let’s shoot it out of fire hoses at Bruce Campbell. The first movie has Bruce wielding a chainsaw? Let’s give Bruce a chainsaw for a hand! The first film has violence so over-the-top that it borders on the absurd? Let’s demonstrate that Bruce Campbell is an incredibly agile physical comedian and have him beat the living daylights out of himself with everything but the kitchen sink, like he’s both Moe and Curly trapped inside the same body.

Groovy.

This became my new gospel. I’d sit and pick over the minutiae of this movie like I was in seminary and this was the Codex Sinaiticus. Like I was Wilbur Whateley poring over my John Dee translation of the NECRONOMICON. This was now part of my personal canon, alongside THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE or…well…THE EVIL DEAD.

Capsule recap: Ash Williams and his girlfriend Linda head out to a secluded cabin for a quiet getaway. Ash plays a tape recording found which was made by the professor staying there previously, and which contains translations of the bound-in-flesh NECRONOMICON EX MORTIS (which was also found in the cabin). It summons up evil forces from beyond that possess Linda, Ash, his hand, and soon threaten to possess the people heading to the cabin, mistakenly believing that they’re meeting the now-late professor.

Bruce Campbell in EVIL DEAD 2.

There are few sequels that are better than the first movie. You can probably count them on your fingers. Both hands, if you’re feeling generous. You know it. I know it. More importantly, Sam Raimi knew it. He knew that since the first film was celebrated as a straight-up horror movie, that the second movie could only disappoint in comparison. So he made a different movie. A movie that didn’t even try to do what the first one did so well, but aimed for something he knew he could pull off: the first splatstick comedy. I mean, Sam Raimi had never wanted to be just a horror film director anyway; he just saw horror as an easy way to get his foot in the door. Most of his own short films were comedies, and he had followed up THE EVIL DEAD with an attempt to make a live-action LOONEY TUNES / Tex Avery-styled comedy in collaboration with Joel and Ethan Coen, CRIMEWAVE. That it flopped seemed to only strengthen his resolve to take a bigger risk by making EVIL DEAD 2 a comedy.

And it worked. Oh, man, how it worked. It quickly became the MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL for the horror geek scene. Whereas the first film presented Bruce Campbell as Ash, a likeably bland lead, this movie established Bruce Campbell in my mind (and that of anyone else who saw it) as Bruce Campbell, Movie God. This was the movie where he finally came into his own, delivering a tour de force performance that would have killed a lesser man to give. And the guts of Raimi to essentially condense the entire first movie into the first half-hour of the second, retelling it and streamlining it (removing any character other than Ash and his girlfriend Linda). It was like Raimi explicitly saying, “this is not that movie. This is a whole different thing.” The only thing about the movie that suffers is the collective performances of the secondary cast members, which are generally either a little too broad or a little too wooden. But it’s hard to really judge them because they are unfortunately cast alongside the marvel that is BRUCE F’ING CAMPBELL. Olivier might have suffered in comparison. (We’ll never know. He wisely stayed away, and never suffered those slings and arrows, the coward.)

Some movies are fun. Some of those movies are described as “a roller coaster ride.” EVIL DEAD 2 is like Disneyland riding a roller coaster through Knott’s Scary Farm while the Ramones are playing on top of a blood-filled Splash Mountain. Strap in, kids, because it’s gonna get MESSY.

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

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Retro Review: DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT or You May Find Another Horror Cult Classic at The Plaza

Posted on: Apr 12th, 2013 By:

DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1974); Dir: S.F. Brownrigg; Starring Rosie Holotik, Bill McGhee, Annabelle Weenick; Fri. Apr. 12-Thurs. Apr. 18; The Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

It feels like I’ve been writing a lot about the Plaza Theatre lately, but there’s a damn good reason for that. When ownership at the Plaza recently changed hands, the new owners’ first act was to remove the old 35mm film projectors in favor of a crisp, clean but decidedly digital presentation. For cine-junkies like me, this was supposed to be the kiss off, but the Plaza, as it turns out, knows their market. While the face of the Plaza changes, the heart of the old girl still beats the same, maybe even stronger, as the theatre has gone absolutely nuts with its programming, booking all kinds of rare gems and oddities to its screens and convincing the film nerds to withhold judgment just a little longer. With recent full runs for THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, REEFER MADNESS, RE-ANIMATOR, and FLESH GORDON, The Plaza is now the best spot in Atlanta to catch a vintage film pretty much any night of the week.

Joining the roster of “holy shit” this week at the Plaza is DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973), otherwise known to horror fans by the way-less-awesome title of THE FORGOTTEN. Filmed in Texas in that same sweltering, gritty grindhouse style that THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) would make infamous one year later, DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT concerns a young nurse named Charlotte (Rosie Holotik) who starts a new job at a mental asylum, only to learn that the head doctor has been murdered by the patients. The new doctor in charge, Dr. Masters (Annabelle Weenick), tries to help Charlotte settle in, but the unruly, batshit patients begin to target and harass their new nurse. There’s plenty of blood, a dark secret or two, and an absolutely ludicrous third act twist. The filmmaking is less than impressive, but the overall effect is enough to rake you over the coals a bit, if that’s what you’re into. There’s a reason this movie still gets play 40 years after its release.

DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT is a grinding little workhorse of a horror film, made all the more famous by its associations with other horror classics. One year earlier, Wes Craven’s grimy THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) dropped a nuke on the horror scene with its near-snuff approach to tale of rape and revenge. That movie had one of the most famous taglines in film history, and well-earned: “Just keep repeating to yourself; ‘it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie…” The next year, distributors tried to pass DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT off as being from the same batch of people by showing it on a double bill with LAST HOUSE, but the films have no real connection. Instead, DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT comes from the mind of S.F. Brownrigg, a journeyman of the Texas horror circuit who had a flair for amazing titles, like DON’T OPEN THE DOOR! (1975) and KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN (1976). He also had a role in creating THE EYE CREATURES (1965), later made infamous by MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000.

DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT is not a film that comes to screens very often, and when it does, maybe it plays more for the devoted than for the unconverted. But that’s what’s been so impressive about the new scheduling at the Plaza. There are plenty of catalog titles that could draw in the mainstream, but the Plaza is in the middle of an all-out bid for the cultists and movie fetishists, and the theatre is working hard to plant themselves at the center of Atlanta’s developing film culture. I, for one, hope there’s more like this in the basement.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

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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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Tis The Season to Be Spooky: A Torturous Journey into the Chambers of Horror, Atlanta’s Most Extreme Halloween Attraction with Mad Mastermind Luke Godfrey

Posted on: Oct 21st, 2011 By:

Atlanta’s only Halloween haunted attraction inside the Perimeter, Gorehound Productions‘ Chambers of Horror doesn’t settle for the usual scares. Definitely not for everyone, the adults-only haunt behind The Masquerade, open every night in October and the first weekend of November, aims to be the most extreme in ultra-violence, depravity and gore, and from our recent visit, we can testify they succeed and then some.

Grab a drink at the Splatter Bar, then head down the hill to see a short news clip by intrepid Atlanta reporter Monica Coffin, which reveals that a black van bearing the logo of Chambers of Horror has been spotted near the mysterious disappearances of several locals. All of which is meant to wander if you’ll be taking a one-way journey through the meat-locker-metal doors of Torture Co. And beyond, indeed, the emphasis is on realism of the sickest kind, nothing supernatural but torture of all kinds—fire, assorted blades, chainsaw, firearms and even a gynecological scene so sensationalistic that it makes Cronenberg’s DEAD RINGERS seem like a Disney movie. Inside it’s more vignettes of increasingly shocking and gory body mutilation than monsters jumping out of dark corners. The acting is unnervingly good from torturers to victims, but it’s no fun to reveal too much. Much of it draws from contemporary splatter—though that has its roots in the limits pushed by Fulci, Argento and Clive Barker. A nod to the dungeons of Hammer and AIP’s Poe pictures, though, can be found in the Torture Museum, exhibiting Medieval gadgetry that Vincent Price’s WITCHFINDER GENERAL might have employed with gruesome glee in a dank dungeon. And then there’s a certain minister of mayhem, but hush, we can’t tell you any more except everything is meant to make more than uncomfortable and maybe, like a certain movie also playing this week, scream DEAR GOD NO!

ATLRetro managed to chain up Luke Godfrey, one of the mad masterminds behind Chambers, to get a sneak peek inside. And while we had him talking, we got him to confess a little about some of his other creepy contributions to Atlanta’s thriving horror scene as one of the co-creators of the Zombie Walk Atlanta (Sun. Oct. 16); Splatter Cinema, which won the Creative Loafing readers’ award for Best Film Series again this year, and is presenting a Halloween bonus screening this month of Lucio Fulci’s 1979 cult classic ZOMBIE (Fri. Oct. 21) at the Plaza Theatre; and the Buried Alive Film Fest, which rises again at the Plaza, Nov. 10-12.

Photo Credit: Thomas Kerns.

ATLRetro: How and when did Chambers of Horror get started?

Luke: In 2009 After doing horror events like Zombie Walk, Atlanta Horrorfest, Splatter Cinema, and an adults-only haunted house in the basement of the Graveyard Tavern called Crypt of Terror, I received a phone call from a good friend, Rene Arriagada, a local artist and event producer, asking me if I would like to start up a haunted house with him. I brought in my partner in Gorehound Productions, Ian O’Brien, and we began the creation of the sickest thing this city has ever seen.

What separates Chambers from Atlanta’s other haunts? 

Chambers is about as sick and twisted as you can get. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen—pushing the limits and boundaries to an extent that really sets peoples nerves on edge. We are an adults-only attraction with a full bar and there are many reasons for that. We kicked all the monsters—ghouls, goblins and zombies—out the f—ing door to make room for real horror. It’s like being dropped right in the middle of a SAW or HOSTEL-type movie. All well-trained actors delivering skits that will have you on the floor screaming in fear or crying in laughter. We hold hard to the 18+ policy due to extreme situations, simulated nudity and vulgar language. It’s real. It’s just like what you would expect at an R-rated movie—no censoring here.

Photo Credit: Thomas Kerns.

Definitely more of the SAW/ HOSTEL/ torture porn genre. We want to keep with the times and do something none else is doing. I love the classics and zombies and the such, but there’s a place for that and we are not it. No rednecks in overalls here; we have people in suits and ties cutting titties off.

What’s new and different in this year?

Lots of new actors, some seriously amazing new additions to our cast that really bring our show together, as well as many new rooms and additions. We amped up the gore and skin throughout the entire place. I mention simulated nudity before, yeah…there’s a lot more of it this year.

Without giving too much away, do you have a favorite scene or one that you’d like to especially warn visitors about?

Three words….”I got peed on”

How long did it take to create the sets? Any behind-the-scenes trivia or secrets?

Myself and Rene have been at it since February of this year—building most of the props ourselves and coming up with some ridiculous ideas. Many people ask us “how the hell do you come up with this shit?” Our constant reply is “lots of drunken nights sitting in rooms and spurting off some of the most ridiculous ideas ever.” I really wish someone was around recording some of our impossible and bad ideas.

How many zombies participated in last Sunday’s walk and how did that go?

I would say we probably had around 750 zombies this year. We did over 1000 last year and it was way outta control. I warned everybody that I would punch them in the face if they stepped out of line and its seemed to work. Everybody was really cool and respectful to both Wonderroot where we started and Oakland Cemetery. I was very pleased with the walk this year. It was awesome.

Splatter Cinema is presenting a bonus show this month of Fulci’s ZOMBIE. What do you love about that movie and what else is coming up for Splatter?

Whats not to love. It’s gory as hell. I think my favorite scene is the eyeball splinter scene. I love Fulci’s eye torture gags. They are ridiculous. The one from THE BEYOND always gets me, too, with the spiders,

The Buried Alive Film Festival is also right around the corner. What can you share about this year’s line-up and is there anything Retro or Retro-inspired?

We do have an film called CHILLERAMA that has a bunch of grindhouse/retro shorts from different acclaimed directors. It’s a pretty awesome flick. Definitely the highlight of the fest this year. As CHILLERAMA’s Website states, “In the spirit of classic anthology films like CREEPSHOW and TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE and containing films that not only celebrate the golden age of drive-in B horror shlock but also span over four decades of cinema, CHILLERAMA offers something for every bad taste. With titles like Wadzilla, I Was a Teenage Werebear, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein and Zom-B-Movie and featuring appearances by Joel David Moore (AVATAR), Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS), Ray Wise (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), Kane Hodder (FRIDAY THE 13TH), Eric Roberts (THE DARK KNIGHT) and more cameos than you can count, CHILLERAMA is sure to have you screaming for more. From the depraved minds of Adam Rifkin (DETROIT ROCK CITY), Tim Sullivan (2001 MANIACS), Adam Green (FROZEN), and Joe Lynch (WRONG TURN 2).

Finally gotta ask, you’ve built an entire career/lifestyle around horror. How did you get into horror and what’s the appeal to you?

I was exposed to horror at a pretty early age. NIGHTMARE (ON ELM STREET) and Freddy Krueger were a pretty regular occurrence. My mom is a huge horror fan, too, and was always letting me watch the stuff. Or I would sneak up after hours to catch some cheesy after hours horror flicks. I just love the rush I get from horror films. They don’t scare me anymore, but they still get me pumped when I find a good flick that somehow manages to surprise me with something new.

Chambers of Horror is open seven evenings a week for the entire month of October and the first weekend of November and offers many ticket options from $17 general admission to a limited $45 VIP Pass (which includes getting to skip the line and a free drink) to satisfy even the most discerning torture connoisseur at Ticketmaster.com. No one under 18 admitted.

 

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Tis the Season To Be Spooky: Netherworld’s Billy Messina Raises Your Darkest Retro Nightmares and Treats You to Raw Meat

Posted on: Oct 14th, 2011 By:

By Angie Weiss
Contributing Blogger

Before I tell you about Netherworld, I must give full disclosure: I am easily scared. Like crazy scared. There can be the mere suggestion of something potentially frightening about to happen, and I curl up in a little ball. I can know that something lurks around the corner, but if said thing jumps out at me, I will scream like a baby anyway. So this post is not about whether or not Netherworld is scary. I’m certainly not the one to ask. But if you are looking for something that is psychologically thrilling, visually stunning and an overall can’t-miss Halloween experience, then I can tell you that Netherworld, open every night in October (and Nov.4-5), is the haunted house for you.

Now in its 15th year, Netherworld is divided into two attractions. “The Nightmares” is the main event, a huge haunted house that feels like it goes on forever, through hallways of old manors and gardens of gargoyles. “Raw Meat” is smaller, gorier and chock full of turn-your-stomach scenes.

In “The Nightmares,” a mix of illusions, animatronics and stellar actors work together to play off your worst fears. Monsters? Vampires? Voodoo priests? They’re all here to toy with your mind. The suspense factor in this one is quite strong, as the hallways wind through mirrors and tunnels and you never know what lies waiting around the next bend. Sure there are some jump-out-of-your-skin moments, but for me, this is more of an overall creeptastic experience that you’ll want to take time to enjoy. It may be tempting to run through the house out of fear, but slow down and absorb everything that’s going on. The intricately detailed sets alone are well worth the price of admission.

“Raw Meat” is, well, much like if you took a subway into a sewer and encountered THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Gone are the supernatural beasts of “The Nightmares,” and here come the cannibals and clowns. These earthly horrors make the situations in “Raw Meat” all the more real. The special effects are aimed at your senses, fully taking advantage of what sight, touch and sound can do to your psyche.

I had an absolute blast at Netherworld. I left feeling adrenalized, my mind racing with what I’d just seen. I had to find out more about what’s behind this brilliant haunted house, so I asked Billy Messina, Netherworld’s co-creator and co-owner with Ben Armstrong, a little more about it.

ATLRetro: This is your 15th year. How has your vision for Netherworld evolved over the years? If someone hasn’t been to Netherworld since its first year, what is the one big difference they would see? 

Billy Messina: The Scale! Netherworld has always been about intense scares and extreme detail, but now we have more resources to bring to the table. In the early years, we still did a pretty good job of creating cool stuff, but now the scale of what we are able to do each year is much greater!

“Nightmares” plays off fears that many have. I have to ask – after all this time in the business, does any of it scare you?

We have lots of things that come from above. If I am not paying attention, it is a natural reaction to duck when something is coming down on you!

There is a really cool Victorian/steampunk aesthetic in “Nightmares.” Can you talk a little about how that subculture has affected your design? 

We loved that entire steampunk look long before we ever heard the term! Fifteen years ago we talking about looking like the Nautilus or Jules Verne. A lot of what we do in Netherworld is influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, one of the progenitors of modern horror and science fiction.  I think we have always had sort of a more mythic, more literary focus than most haunts, and we also always loved the look of classic horror like the original James Whale BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Now that sort of thing is almost mainstream, it suits us just fine!

Your actors are incredible. Where do you find them? And who does their makeup? 

Many of our actors have been with us for years. Generally we don’t go looking for them any more, they sort of come to us, as most of them are former patrons. The makeup staff is lead by Roy Wooley who has been with us for 14 years, and this season on an average evening we have approx 8-10 make-up artists working.

“Raw Meat” is gory, dirty and downright disgusting. In other words, fantastic. Do you have more license to push the boundaries with the smaller haunt?

When we started Netherworld, we wanted to stay away from outright gore, but over the years that has obviously changed! The concept is to have the main show be something almost anyone can attend ( if they are not too freaked out) but to have the downstairs show be a little more nasty. If the upstairs show is THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the downstairs show is SAW. We wanted to have both haunts sort of work together to be a total package, so yes the boundaries are pushed further in “Raw Meat”!

The houses are so detailed and elaborate. When do you start planning for the next Halloween? Do you work in that space all year? 

We are always planning . Every day I have to push the new ideas away because we  have to focus on running the 2011 shows! You can bet we are already to get going on 2012.  Normally we don’t touch the physical haunt until about April, but this year we started in February. Of course, we begin at once on theming, planning, beginning complex effects, costuming and new creatures, basically anything that doesn’t require clearing any scenes. We like to keep it intact until we are 100% sure about what is coming down.

Speaking of next Halloween, can you reveal any details about what’s to come for Netherworld in the future? How do you continue to top yourself? 

Well, one thing we are planning in 2012 is a very expanded gift shop that is more like a themed walk-in store. It should be pretty cool when we are done and will be open year-round; at least that is the plan! As far  as the shows themselves, it is a bit too early to reveal anything, but you can be assured they will be way over the top!

Thank you so much for your time! If you have one piece of advice for attendees, what would you tell them?

Come see us this year because every year the shows change! We are open every night in October and the first Friday and Saturday in November, so come on down anytime, we will be lurking for you!

Netherworld is located at 6624 Dawson Blvd. in Norcross (30093). For tickets, hours and directions visit www.fearworld.com

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Tis the Season to be Spooky: Surviving Monsters, Mayhem and Renegade Pumpkins at Six Flags’ Fright Fest

Posted on: Oct 7th, 2011 By:

By Spookie Susie
Contributing Blogger

Thrills! Chills! Roller coasters! Renegade pumpkins? Yes, it’s true. You will experience all this and more at Six Flags Over Georgia’s annual Fright Fest, Atlanta’s largest Halloween event, every Saturday and Sunday in October, and Friday evenings on October 21 and 28. Come with me as Kellyn Willey, proprietress of Atlanta’s PinUpGirl! Cosmetics (and recent Kool Kat), and I step into the haunted realm and hope to return in one piece.

 

Kellyn Willey and Spookie Susie meet a few dead spirits at Six Flags' Fright Fest.

Six Flags Over Georgia opened its doors back in 1967. It has seen plenty of changes throughout the years, but on this night in particular the entire park has been transformed from summer carnival to crypt, crawling with corpses, tombstones and enough cobwebs to choke the world’s largest tarantula.

The candy-colored creatures of Monster Mansion. Photo courtesy of Six Flags Over Georgia.

Our very first stop once we got in the park was Monster Mansion, the ride formerly known as Monster Plantation. I have loved this ride since I was a little kid—and, amazingly, I remembered right where it was. Monster Plantation opened back in 1981 and was revamped in 2009. While we were standing in line, flat screens played popular music videos and interviews with park attendees. Once we got in our boat and entered the Plantation, it was almost exactly as I remembered it, but everything looked brighter and refurbished. There was definitely more water and even some bubbles, but all the old favorites were in attendance, including the Sheriff, Missy Scarlett and Busby, the little monster mascot named after Georgia’s Governor at the time the ride opened, George Busbee.

Near the end of the ride, we suddenly came to stop behind another boat. Steadily, other boats lined up behind ours, and some of the younger guests started getting antsy. Several staff members arrived, and the mystery of the stuck boats was solved. The culprit? A pumpkin had fallen onto the track out of the scenery! That was one tough squash!

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Retro Review: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2: The one with Dennis Hopper…

Posted on: Jun 13th, 2011 By:

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Blogger

Splatter Cinema Presents THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986); Dir: Tobe Hooper; Starring: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow, Bill Moseley, Bill Johnson; Special Makeup Effects: Tom Savini; Tues. June 14; 9:30 PM; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

The original THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was a groundbreaking achievement of mood and drawn-out tension, the third one was mostly crap, and the reboots are soulless in the way horror movies tend to be in this post-HOSTEL era. But THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is funnier, grosser, weirder and better than most people remember.

Dennis Hopper plays a former Texas Ranger named Lefty who’s been tracking the “chainsaw killers” who attacked his brother’s kids some years before. They killed his nephew (Franklin, the whiny guy in the wheelchair) and completely effed-up his niece (Sally, the one that got away) in the original film. He enlists a radio DJ named Stretch in the hunt which climaxes (of course) in the killers’ lair.

This time around, the tone is lighter. The film seems to halfheartedly satirize the genre (as well as the 1980s), and there is plenty of humor in the script. We learn, for example, the cannibalistic clan’s surname is “Sawyer” (seriously!). Also, Leatherface, the most famous, if not the most charismatic member of the family falls in love and creams his Dickies while giving credence to a “chainsaw as phallus” reading of the series. It’s not a comedy per-se, or even a “black-comedy,” but the heavy-handed gloom of the original is missing.

There is still plenty of squirm-inducing weirdness and tons of gore (way more than the original) thanks to special effects maestro Tom Savini. In fact, a scene featuring a face-peeling, a peeled-face-wearing and some forced dancing is as grotesque as anything released by a major movie studio in the mid-’8os. Rest assured, with Hopper and the rest of the cast, the chainsaws aren’t the only thing chewing up scenery. Jim Siedow (as “Cook”) and Bill Moseley (as “Chop-Top”), in particular, bring their characters to life with over-the-top gusto. And the two guys in the Mercedes are so obnoxiously annoying that their (Spoiler!) gruesome demise early on will likely bring on a round of high-fives.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is best enjoyed on a big screen and the perfect movie for Splatter Cinema.

 

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Retro Review: FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!: Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Violence!

Posted on: May 18th, 2011 By:

By Mark Arson, Contributing Blogger

FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965); Dir: Russ Meyer; Writer: Jack Moran; Starring Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. May 22; 9:30 PM; pre-show antics include a Tura Satana costume contest, beefcake contest for guys, all-girl arm wrestling, live music by Grinder Nova, a chance to leave an offering at the Tura Satana shrine, a silent auction of Tura art and memorabilia to raise money for Varla Films to help complete a documentary on the recently deceased actress, and super special prizes & surprises; age 18 & over only.

When describing FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!, I’m tempted to describe it as an orgy of fast cars and violence. I can’t really say that though, and those of you familiar with director Russ Meyer‘s other work will know why. Most of his films resembled incredibly well-made porn, but I believe the correct term is “Sexploitation.” This film, however, doesn’t have any nudity or actual sex, though the actual sexuality in the film is plenty ratcheted-up. The focus here is on action, treachery, and, of course, cars. For my money, this is one of the best exploitation films ever made, it’s never boring, and its (mostly) sleazy characters revel in their spider-web of bad intentions and revenge.

Varla (Tura Satana) leads a threesome of go-go dancers who are out in the desert to blow off some steam when one thing leads to another and they end up having to run from the scene of a murder. The first 20 minutes of the film are pretty much nonstop, and it only becomes more deliberately paced when the ladies find their way onto a farm with a creepy old man in a wheelchair (Stuart Lancaster) whose fortune they intend to acquire one way or another. This part of the story bears an interesting resemblance to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, except there are bad intentions on both sides. To complicate things, the three have abducted a girl (Susan Bernard) whose boyfriend met an unfortunate end at the hands of Varla, and the old man might want her more than they do.

The entire cast does a great job (except for maybe the gas station attendant, but hey, he’s not supposed to be smart, right?), but make no mistake, this is Tura Satana’s film. As Varla, she not only is responsible for most of the (bad) things that unfold, but she has the screen presence to back it up. Gender equality is something that we’re more or less used to these days, even if it does have a ways to go, but in 1965, this film must have been pretty shocking. Varla does what it takes to get what she wants and won’t hesitate to kill a man with her bare hands in a fair fight, an unfair fight, or with her car. Her friction with the old man, himself a literal representation of male oppressiveness and lechery, is plenty poetic as well. Satana is both alluring and terrifying here, to the characters in the film as well as the viewer. When Billie (Lori Williams) gives her trouble, you can’t help but wonder when Varla is just gonna go ahead and kill her.

Russ Meyer was a master director and editor, and FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! stands with his finest work. This was also one of the few times that he didn’t feel the need to include excessive sex in a film, and you will hardly miss it…..maybe. But there’s plenty of action, fast cars, and off-the-wall slang to satisfy your urges, and you probably will still want more. FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! is both a relic of a bygone era and a timeless work of art. Movies that take place in the middle of nowhere are good like that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go watch it again.

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