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The evolution of the Wolf Man….

When looking back at lycanthripic lore, you read countless tales and watch countless films that you become exposed to both werewolves that generally move around on all fours and wolf men that generally stand erect like a normal guy does.

Personally for me, since as far back as I can recall, have appreciated both pretty much equally. It’s difficult for me to have a favorite since both look so cool, although I will say that for me the ‘man’ side of the beasts have always been more identifiable and memorable on the more traditional biped side. When I think of werewolves I picture a regal, sophisticated Paul Naschy in his Waldemar Daninsky character or Lon Chaney Jr. These were both men who went about their daily lives pretty much as normal men…with the exception of nights when the moon was a wee bit full.

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Lon Chaney Jr. breathing life into the Wolfman
I feel that is why one can relate more to the Wolfman then any other of the classic monsters our there. I honestly cannot remember when I first saw a lot of iconic films but I remember when I first saw the Wolfman. It was on a late night after coming home from an exhausting night trick or treating. I don’t remember what costume my parents had bought me for Halloween that year. But I remember turning on the television and being mesmerized by what I saw on the tube in front of me…I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7. My love for horror began around that time…

It took a bit longer to be exposed to Señor Jacinto Molina, better known as Paul Naschy. I think around 12-13 I had rented a VHS from a local store that had a robust horror selection. A friend who lived down the street from me and I had this contest where we would try and outdo each other with horror rentals…whatever we could sneak passed the noses of our parents. I rented a movie called Curse of the Devil…wow. To me it was the first time I saw the Wolfman in color so I was naturally excited. But I was also excited with how much charisma and charm Señor Naschy brought to the screen. My quest to track down as many of his films as I could back then in a pre-internet world and with limited funds began..

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Paul Naschy perfecting the role he was born to play
A lot of genre buffs would always hail Paul Naschy as the next Lon Chaney but he did so much more, he went so much further; portraying pretty much every iconic character you can think of. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monsters, the Mummy, the Hunchback (one of my favorite Naschy films), Rasputin, Fu Manchu and others. I played the Daninsky/hombre lobo character 16 times! How many times did Lon Chaney play the Wolf man? This is not intended to discredit Lon Chaney’s amazing work because he was a huge influence on Paul Naschy…just illustrating how much further and deeper Naschy took it.

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Benicio Del Toro in the 2010 Wolfman
The screen above is from Joe Johnston’s 2010 version of the Wolfman.  While not a perfect film, it scores well in my book mainly due to its atmosphere and it being able to aptly capture the essence of the character, though either Chaney or Naschy could run circles around Del Toro’s dead pan, lifeless performance. I know, not a fair comparison. But nothing ever will match the greatness and legacy left behind by Chaney and Naschy.

So maybe there really hasn’t been so much of an evolution of the Wolfman after all. Advancements in cinema and special effects may have brought us cooler looking visuals, but the performances just aren’t there anymore. The actor no longer has to sell the character and make up as much because it’ll be done in computer. How much of that still from The Wolfman above do you think is ‘in camera’?

The great news is that thanks to the fact that there are so many outlets today to catch these films, one can continue to relive the classics over and over again. My wife recently had observed that I had not been buying new horror films. I responded ‘I don’t have to when I have such an amazing catalog of movies to watch that are way better than what’s being made today’, but I digress…

For further information on Paul Naschy’s films go to http://www.imdb.com and search ‘Paul Naschy’. Or just take a chance and purchase some on Amazon.

My recommendations would be:

Night of the Werewolf

Curse of the Devil

The Beast and the Magic Sword

La Furia del Hombre Lobo

Dr. Jeckyll y el Hombre Lobo.

-Orlando G Acosta

Cathode Ray Terrors

Television IS the retina of the mind’s eye!

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Any horror fan who has read my blogs or knows it’s no secret that I am heavily influenced by David Cronenberg’s 1983 masterpiece cautionary tale; “Videodrome”. Cathode Ray Terrors, itself, was inspired…okay, pretty much lifted from Videodrome; I just modified the ‘T’ to mean Terror instead of Tube yet this cancerous pirate broadcast channels does impart terror thru the tube. Thru the retina of the mind’s eye, as foretold by professor Oblivion.

Yet for all the fandom and admiration I have never written about Videodrome, its importance to me and its relevance to our current day state of constant need for over stimulation. My lovely wife, just last night, pointed out how during a sleepover for my youngest, the 4 little girls all aged between 9 and 10 were all multitasking between watching a movie right in front of them and interacting with their cell phones and tablets simultaneously. Kids today can’t even sit and watch a something on one screen, they have to have visual information shot at them from every angle.

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David Cronenberg predicted this 30 some odd years ago. Of course, he took it a bit further. But remember I called it a ‘cautionary tale’. Max Renn’s thirst for badder and bolder content to air on Civic TV Channel 83 drove him to depths he was not prepared for, unveiling a sinister plot, a global conspiracy to control the masses thru the seemingly  harmless television set. And what’s so different today? We’ve upgraded from CRT sets to flat screen plasmas, LCDs, LEDS, OLEDS and now beautifully curved, 4k screens that sucks you in and makes you its slave in all its high definition glory. We have 3D tvs, Oculus VR head sets not too dissimilar from the set Max gets to try out in Videodrome.

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The 80’s answer to Oculus
While there are other films that illustrate various types of ‘crowd control’ thru media, to me, none is as effective…as perverse, as Videodrome. As I write this blog, the ominous sounds of Howard Shore’s eerie score oscillate out my speakers. I can almost see them breathing, throbbing…yearning to be touched. I can listen to this score over and over and I feel it’s one of Mr Shore’s finest.

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If you’re still reading this you have probably caught on that I am not really reviewing Videodrome…just rambling on about it…a fair assessment. I didn’t set out to review a 34 year old movie so much as to simply comment on its importance and relevance. You may disagree on how high of a pedestal I place this film on and, if you do, it could be because you have already experienced a video signal similar to Videodrome and it’s control is gestating deep inside your brain and there is no hope for you; you’re hooked. And maybe that’s the point of the film. Not so much a cautionary tale but a lamentation because we are already defeated. Sensory overload has already happened. What’s the solution to this disease of mind control thru over stimulation? Well, there’s Max Renn’s solution, which I won’t reveal here, or, there’s mine; get the balance right. Disconnect when you can. Don’t get sucked in…easier said than done. Especially since you’re probably reading this on your phone while something else is playing on your 4k flat screen right in front of you.

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Me, posing with my copy of issue #25 of Fangoria. One of my oldest issues. 
In the end, will watching Videodrome make you a different person? It just might. Definitely worth the trip, trust me. I’ve been taking it for years.If you know me and want to watch reach out and I’ll screen it. I never tire of watching.

 

Long live the new flesh!

Dissecting a Killer Film

I have a general rule that I never review a film after only one viewing. There are multiple reasons for that. One is that I never go into a movie thinking about reviewing it. I analyze the hell out of them and I am very critical of them but that’s just the normal ‘me’. Once I watch I film that persuades me to talk about it publicly I watch it again before I do…not doing that here; I don’t need to. Beyond this quick introduction you’ll find my complete, spoiler free review of Andre Ovredal’s “Autopsy of Jane Doe”

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She should get an Academy Award!

Also, when I carve out time to watch a film I really do not like to know much about it. Especially if I am familiar with the film maker’s previous work. Mr. Ovredal had blown me away with his first film, the charming ‘found footage’ film Troll Hunter. He had managed to pleasantly surprise me with that film. I had seen it in one of my Rue Morgue issues but, quite honestly, I was grabbed by the photo stills and not the premise…at least at first. I have always been critical of mockumentaries and found footage films; not a genre I ever liked. So when I realized that Troll Hunter was that type of beast I started to lose a bit of interested. Then, an hour and forty minutes later I found myself watching it all over again. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by that movie and how a visionary, for all intent and purposes, first time director; how he managed to change my mind on what I do or do not like.

On to Jane Doe. This film is intense and engaging. I loved it on a technical level. The focus pulling, the off-level tracking shots, the darkness in the background seemingly moving and shifting about. The fact it doesn’t cut away too much but shows you those close ups that gore mongers like myself get off on. The autopsy scenes were so well done I cannot emphasize enough. The best autopsy scenes since Nacho Cerda’s “Aftermath”. But they should be, right? I mean, the film is titled “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”. The morgue scenes, while incredibly effective, are expected to be. It is everything else about the film that pushes and challenges even the most jaded of horror filmgoers such as myself. Guys, if you can’t stand 90% of the modern day horror films that come out then this is for you! this is that diamond in the rough, I’m telling you.

Since this is a review and I have to be a bit critical, the father and son duo, while great, I felt something was never fully fleshed out between them. It’s hard to describe without giving some spoilers. They’re not at all bad. Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox have a lot of on screen chemistry but I would’ve liked to have spent a bit more time with them.

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The Tilden’s…hard at work

And Michael McElhatton…Seeing Roose Bolton in action practically gave me a boner. But it’s really Olwen Kelly that seals the deal, so to speak, as Jane Doe. Her presence is always ominous and for boding yet you feel for her. How her body is mercilessly cut into, sawed open, flayed…”Aftermath” did an excellent job in showing the mortician as no more of a butcher, Jane Doe takes it even further because as the mystery begins to unravel both Tilden’s senior and junior start to realize that they are in way over their heads. This is not just a pretty array of meat and bones, this is so much more…and then the dread sets in!

I touched on the cinematography a bit earlier but a lot of credit has to also go to the pacing, which is in the hands of the editors. This film moves very fast while knowing when to slow down for suspense; managing to keep the intensity going from the opening credits to the end.

In conclusion, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is not only a film that shouldn’t be missed by the most discerning of horror buffs, but also for those who may not necessary gravitate towards the genre but like a good scare. And to those who like a morale to every tale that is told; here’s the morale of this one: Don’t treat bodies like meat, respect the dead, for you never know where they may come from and what they’re capable of…

And check out Nacho Cerda’s Aftermath if you can track it down (sorry for the shameless plug but they go together so well).

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screen shot from Nacho Cerda’s 30 minute short, Aftermath

-Orlando G Acosta

 

Tale of an American Goon!

This article has nothing to do with horror, gore or exploitation cinema. My apologies for straying a bit. Below is an article I wrote for Arsenal Fan TV website. Since I am not sure if it will get published and I kind of like what I wrote, I am sharing on my own blog.

-OGA

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Often times people ask me; ‘why Arsenal’? After all. I reside 7 time zones away, here in Los Angeles, California and I really have no territorial obligation to be in favor of one specific team. But I am… Since the days of David Seaman, Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp and many more stellar players that have come and gone. I’ll try and explain, for anyone interested enough to know.

It all started at a concert. It was The Sex Pistols Filthy Lucre reunion tour…I believe back in 96. I was catching their first of several LA shows at the now defunct Universal Amphitheater. At the end of their amazing set I bump into, completely by coincidence, Ray Burke. No one will probably know who that is. I had just met him a week earlier; he was my new boss who had just hired me for this new marketing department at a Mercedes Benz dealer. I had no idea that he would even be at the show and he was surprised to see me there as well. After greeting him and his friend, I noticed they were both wearing red jerseys with the big JVC logos on them. Of course my curiosity was peaked by the boldness of the jerseys so I asked what team it was. He said, proudly, ‘Arsenal, mate’! He told me that he had worn the jerseys because Johnny Rotten is a huge Arsenal fan and Ray, being from London, was also a big fan but more to catch Johnny’s attention…which he said he did. Being in the mosh pit wearing the bright red jersey caught Mr. Lydon’s attention and he gave him a big thumbs up and nod, making Ray’s evening.

Me, being a huge Pistols fan since buying Never Mind the Bullocks on cassette in the mid 80’s…Well, I figured, any team good enough for Mr. Lydon is good enough for me so I immediately started catching as many Gunner’s games as I could. I’d even go out to bars over here with Ray to catch games on live feeds…which meant waking up super early sometimes.

What started out of some sort of sentiment towards one of my favorite punk icons (I’m also a huge Public Image Limited fan) grew into true infatuation. And yes, players have come and gone…and to me there will never be as good of a keeper as Seaman, and I miss Fabregas, Henry, Van Persie, Wright, Vieira, Hartson, Bergkamp and many others…No team as evolved and grown as good as the Gunners have.

And while many have criticized Arsene Wenger and say it’s time for him to go…I don’t think so. Wenger IS Arsenal to me. He has been there since my start with the club. I don’t know or want to know any different. I even bought a Wenger wristwatch because it shares his namesake.

So there you have it. I hope I didn’t bore everyone too much. I look forward to traveling to the UK next year and of course I am going to plan my trip around as many Arsenal games as I can.

Thank you.

-Orlando G Acosta

My evening with Fabio Frizzi

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Fabio and me!

 

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Fabio and my lovely wife!

 

Ever since I could remember, I have loved Italian Horror. To me, the names Mario Bava, Lamberto Bava, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Umberto Lenzi, Michele Soavi and so forth…those names, to me, are the equivalent to celebrity names for most. Honestly I feel I was greatly influenced by Dario Argento in his book Profondo Argento, where he writes that ‘actors are whores who just do the bidding of the director’. I may be paraphrasing a bit but how I feel about actors, I think, was greatly influenced by that line. Of course, half of the experience is visual and half is aural. So it’s fair to say that I also grew up listening to the scores of Ennio Morricone, Goblin, Riz Ortolani, Roberto Donati and last, but most certainly not least, the great Fabio Frizzi.

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Fabio, bandmates and new friends!

Recently I had the privilege of being able to catch the maestro at work with his band, Fulci 2 Frizzi, here in San Diego at Brick by Brick. What a show it was. Wait, not a show, an experience! To see the man and his talented band in action playing tunes from films I grew up with was something I can’t easily describe. I was bummed out that I missed Goblin when they were in town a couple of years ago but this more than makes up for it.

Signore Frizzi played a decent-length set. Actually it was longer than I had expected, but of course, never long enough when you’re listening to music you enjoy. Tunes from Zombi, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, Manhattan Baby, Cat the Brain and more…

When it was all over, we got to meet new friends who I share common interests with and take a few more pictures. What an evening.

I hope Fulci 2 Frizzi comes to southern California again in the near future. Maybe someone can convince the agents to put together a Goblin/Fulci 2 Frizzi World Tour! That would be something…But until then;

Grazie signore…

 

-Orlando G Acosta

 

Shiny Silver Killer ball, now in HD!

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J.J. Abrams and Don Coscarelli pay tribute to the late, great Mr. Angus Scrimm thru a meticulous high def restoration of one of my most beloved movies of all time: Phantasm.

Let me start by saying that I am generally not a fan of remastering older material. For me, the way a film looks. Its grittiness, its graininess, cigarette burns, lint caught in the projector, etc…all part of the experience for me. So naturally I was skeptical of this project when it was announced. Also, being that a big Hollywood player such as Mr. Abrams was involved, I thought to myself ‘oh shit. He’s going to pull a ‘Lucas’. He’s going to add CGI balls everywhere, maybe add more digital minions walking around.’ I am pleased to report that none of that happened. Nothing was added at all. The film was not altered in the slightest, except for some color corrections, I feel the color temps are a little cooler and of course, everything looks sharper. Having said that, yes, the graininess of the original print is gone.

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The shadows are sharper and more defined. The blood still looks the same, which I am glad they didn’t mess with the hues too much. The sound is considerably cleaner as well and the surround mix is much more effective; and that I do appreciate. Sound plays a big factor in horror so kudos there. All in all, I don’t think this needed to happen. If I had a say in it I would’ve asked JJ to instead put the money into Ravager so the CGI effects of it are a little better (I’ll review Ravager in a separate blog but for now you can see my review on Facebook).

The good news is that you can own the remaster digitally from a number of different outlets. I bought mine for $12.99 thru the SONY store on my PS4. It is a couple of dollars cheaper on iTunes and Amazon as well, I think. I do hope it finds it’s way to Blu Ray soon because I would like to own it physically. But I am just as content in watching my Anchor Bay region 2 DVDs.

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Thank you for reading…

-Orlando G Acosta

 

Shin Godzilla…thoughts and review

As you may know, this site is going to be devoted primarily to Horror, Monsters, transgressive nuns and homicidal movie maniacs: all the good stuff, right?

So for my return to blog/reviewing I decided to kick things off with a movie monster near and dear to me and, how gently let down I was…Shin Gojira!

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When I had heard sometime last year that Toho would be resurrecting my beloved childhood creature I became cautiously excited and optimistic. While Gareth Edward’s 2014 US interpretation wasn’t a total loss, it had its issues…primarily Godzilla itself. Having seen the creature design that Hector Arce had sculpted for Legendary Pictures (I interviewed Hector for G-Fan back in 2012) was disappointed that the folks at Legendary did not go with his breathtaking design and instead went with a creature that, to me, was uninspiring and had too thick of a neck. Here was Hector’s design:

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Pretty cool, huh? Anyways…Legendary missed the mark a bit on their version of the Tokyo bad boy.  Upon seeing early trailers for Shin Godzilla I started to increase my enthusiasm and optimism; letting my guard down a tad.

Fast forward to this morning when I eagerly went to see on the big screen. Shin Godzilla has a running time of 2 hours…that’s over an hour too long. You are first treated to a silly kaiju that looks like this:

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Only to find out that it’s actually Godzilla, himself, in an early stage..You have no idea how upset I was at this reveal.

My two bigger issues are the pacing of the film, the long, unnecessary conferences and meetings (that is even joked upon in the script, by the way) and the main actress, Satomi Ishihara. I honestly don’t know which is worse; the seemingly endless scenes of pointless dialog or her terrible english and acting. This wouldn’t bother me if they don’t drive the point home that she is an natural born citizen. She mentions twice that Japan is her grandmothers country, and several times its mentioned that she will eventually run for president of the United States. But she never bothered to learn english that well..it just doesn’t help buy her character.

Other more subtle and minor annoyances would give a bit of the plot away. But let’s just say its in ‘who ends up really saving the day’ when all other countries seem to miss the big picture. and, of course, the english speaking actors are all terrible, and that would be expected, except the main difference between this Godzilla and Toho’s other G-seasons is that with a more serious, darker tone there is much less wiggle room for camp. The tone of this Godzilla is like the original, which brings me to the films biggest asset: Akira Ifukube!

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This film gave me no greater pleasure than watching my beloved radioactive buddy stomping around while the maestros original score is playing! whoever had that idea I want to give a big fat sloppy kiss to! Ifukube-sans score has never sounded so grand and epic. It is for this reason alone that I do not score it any less.

And since a majority of the ‘panel discussion’ scenes are dialog set against silence, it will be easy, once the movie comes out, to feed it into Final Cut Pro and recut the film to what it should’ve been, without missing a beat on the score because when there is sound, there is something relevant on screen.

Notice I saved the visuals for last. I did so because, yeah there is a combination of miniatures and a decent amount of CGI. Some of the CGI is great while some you cringe at but overall its not a deal breaker at all. There are even a couple of miniatures that I think they deliberately made them look bad as an homage to the sets that came before.

So here I’ll sum it up and bullet point it:

 

PROS:

  • Akira Ifukube’s chilling original score
  • Godzilla in motion
  • most Japanese acting it good

CONS:

  • Dialog scenes are too long and drawn out
  • Satomi sucks, and in a bad way!
  • Too long for its own good. Needs trimming.

OVERALL: 6.8