Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Personal Message To My Readers.

I know that I've been MIA for quite some time.  I promise that things will resume normalcy again.  I have been debating whether or not I was going to write about  what's been going on and I've decided that it can't hurt.  Perhaps it will help me to deal with the current situation that I and my family regrettably find ourselves in.

As you may or may not know, my mother in law has cancer and has been fighting the battle for over two years now.  There have been ups and downs, good days and bad.  For a while it looked as though things were in an upswing with no signs of the cancer returning after a couple of surgeries.  Unfortunately, the cancer returned and more growths were found. More chemo-therapy.  More radiation.  She got weaker, she'd get a little better and then something new would crop up.

As you know, back in August I had an incident in which I was very nearly shot in head when a gunfight broke out across the street from my condo and a bullet came through my living room wall mere inches from my head.  After that, the Mrs. and I packed up and we moved up to New Hampshire and converted her parent's basement into an in-law apartment.  I never would have imagined what a blessing in disguise that move was.

October saw my mother in law getting worse.  A new symptom appeared:  A mysterious pain in her side cropped up after her last round of radiation.  Doctors were unable to explain it, and we were put into a holding pattern, waiting for a PET scan to see if there were more growths that were forming outside of the radiation zones.  For weeks she put on her bravest face and went about each day as best she could, while in constant pain.

The pain would seem to get worse and then better and then back to worse than ever.  No medications seemed to be able to touch the pain.  Some of the pain meds made her ill, some gave her strange side effects and it became a nightmare for her to try to new medications.  It was so frustrating as pill after pill failed to make her feel better. She would grow more and more tired as the days and weeks wore on.

Two and a half weeks ago, she was rushed to the Emergency Room with chest pain radiating into her arm.  After hours in the hospital they concluded that it was not cardiac.  There was, indeed another growth inside her ribs yet outside her lungs.  The chest pain dissipated after a few hours, but the arm pain remained.  She stayed in the ICU for four days while doctors tried to figure out what was going on.

When she came home from the hospital, she was noticeably drained.  She spent most of her time in bed, only emerging every now and then to sit on the loveseat in the living room for about 20 minutes before going back into the bedroom.  The arm pain continued for a few days and then went back into her chest and her back.  Then the pain started to manifest itself into her jaw.  Pain so intense that all she could to was shake violently and moan.  Visiting nurses, calls to the doctor....nothing helped.  She got weaker.  She got nauseous on a regular basis.  She hadn't eaten in four days.  Here speech was mumbled and garbled.  She started to have hallucinations.  "It's because of the cancer" was the answer we would constantly receive.

Last week she was again rushed to the emergency room at four in the morning.  We believed she was having a stroke.  She was unable to move the left side of her body.  She was unable to talk and there was a very noticeable facial droop.  All sure-fire signs of a stroke.  Not to mention the fact the she suffered a stroke two years before as well.

Once at the hospital, it was determined that her kidneys were failing and she was septic. She has a blood infection.  She was intubated and sedated and has been ever since.  She is unable to breath on her own.  She is unable to regulate her own blood pressure.  She is being kept alive on a mixture of medicine and machinery. I will be perfectly honest with you, I don't believe that she is going to wake up.  She is so very sick and her body has already endured so very much.  To see her lying in that bed is heartbreaking.  The doctors told us that she is so very sick that the cancer is the least of our worries.  There are a whole barrage of tests that they need to run, but they cannot because she is so weak.  They don't even know the extent of what is happening inside of her.  And so we languish in this state of purgatory.  It's a waiting game.

Even more heartbreaking is watching my wife and my father in law try to cope with this.  I love them both so very much and it absolutely kills me that not only can I do nothing to help his wife/her mother, but there is nothing that I can do to help them and make them feel better.  I must simply watch them suffer.  For me that is the worst part.  Please don't misunderstand.  I love my mother in law as if she was my own mother.  I would give anything to make her better.  I am thankful however that in her sedated state, she is out of pain and she is unaware of what is happening.  She is sleeping and I like to think that she's having the most beautiful dreams.  In the waking world however, my wife and father in law are full of pain and sorrow.  I put my arms around them and I do everything I can to comfort them.  But at the end of the day, I cannot take their pain away.

I am truly sorry to have dumped this on you all.  I hold so much inside and I needed to get this out.  If you have read this entire post, I thank you for allowing me to expunge some of my pain into the ether so to speak.   I really needed to get this out of my system.

I will leave you with this:  Hug and kiss your loved ones.  Every single day.   Never go to bed angry.  Tell your friends and family that you love them every chance you get.  Life is precious and you never know when your final conversation with anyone could be.  Cliched?  Yeah, I guess so....but it's cliched because it's true.

Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Joyous Kwanzaa
Happy Holidays

Whatever you celebrate, I hope that it is merry and bright and I wish you the best this holiday season.

And fear not!  Midnight Cinephile will return with a vengeance!

Until then,
I love you all.


-Matt

Thursday, November 27, 2014

MST3K Turkey Day Marathon!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving, Cinephiles!

I know it's been kind slim pickings around here this month, and I'm sorry about that.  Sometimes life just hands you a basket of artichokes and you have to try and make key lime pie out of it.

Don't try to figure out that last statement.



Anywhoo, as you may or may not know it's Turkey Day which can mean only one thing:  MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000's TURKEY DAY MARATHON!  Yes, that proud tradition that hearkens all the way back to 1991.  Okay, well it ran 1991 thru 1995 and was then resurrected in 2013, but that's really besides the point isn't it?  Oh yeah and the Sci Fi Channel ran a Turkey Day Marathon in '97 once too.

There are several places that you can watch the live marathon, including

mst3kturkeyday.com
YouTube

or you can just hang out here and watch it right below!

The actual marathon starts at 12 Noon ET, but until then you can enjoy Manos:  The Hands of Fate on infini-loop!  Enjoy and Happy Turkey Day!






Monday, November 17, 2014

Midnight Cinephile Podcast Part IV: A Weng's Chop Thanksgiving with Brian Harris

You asked for more and you got it!  Okay, well technically no one asked....I just sorta assumed that you wanted more because I haven't received any "Cease & Desist" letters or emails.

Anywhoo, check out the latest episode of MC.  My special guest this week and in the enigmatic and always fun Brian Harris.  Publisher and Co-Editor of Weng's Chop Magazine.....Brian is an import voice in the genre and I"m privileged to call him my friend.

Grab a beer, make yourself a turkey sandwich and don't skimp on the cranberry sauce because it's The Midnight Cinephile comin' at ya!




And as always you can download it directly HERE!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Night Vision - Viciously Haunted VCR

Night Vision
1987
D: Michael Krueger
W: Nancy Gallanis, Michael Krueger, Leigh Pomeroy

S: Stacy Carson, Shirley Ross & Tony Carpenter
Not Rated - 102 Min

Taglines:
 - A Window To The Future And A Gate To Hell

Alternate Titles:
A Última Sessão (The Last Session) - Brazil
Vaarallinen video (Hazardous Video) - Finland
O aetos tis nyhtas (The Eagle of the Night) - Greece







"Do you know what we do to kids like you?  We lock them up in the back and make up watch Seasame Street........backwards.......so you can't learn the alphabet!"
                                                                                                               -Jill

* This screen cap comes courtesty of KinderTrauma


October is done.  Halloween has come and gone.  It was quite an epic month and I would like to extend a slightly delayed, but very heartfelt THANK YOU to Brandon Early from Movies At Dog Farm for inviting me to participate in his Pre'Ween: 2014.  It was an absolute blast and I was in fantastic company with the myriad of other personalities contributing.  I can't wait for next year!

I know I've been away for a little while, but coming back from our trip to Sleepy Hollow, we kinda walked into a mini shit-storm of which I will not bore you with the details.  Suffice to say Midnight Cinephile had to take a spot on the back burner for a bit.  Things are more or less back on track now, however,  so let's just pick up and act like nothing happened!

Jill rings up Nazi Rectal Roundup for a customer (I'm not making that title up!)

Right, so....Night Vision.  This was backlogged on my DVR from the beginning of October.  I have absolutely no recollection of recording it and I was even more surprised that it said that it was recorded off of Turner Classic Movies.  Now, I really had no idea what the film was going to be like and I know that TCM will show some newer stuff every now and then....but it's description  (A would-be writer finds nightly inspiration from a satanic video tape) to be rather odd for them.....though they do show some out-there stuff on TCM Underground.  This may be the first time that I've seen an SOV horror flick however!

I digress.  Night Vision completely lived up to it's one-sentence synopsis.  A young writer named Andy moves from Kansas to The City.  To be honest, I don't think that they ever mention the city by name.....so I have to assume it's supposed to be New York or Philly....it looks kinda chilly there.  Anyway, he arrives and moves into a flea bag motel with some colorful characters.  The owner is your typical tough-as-nails-take-no-bullshit-loudmouthed-with-a-good-heart-deep-down kinda woman.  You know the type.  There is also prostitute with a southern accent.  Just to keep us off guard, the prostitute is played by a man.  It's never made clear if it's supposed to be a drag queen or if the character is simply played by a male (like John Travolta playing the mother in Hairspray).  

This is Andy.  He's like a low rent Clark Kent...only no glasses....and he doesn't turn into Superman.

It's not long before Andy starts looking for a day job and applies at a small Mom & Pop video store (you KNOW this film automatically gets bumped up for featuring a Mom & Pop shop!).  There he meets Jill, a street-wise and crusty video clerks who's seen what the city can do to a wide eyed kid.  Speaking of kids, there's a kid trying to steal porno tapes from the store and when Jill catches him she threatens to tie up in the back room and make him watch Sesame Street in reverse!  Needless to say the dialog is really wonky, but that works in the film's favor and adds to the bizarre dream-like quality. 

On the way home from the video store, Andy saves a street hustler named Vinnie from two hooded figures who were threatening him.  Apparently, he stole something they want.  As a way of saying "Thank You" for the rescue, Vinnie steals some beer and invites Andy back to his place, where he gives him a stolen TV and VCR.  Nice guy, that Vinnie.  

That's not a leotard.....Vinnie's got matching undies and top!

This is where shit starts heading south for our poor nebbish hero.  See, Vinnie stole that TV and VCR from a local satanic cult.  What he didn't know was that there was a VHS tape (you remember those, right?  Be Kind....Rewind!) in the VCR.  Turns out the cult had been filming some of their rituals and the tape was imprinted with evil.  Every night Andy ends up watching the pulsing green screen intertwined with bizarre images.  The next thing he knows, he wakes up with a horror story completely written.  Unfortunately these horror stories are also mirroring terrible killings that are happening around the neighborhood.  Is Andy having visions?  Is he linked psychically to the satanic cult or even Satan himself?  Is he becoming possessed by a VCR?  This my friends, is drama!

I've gotta tell you that I was downright surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.  I went in not knowing what to expect and I came out pretty darn entertained.  Another win for the SOV movement of the 80's.  I'm sorry I didn't have time to pull my own screen caps for this one, but I did manage to find a few stills from around the net.  The stills I pulled were labeled as coming from You Tube and Vimeo so I don't have any names to give credit to.

Gore
There's a little bit of the red stuff splashed around, but not too much.

T&A
There's also a li'l bit o' skin on display as well during the obligatory love scene between Andy and Jill.  Oh yeah, and Vinnie in his underwear.  I'm still trying to forget that though.

Creatures Featured
No creatures...but we do get a satanic cult and a haunted VCR......that's something ya don't get to see too often!

Final Thoughts
This is a slow-burn type of film.  Not a lot happens for long stretches of time, but you won't even notice because you will be completely caught up in the surreal world of this characters and you'll want to just hang around with them.  As near as I can tell this is a VHS only title....but I really don't think that this flick needs a DVD release.  It breathes and bleeds analog and that's pretty damn amazing.

Final Rating 
Three out of Five Pizza Rolls






Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Midnight Cinephile Podcast Episode #3

It's here!

Dig in, kiddies....your old pal The Midnight Cinephile has a special Halloween treat for you!
In this episode of the podcast, I am joined by Rue Morgue scribe, April Snellings and we discuss all things 80's horror and then delve off into even stranger territory with topics such as Bigfoot, Feji Mermaids and setting loved one's on fire with BBQ's!

It's all in here and it's all for you, Damien!

Give a listen here on the website using the player below:



Or you can download it direct from Lybsin HERE!
You will be able to download from iTunes shortly.

I had a fantastic time talking with April and I know that you'll have a fantastic time listening to our epic conversation! Happy Halloween!

The Midnight Hour - Get Dead!

The Midnight Hour
1985
D: Jack Bender
W: William Bleich

S: Lee Montgomery, Shari Belafonte & LeVar Burton
TV Movie - Approx 94 Min.
ABC

Taglines:
None

Alternate Titles: 
 -La noche del baile de medianoche (Prom Night Midnight) - Spain
 -Halloweenin hetki (Halloween Time) - Finland
 -La Notte di Halloween (The Halloween Night) - Italy
 -Creeps - Eine unheimliche Geisternacht (A Chilling Ghost Night)- West Germany

 -Halloween - Besuch aus dem Jenseits (Visit From Beyond the Grave) - West Germany




"I'm Dead.  You're Dying.  Everyone should try it.  Get Dead!"
                                                                                                                                             -Melissa



There are some films that just perfectly encapsulate certain holidays.  A Christmas Story will forever be branded (in my mind) as the quintessential Christmas film.  It simply is not Christmas if I don't watch Ralphie on his quest for an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle at least 10 times.  It's not Thanksgiving to me unless I've watched Home For The Holidays at least twice.  Halloween is a tricky time for me because I have many favorites that must be watched throughout October.  While Garfield's Halloween Adventure is still at the tip top of the list, The Midnight Hour is a very close second.

Skull Kid riding a bike, delivering newspapers.  I think that's about as Your Town USA as you can get!

The gang heads to the local cemetery to try on the clothing of dead people.  Super idea.

The Midnight Hour is a fairly obscure ABC produced TV-Movie about a group of teens living in the fictional New England town of Pitchford Cove (or PitchFORK Cove as their ancestors called it in the late 1600's called it).  Some of the students are the direct descendants of witches and witchhunters from the town's beginnings.  Some of their ancestor's clothing is on display at the local witchcraft museum.  The kids think it would be a swell idea to break in and "borrow" the costumes for their big Halloween party.

After a successful clothing heist (that includes stealing an old trunk), the head off to the local cemetery to try on the costumes.  Cause, why not, right?  Inside the trunk they find an ancient scroll which appears to be written in blood.  One of the girls decides to read it out loud as a joke....since her great-great-great-great-great grandmother was an evil witch and all.  What's the worst that could happen?  Well, as fate would have it, she unleashes a curse that awakens the dead.  It seems that some of the dead are evil, some are confused and then there's Sandy.  A 50's era cheerleader who just wants to fall in love before she has to go back to the grave.

I loved this guy in Thriller.....

I have no idea what the hell he's supposed to be, but I dig it!

As the zombies roam around town causing havoc, it would appear that there is also a werewolf on the loose.  It would also appear that the evil witch is back as well.....and she's a freaking vampire to boot!  Damn!  If you're into Thriller-style zombies then you're going to feel right at home with this.  Especially when everyone at the party breaks into a song and dance number titled "Get Dead"!  It is pure 80's cheddar that tastes oh-so-good!

The ladies are about to get it on in the wine cellar.....but not in a good way.

Zombies love to party.

For an ABC TV-Movie, this has some surprisingly effective scenes in it, including the evil vampire witch attacking her great-great-great-great-great granddaughter in the wine cellar of the house where the party is being held.  Everything kicks into slow motion during the attack as corks pop off of wine bottles and red wine jettisons forth like streams of blood, all while The Smiths' "How Soon is Now?" plays with some spooky overlays in the background.

There's a lot of great actors to keep an eye out for while you're watching this one:  Kurtwood Smith, Kevin McCarthy, Dick Van Patten are just some of the familiar faces that you'll see here.  Not to mention a very young,  LeVar Burton & Shari Belafonte (Harry Belafonte's daughter!)!

Sandy...the hot, cheerleader ghost.

Shit!  Clarence Boddicker is a goddamn zombie!

GORE
There's a little bit of the red stuff on tap, but not much.  This is less about gore and more about the nostalgic Halloween feel.

T&A
No skin, kiddies.  This is a made for TV-Movie.

Creatures Featured
You get zombies, ghouls, vampires, ghosts, werewolves and witches all under one roof!  What's not to love about that?!

Final Thoughts
It's a crime that this film doesn't have it's on Blu Ray release with an isolated soundtrack and a ton of Halloweentastic extras.  This should be on everyone's must-watch list for Halloween.  I cannot recommend this film highly enough!  Seek it out and enjoy!


Final Rating
Five out of Five Pizza Rolls

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Death Valley - Ralphie Runs For His Life!!!

Death Valley
1982
D: Dick Richards
W: Richard Rothstein

S: Paul Le Mat, Catherine Hicks & Peter Billingley
Rated R     -     Approx. 87 Minutes
Cinema VII

Taglines
 - Welcome To Death Valley

 - Not even a scream escapes...

Alternate Titles
Pesadelo no Vale da Morte (Nightmare in Death Valley)  - Brazil
El valle de la muerte (The Valley of Death)  - Colombia
La Vallée de la Mort (The Valley of Death) - France
Dolina smierci (Valley of Death) - Poland
O Vale das Sombras (The Valley of Shadows) - Portugal

Küçük Kahraman - Ölüm Vadisi  (Little Hero - Death Valley)- Turkey





"Billy, the phone's ringing......it's for you."
                                                                 -Hal

I love it when a movie comes out of nowhere and endlessly surprises me.  I hadn't heard of Death Valley before Scream Factory released their Blu Ray/DVD double disc.....though the cover did look oddly familiar.  Perhaps I glimpsed it at a video store in my youth and then forgot about it, who knows.  The point is that this was a blind buy for me.  I knew I had to buy it as soon as I saw Peter Billingsley was in it.

"HOLY SHIT!  RALPHIE'S IN A HORROR MOVIE!" I shouted to no one in particular.

I bought it and there it stayed in the movie vault for some time.  Then the whole nearly getting shot in the head thing happened, we packed up and moved in the the wilds of New Hampshire and I forgot all about it until I was searching through my film library this evening looking for some rainy night entertainment and I came face to face with this magnificent cover again.

"BINGO!"  I yelled.

"What?"  The Mrs jumped in her chair.

"I've got the perfect movie!  Just wait until you see what I've got!" I giggled like a mentally handicapped ape.

"Oh boy."  The Mrs. was not looking impressed.

That's when I popped in the Blu Ray and without a word ran the trailer for her.  Her eyes widened.

"Ralphie's in a horror movie!" She perked up!

"HELL'S YEAH!"  I yelled.

"Ssshhhhh"  She hushed me.  "I can hear you, I'm right here."

I tend to get a little too excited and boisterous sometimes.  My bad.

And thus or cinematic adventure to Death Valley began.  Little did I know in those first moments before the credits even started how awesome actors are in this thing!  Catharine Hicks (who of course was in Child's Play) is Ralphie....er....I mean Billy's Mom.  His Dad is played by none other than Edward Herrmann!  You know him....we was Max in Lost Boys!  SYEAH!  As if that wasn't cool enough, we've got Wilford Brimley playing the Sheriff and Paul Le Mat (from Strange Invaders!) as Mike, Billy's Mom's boyfriend!  It was a total 80's overload of awesome.  Seriously, I was that excited.

It's Ralphie.....er....Billy!

Say.....could that be the infamous Black Bart?

Death Valley is also a surprisingly good flick.  Not quite a slasher (the body count is only around six....which is more than some slashers, I suppose....but the kills are rather sporadic), it falls more into the suspense/thriller category.  See, Billy's out in Arizona on vacation with  his mom and her boyfriend when he unwittingly and unknowingly steps into a murder scene.  While he doesn't find the bodies of the victims, he does find an unusual golden frog medallion.

I love boobs as much as the next guy, but I think I would notice that dude grabbing a knife.....

.......and that's what happens when you only pay attention to boobs.

The killer, finds out that Billy has the medallion and is afraid that he will be able to ID him, so he begins to pursue him, trying to kill him in various places.  What works so well for a large part of the film is that we the audience know exactly what's going on.  Billy and his family have no idea and we cringe as the killer tries multiple times to kill Billy, including a close call in a tourist attraction called Frontier Town, where the killer is disguised as an old west gunman with a bandanna over his face.  Billy thinks he's just one of the actors at Frontier Town and engages him in what he thinks is a make believe gun fight in the trinket museum.

It ain't no Red Rider BBQ Gun, but he still pulls off some sweet trick shots while watching a western!

Why do psychos always end up on the roof with a shotgun?

The last act of the film is intense as the killer comes for Billy at night when his mother and her boyfriend leave him with a babysitter while they go out on a date.  As you would expect in a flick like this, the babysitter gets offed and Billy is left to fend for himself.  It's a cat and mouse game as the killer closes in on him.  The ending was a bit rushed, but all in all it was a pretty good flick with a bit of a twist ending that you will probably see coming (though I didn't.....which kinda surprised me).

Gore:
We've got some red stuff spraying here as our friendly neighborhood psycho does his deeds.  What I especially loved is the fact that they use the melted red crayon style blood.

T&A
We do get to see a rather firm pair of breasts early on in the flick!  They're not there for long, but hey beggars can't be choosers!

Creatures Featured
What we've got here is a certified psychopath!  He's pretty damn creepy too.

Final Thoughts
I had fun with this flick.  It's got it's share of problems (in particular....as a larger fellow, I didn't care for the way they treated hefty people!  Sure, us big folks like our food just fine, but we're not going to die if we're not eating every five seconds.  I mean seriously....(SLIGHT SPOILER) the babysitter is killed because she got baited with free soda after eating a bunch of chocolate, corn chips and is on the way back to the room with a banana split. Sheesh.) but all in all, it's a good time and I do believe I now know why Ralphie in A Christmas Story has fantasies about facing off with a bandit called Black Bart!  Total reference to this flick!

Final Rating
Three out of Five Pizza Rolls


Monday, October 20, 2014

Hugo's House of Horrors - Haunted House of DOS

Back in the early 90's my Dad got our first IBM PC Compatible and a whole new world opened up to me.  One of the earliest games I remember playing was Hugo's House of Horrors, an adventure game utilizing a combination of keyboard controls and text input.  So basically you would control Hugo's movements using the arrow keys and then you would type in simple commands such as "Look at the door" or "Tell Igor to press button".  

Hugo's House of Horrors is a simplistic game that takes only about 15 to 20 minutes to complete if you know what you're doing.  That's the operative phrase, however....IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING!  


Much like many adventure games of the 80's and 90's it was sometimes extremely difficult to figure out what to do next.  This was back before there was a walkthrough available online for every game known to man.  For a good part of my younger teenage years I was stuck at a certain point and I could not figure out how to proceed.  This was largely in part to slightly wonky controls and the fact that there are several points in the game that a point of no return so to speak.  If you don't save your game before you try certain parts and screw them up, there's no way to move forward.  I hate that and I think it's a cheap way to make you start all over.  

Okay that's enough backstory, I'm sure you're here because you want to hear about the game itself!  Hugo's girlfriend, Penelope has been kidnapped by a mad scientist and is being held captive in a spooky old house.  It's up to you and Hugo to make your way through the house, solve it's puzzles and save your girl.

Looks like a nice place......*GULP*

....yeah.....I get the feeling this isn't going to end well....

The house is populated by the mad scientists, a dining room full of monsters having a dinner party and one very mean dog!  Your adventure will take you underneath the house as well, which is where things will REALLY start to get difficult for you!

The game starts you off just outside the house.  The door is locked and you must find a way in.  A good many of the puzzles are either logic based or just a matter of looking around.  In this case, there is a jack o'lantern sitting on the front porch if you break it open, you'll find a key inside.  Fairly easy stuff.  

Once inside you'll find yourself in the main foyer.  You can either go upstairs and explore the rooms up there or you can explore the rooms downstairs.....when you're playing for the first time you are more than likely going to check out the first floor.  Makes sense right?  Why would anything deadly be in the immediate area when you first start playing?  Well, I'll tell you what....if you walk into the room immediately to the left you'll find an entire room full of monsters having a dinner party.  Guess what?  Now you're the main course.  The end.

 It's a monster dinner party!  Swell!  Anybody wanna do the Time Warp?

Yep, you even get to visit the haunted house's shed! Ooooh!

After cheap death number one, you're back outside and starting again.  You decide to trying the other room down stairs.  Turns out it's a kitchen.  Nothing to see really....it's your standard kitchen...although it IS a ghastly green color that will make you question the owner's interior decorating skills.  Say, what's in that room to the left of the kitchen?  You walk in and........are immediately eaten by a dog.  Son of a bitch.

Cheap death #2 and you're back in front of the house.  Hopefully by now you've learned to save your progress before venturing into any new rooms.  Yes, it's tedious, but it sure beats starting over every damn time you take two steps in the wrong direction!  I'm not going to run through the entire game here, I just wanted to give you an idea of how the game works and give you a feeling for the frustration level that will inevitably occur as you play.

Now don't get me wrong, it's a fun game and it's a good time going through the house and trying to solve the puzzles....but just remember that back in the day these games were made by a small staff of programmers....sometimes only one.....and what makes perfect sense to them as a puzzle may have you scratching your head for hours, days, weeks or in my case a few years!  Although in my case it wasn't so much a puzzle that did me in as the wording that was expected to be used.  That will get ya sometimes too....so be sure to CAREFULLY read every bit of text the game throws at ya!  

This guy is really wrapped up in himself........

This is what happened to Karnov when he got old and found he couldn't retire:  Henchman Duty.

After you manage to make your way through the house, you end up in the basement and then into conjoining caves full of bats and another one with a mummy in it!  Things get even more bizarre from there. 

The graphics are simple DOS 8-Bit style graphics but they are charming and do a good job of evoking a spooky fun Halloween vibe.  There are some fun monsters to check out and some fun environments to "sort-of" explore.  If you like adventure games of this ilk, then you'll dig Hugo's House of Horrors.  I would recommend it to anyone looking for some retro Halloween fun on their PC.  If I'm not mistaken, the game is available as Abandoneware through several websites....so fire up your DOSBox emulator and get in the house to save Penelope!

I should also mention that there were two sequels to Hugo's House of Horrors:  Hugo II:  Whodunit and Hugo III:  Jungle of Doom.  Just as they sound, the second is a murder mystery and the third is a jungle adventure.  I do believe these are also available on Abandonware sites, so if you dig the first one you may want to take a look at the other two!

If you should want to see the full game without having to go through the motions of playing yourself, I went ahead and included a video of the full playthrough.  It only lasts about sixteen minutes so it's a good way to see the full game.  I did all the hard work so you don't have to!  Enjoy!

video

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Spook Busters - Haunted House of Laughs

Spook Busters
1946
D: William Beaudine
W: Edmond Seward &Tim Ryan 

S: Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall & Douglass Dumbrille
Unrated  - Approx 68 Min
Monogram Pictures

Taglines:
None

Alternate Titles:
Ghost Busters (Working Title)
Cientista da Fuzarca - Brazil
(I could not get an accurate translation of this)








"Run for you life!  Charlie's got an ax!"
                                                             - Sach



If you listened to Episode II of the Midnight Cinephile podcast (you DID listen, didn't you?) you may have heard Doc Terror and myself discussing the programming on Turner Classic Movies this month.  For my money, TCM has THE best Halloween programming bar none across all channels.  Every year they sport a specific theme (one year, as mentioned by Doc, they showed all Hammer horror films!) and this year is no different.  This year's main theme is ghost stories....and they're digging up some great stuff that I've either never seen or haven't seen in a long time.

Secret passages that lead into a graveyard!  YES!

Tonight's offering, Spooky Busters is an old favorite of mine.  I remember watching this one as a kid on local cable late at night and even on the occasional Sunday afternoon.  It is the fourth film in The Bowery Boys series, which had a total of FORTY-EIGHT films!  More on the staggering number of films later.  The Bowery Boys were an incarnation of the original Dead End Kids, who then became The Little Tough Guys and then The East Side Kids before settling into their final incarnation. Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney was the leader of the gang which also consisted of Horace Debussey "Sach" Jones, Bobby, Gabe, Whitey and Chuck.  Each flick had them hanging around Louie's Sweet Shop until adventure came calling.  In this case, Slip & The Boys had graduated from Insect Extermination School and set up their own extermination business in the back of Louie's place.
Just as they are about to tear the place apart looking for a mouse they are summoned to Brown's Real Estate office with the promise of an extermination job.  Upon arrival they are informed that an old abandoned mansion is in dire of extermination.....from ghosts!  Slip, never one to turn down a job assures Mr. Brown that they can take care of the problem with no fuss.  Off the boys go on their first real job, completely oblivious to the danger they're in.

"Hey Buddy...lemme AX you a question!"

See, the mansion isn't abandoned at all.  There's a mad scientist who's conducting mad experiments in the basement and will do anything to get rid of the boys....including making them think that the house is haunted....just as he's been doing to keep everyone else out.

If you're a fan of the old school haunted house flicks, this hits all the tropes.  Secret passageways, hands reaching out of doorways and grasping, lights turning on by themselves, things moving on their own, etc.  It's all played explicitly for laughs as the boys bumble their way through the house.  Oddly enough there is a room full of magic and illusion props, such as a magic cabinet that makes Sachs vanish.  Slip goes in to look for him and a 5 minute coming and going schtick takes place.

Never trust a magic cabinet in a haunted house!

When the boys reach the basement and discover what's going on, Sach becomes and unwitting participant in the mad doctor's schemes.  See he wants to take Sach's brain and transplant it into a gorilla that he has caged up down there.  Yep...there's even a gorilla!

At a mere 68 minutes, you really can't go wrong with this flick.  If you're a fan of old dark house flicks and you like 40's style slapstick, then you're in for a treat.  To me this kind of flick screams Halloween and  I had a really great time with this one.  I haven't seen it in probably 20 years and had forgotten most of it, but I'm inspired to dig in and check out more of The Bowery Boy's films.

I don't imagine this is going to end well for her!

Before sitting down to write this review, I had been aware of some of the other Bowery Boy's films.  I had no idea that they totaled forty-eight though!  As I had mentioned before The Bowery Boys were originally known as The Dead End Kids andtseven films were made under that moniker for Warner Brothers.  After their contracts were expired, Universal hired most of the original cast and made The Little Tough Guys series, which featured twelve films and three 12-Chapter serials.  At the same time the Universal were making their Tough Guy films, Monogram hired several other of the Dead End Kids and created the East Side Kids series.  A total of twenty-one films were made under this moniker.  Finally, in 1945 The Bowrey Boys were formed when Leo Gorcey quite The East End Kids, effectively ending the series.  Gorcey, Bobby Hall and Jan Grippo formed Jan Grippo Productions and started up the series again under the final moniker of The Bowery Boys (or as it was sometimes known, Leo Gorcey & The Bowrey Boys).  If you've been keeping tally of all the films made from The Dead End Kids through the final Bowery Boys flick....that's a total of 88 films!  That's pretty damn impressive!

All of the Bowrey Boys pictures were released by Monogram Pictures, which as you may know released a good many potboilers in the 30's through the 50's.  Bela Lugosi starred in quite a few Monogram Pictures as well.  The studio was known for it's low budget features and was part of the studio collective known as Poverty Row, which were a group of B-Movie Studios that were active from the 1920's through the 1950's.  Monogram is perhaps the best known of these studios, along with Republic Pictures.  Other studios included Tiffany Pictures, Mascot Pictures, Grand National Films among others.  Interestingly, CBC Productions (which would become Columbia Pictures) was considered part of Poverty Row from about 1919 until around 1924 when it was reorganzied!

The gang regroups and gets their wits together

Gore
No sir!  Not here!

T&A
Sorry to disappoint again, but no.

Creatures Featured
While it turns out there are no ghosts in the house, for your money you get a mad scientist and a gorilla in a cage!  Plus you get all the spooky atmosphere!

Final Thoughts
I'm not going to lie, I'm quite biased when it comes to stuff like this.  It reminds me of my childhood and it reminds me that Halloween is a fun & spooky time that should be enjoyed by all ages.  If you're inner child goes wild for the simpler pleasures of spooks, scares and laughs and you (like me) have a soft spot for classic films, then do yourself a favor and give The Bowery Boys a call!

Final Rating
Four out of Five Pizza Rolls

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Video Game - The Saw Is Pixelated

Picture it:  It's Christmas Eve 1982.  You're sitting in front of a toasty fireplace drinking Hood™ Egg Nog and chowing down on gingerbread cookies while you flip through Issue #24 of Fangoria (ya know the one with Xtro on the cover) which just came in the mail the day before.  As you peruse the issue, the rest of the family is watching the Christmas episode of Family Ties that your Dad recorded with the VCR he got for his birthday a few months before.  The show finishes and your mother realizes that she has more presents to wrap.  So in an effort to keep all the kids occupied and out of her hair, she lets you and your siblings open one present each.  She hands you a beautifully wrapped box and you tear it open with fervor.  Your heart skips a beat.  You are now holding in your hands The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Video Game for the Atari 2600!  HOLY CATS!
I would like to believe that the above story happened to someone, somewhere.  I know it's Halloween and almost blasphemous to mention Christmas, but ya gotta admit...that's a pretty damn great little Christmas Story, no?  Okay, okay...you didn't come here to hear stories of Christmases long ago, you came here to read about more 8-Bit carnage courtesy of Wizard Video Games!

Unlike Halloween....this one even has a Title Screen!

Yep.  That's you.  Leatherface.  Look at you all scary 'n' shit......

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the only other video game produced by Wizard (though they did have plans to release a third game based on the 70's soft porn flick Flesh Gordon!!!)  Much like Halloween, this is an "endless" game in which your only goal is to rack up as high a score as possible.  UNLIKE Halloween, this game has something of a timer on it.  I will explain.

In the game, you control Leatherface.  The goal is to hunt down and kill as many teenagers as you can.  You've got several things working against you however.  First off, you're chainsaw runs on gas.  There is a fuel gauge at the top of the screen.  You're fuel slowly and constantly depletes....when you use your saw the fuel depletes even faster.  Secondly the landscape is littered with cow skulls, fences, barbed wire and wheelchairs (In what I can only assume is an homage to poor Franklin).  The bitch of it is that if even so much as one pixel of Leatherface's sprite touches even so much as one pixel of one of the obstacles, he becomes stuck on the spot.  You can either rev up the chainsaw to get yourself unstuck faster or you can sit there like a jackass for a few seconds.  Either way, it's fuel wasted.

All right!  Time to carve some girl meat!

Um.  I don't know exactly what the hell that is supposed to be....other than this game's interpretation of a chainsaw victim. 

When you come up on a  teenager they will try to evade you.  I don't have it down to an exact science, but it seems that if you come up behind them at an angle, you have a better chance of getting a kill.  Many times if you come up behind them straight on they will magically teleport behind you.  I'm not kidding!  They just vanish and then POOF they're behind you and running the other direction.  Apparently you are hunting down David Copperfield's magic assistants.  I have only seen two types of teenagers, both female and they are really nothing more than palette swaps.  One is wearing a yellow & green outfit while the other is white & pink.

As I mentioned before you are ruled by the fuel gauge.  You have tanks of fuel.  Each time it runs out you start anew and the screen will clear of any teenagers that may have been in the vicinity.   When your last tank of fuel runs out, the screen turns black and one of the teenage girls runs up behind Leatherface and kicks him right in the ass, sending him off screen.  Apparently Leatherface is completely defenseless against a girl without his trusty saw.  I find that rather hilarious.  

Wheelchairs!  Watch out, they move by faster than the other obstacles and will stop you dead in your tracks.

Ooooh, a different girl to get acquainted with my saw!

Speaking of hilarious, let's talk about Leatherface's sprite in the game.  It's pretty awful.  You've got a tan face, which is cool....I get it....kinda looks leatherish.  The rest of your body is their weird teal color.  Your chainsaw is too.  So it looks like it's part of your body.  It's kinda positioned over the stomach area, but to me it still looks like he's got a massive mutant dick, running around after girls.  
The play area and backgrounds really aren't that great.  The game takes place during the day..,...blue skies, green grass and green leaves.  There's a tiny house and car in the background, which I assume is the Sawyer house.  I think that palette swapping and having the game take place at night would have done quite a bit to improve the atmosphere.  There is no music, either.  Just the electronic "Grrrr" of the chainsaw and an ear piercing electric beep that is supposed to be the teenagers screaming as you chase them.  While we're on the subject of negatives....this game doesn't have the gore that Halloween did either.  When you manage to kill a teenager, their sprite inverts (which I'm assuming is supposed to be them falling to the ground) and they turn kinda white and maroon....but I don't know if the maroon is supposed to be blood or if it's just a palette swap to differentiate live teens from dead ones.  The bodies also vanish immediately.  It would have been really cool if you could leave a trail of dead bodies behind you.  

That's really about all there is to it.  I would say that this one is a bit less enjoyable than Halloween.  Though it's really fun that you get to play the killer, it's lack of atmosphere and wonky hit detection does it no favors.  Would I recommend you play it?  If you are fan of the movies and a retro gamer than absolutely.  This game, just like Halloween, has historical significance and it's fun to give it a go or two around the Halloween season....but this certainly isn't a game that you're going to spend more than five to ten minutes on.  After you've gotten yourself stuck on a wheelchair or a cow skull for the umpteenth time you'll want to move on to something else.  

Aw, nuts I'm completely out of fuel!  What was that?  I think I heard something behind me.

Talk about getting an ass-kicking!

Like with Halloween, it's all fine and good to tell you about the game and show you some screen shots, but to really get a feel for it, it's best if you get to see some video.  So for your entertainment pleasure, here is one complete go at TCM:  The Video Game.  It only lasts a couple minutes so watch till the end to see Leatherface get his ass whooping!

video