B-Horror Dates To Dismember
Magister Matt G. Paradise
The Golden Age
Rosemary Revisited: A Satanic Look
of the Scariest Movies of All Time
by Magister Matt G. Paradise
Satan On Celluloid: The Dark
Force In Film
by Magister Matt G. Paradise
by Jason Quinn
(originally printed in Not Like Most #14)
overlooked marvels of the silver screen are being unearthed and
appreciated by audiences starved for content and evocation.”
The Church of Satan
trip down memory lane.
One of the first films I can remember seeing was a cheap Japanese
King Kong knock-off that had Kong struggling with this giant robot
and pulling it off a tower. I’ve no bloody idea why my Dad
took me to see this but I guess it was just one way to keep me entertained
on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe that’s what started it all.
I think that a viewing of a so-called “great” film will
often transcend the watching of the film itself. One will often
remember the many great feelings associated with that film and mistakenly
label the film “great.” This is apt to provide many
bittersweet bouts with nostalgia in later years. Many years after
that, upon more “ma-teur” viewings and experiences,
the film might reveal itself to be an actual lobster – without
any redeeming feature, the kind that might embarrass you after you’ve
spent years telling your friends how amazing it is and then watching
their faces as they see the so-called “amazing” scenes.
It was my Uncle who first introduced me to a TV Ontario show called
"Magic Shadows" because he knew the host, Elwie Yost,
would sometimes show features like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”
or “Mighty Joe Young” and I’d be overcome watching
these, transfixed. I vividly remember seeing Howard Hawks’s
“The Thing” and being a little disappointed that the
creature was only spotted for a few seconds. John Carpenter would
make up for that with his seminal remake but, at that age, I had
no patience for subtlety or atmosphere. I wanted to see the red
stuff. Back then, gore equaled horror.
I had a lot to go through before I realized that this wasn’t
necessarily the case.
My Father once told me about this "scary" movie he remembered.
It was called “The Blob” and it scared the hell out
of him when he was my age. I needed to see this movie. He told me
that if it ever came on cable we’d sit down and watch it,
so I pestered him until he showed me how to look things up in the
TV guide section of our newspaper.
Soon I discovered the "Entertainment" section and would
scan to see what movies were playing. I also discovered that there
were only certain films that I was allowed to watch, so of course
anything with "Restricted" under it became the ones I
most wanted to see. An early example of the Law of the Forbidden?
I remember being jealous as hell when my father took two kids from
the neighborhood to see the hold-over showing of “Jaws”
while telling me I couldn’t come along because it was restricted.
I don’t know, perhaps it was a good thing because it instilled
in me a growing desire to see things I wasn’t supposed to
Ads for “Halloween”, “Prom Night”, “Alien”,
“Dawn of The Dead” and a whole slew of others are all
very vividly remembered. My imagination would run with these ads
and I’d hang out with the older kids in the neighborhood getting
them to tell me the details of these movies over and over again.
Seemed like I’d never get tired of hearing about “Friday
The 13th” or “The Amityville Horror.” I used to
go to the local corner store and buy all the new issues of "Famous
Monsters of Filmland" and read through them with my friend,
Mark. We’d tell each other stories based on the photos and
speculate on what actually happened in the movies for hours.
One afternoon, my Father announced that “The Blob” was
on the Late Show and that if I went to bed early, he’d wake
me up to watch it. I was so excited I could barely get to sleep.
In fact, I think I probably just tossed and turned until he came
and got me.
I couldn't sit still. My Dad made popcorn, turned all the lights
off and sat me in front of the TV. I was a bit dizzy with all of
the excitement and being up so late that it was difficult to concentrate.
And then the movie started.
film-making is filled with unusually enthusiastic, positive, life-affirming
talents who know how to have fun with their work and their lives.”
- Chas. Balun, Horror Holocaust
don’t know if you’ve ever seen the original “Blob”
but there’s a part near the beginning when this old hobo sees
a comet crash and goes to investigate. He discovers this glowing
goop and pokes a stick into it for a better look. The blob sort
of crawls/drips down the stick and onto the hobo’s hand and
as soon as it contacts him, begins to eat his flesh. The hobo starts
shrieking and moaning as the alien begins to dissolve him alive.
Something happened at that point, something snapped. I freaked out,
crying, screaming along with the hobo and hiding my eyes. I carried
on so much that my Dad ended up turning the TV off and putting me
back to bed. I don’t remember falling asleep that night, I
just remember hearing that hobo’s screams as the blob ate
Dad had a long talk with me the next morning about reality vs. fiction.
I wouldn’t get the chance to see “The Blob” until
years later, once again on the Late Show watching it when my Father
came back from a coroner’s call.
There were a few films that really stood out in those first years
before VCRs. I remember seeing some Hammer films shown on Saturday
afternoons. I used to watch all the horror films on “Magic
Shadows” and sometimes, when I went home from school at lunch,
there was this strange little soap opera called “Dark Shadows”
which hooked me until it went off the air.
I used to watch “The Twilight Zone” and found it pretty
creepy, too. The air outside seemed to change while that one was
on. I still think that it was one of the best of its kind and easily
one of the best series made for television. I also remember a BBC
version of "Dracula" with Robert Jordan that blew me away.
Everyone was talking about it the next day at school like it was
some major cultural event. Maybe it was.
I was lucky because my friend Mark seemed to enjoy horror films
as much as I did. Mark’s father was into them too and actually
took us to see horror films that weren’t restricted. I have
fond memories of seeing “The Changeling” and John Carpenter’s
“The Fog” in those old theaters that you never seem
to see anymore. It was comforting to know that I had a couple of
people with whom to share these dark, offbeat enthusiasms.
then one day my Aunt Claire told me about a new thing called a VCR
and this changed everything.
complete education in Satanic philosophy is available at your local
-Blanche Barton, The Church of Satan
couldn’t get over the fact that you could now see movies in
your own home and didn’t have to wait until they came on the
Late Late show. I still vividly remember my Aunt taking me to that
first video store; before video stores became the conglomerated,
florescent corporate stores. This was that golden age when they
operated out of basements or even wooden sheds tacked onto the sides
of people’s homes. I can remember gazing at video box covers
on unfinished wooden shelves and my mind beginning to race.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Zoltan: Hound
Of Hell”, “Wolfen”, “Night of The Living
Dead”... the images on those video boxes worked the same way
the ads in the Entertainment section did. My imagination was fired
up and a whole New World opened.
it may be true that constant exposure to horror, suffering, and
death could possibly demean or desensitize an individual, it is
yet to be conclusively proven that watching a latex dummy get whacked
to pieces with a machete causes any moral or psychological harm
to a healthy individual.”
-Ibid, Chas. Balun
The only problem was that Mark and I were too young to rent this
stuff on our own. We needed our parents to rent the stuff for us
and I ask, “How are you going to rent something called ‘The
Best of Sex and Violence’ with your Mom around?”
Luckily, we had Mark’s Dad on our side. He basically gave
us carte blanche to pick out whatever we wanted and in fact liked
videos so much that he left his carpeting business and opened a
video store. This turned out to be a bad business move, but it was
great for us; we were able to see the latest horror films released
on VHS. Beta vs. VHS.
These were truly the days of wine and roses.
The coming of the video age really sank the hook. Mark would invite
me over and we’d watch tons of movies. Hundreds of hours were
spent in his living room watching everything: “Maniac”,
“House On Sorority Row”, “The Boogey Man”,
“The Howling”, “Prophecy”, “Hell Night”…
The list could go on and on. And no matter how many utterly horrible
ones we sat through, they all seemed like gold because we were watching
stuff that had the power to stay with us long after the VCR was
shut off. It touched off the darker side inside my head and probably
did a lot to make me who I am today. The mixture of sexuality, violence,
fear and teeth-grinding darkness hitting us during those years of
adolescence couldn’t help but leave its mark on our sense
This went on from grade school into the first couple years of high
school. Mark and I gradually became separated by different interests,
friends, etc, and gradually drifted apart. My love for videos didn’t,
though, and some of my fondest memories of those high school years
were walking home on Friday afternoons, going to the comic store
and picking up the latest issue of "Fangoria" and then
stopping by the video stores (which were becoming more processed-looking
all the time -- gone were those unfinished wooden shelves and huge
video box covers) and renting two or three movies for the weekend.
No social clubs or groups for this cat. School dances didn’t
interest me, horror movies did. I couldn’t get into all the
gossip and melodramatics of high school but I damn well could dig
watching a double feature of Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead”
backed with Frank Henelotter’s “Basket Case.”
It became a ritual I’d look forward to every weekend. Soon,
I had new friends who began watching these movies with me. These
guys bought "Fangoria" and paid attention to the credits,
too. We’d argue over what was "good" and what was
"bad" but we all agreed that it was better to watch the
worst horror dreck than to sit through yawn-fests like “A
Passage to India” or “Room with A View.”
worst sin for an exploitation film is to be boring.”
-Ibid, Chas. Balun
these high school video years, I discovered a writer who spun my
head around. He’d done a few articles in "Fangoria"
(although he seems to despise that magazine now, as evidenced from
his comments in "Red Ink") but his real guts didn’t
come out until you’d read one of his books. His name was Chas.
Balun and his writing seemed to bring out everything I was thinking.
He wrote about the genre like it was Rock ’n’ Roll which,
in turn, made it come alive.
The first Balun book I read was called Horror Holocaust and I still
consider it one of the best volumes ever written about the genre.
I came across his video guide, The Gore Score, and used it as a
reference guide Friday nights. Anything that Chas. Balun recommended,
I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, was going to be worth seeing.
And he hasn’t let me down yet.
I challenge anyone to show me film as powerful or as disturbing
as the stuff that came out in the mid-70s. There wasn’t anything
with as much staying power as “Texas Chainsaw” or even
“The Exorcist” in the entire ‘90s decade. Where
is the new “Re-Animator”, the new “Suspiria”,
the new “Black Sunday”, the new “Henry: Portrait
of a Serial Killer”? Does no one have the guts or inclination
to make this type of movie anymore?
As much as I enjoyed “Scream” for what it was, I realize
that it doesn’t have the type of power that “The Omen”
had. Not even fucking close. Sure, “Seven” was okay
but it looks like a bantam- weight compared to the ideas and dread
expressed in “Videodrome.” I don’t think that
it’s a coincidence that only a mere nine of Chas’s top
fifty horror films are from the ‘90s (and of those nine, eight
were made in the first half of that dry decade). Things aren’t
very good in the genre these days. Do you think that Kevin Williamson
Basically I’m sick of apologizing for modern horror films.
I’d rather go back and watch all the good stuff from the past
than sit through the latest TV-Movie-of-the-Week-on-film. If this
is the best the genre can produce then maybe it deserves to go the
way of the western.
Which, in a roundabout way, brings us to Italian horror.
really sort of the ‘80s equivalent to the horde of drinking-fighting-fucking
biker gang pictures that were successfully released stateside by
American International in the ‘60s.”
-Ibid, Chas. Balun
the ‘80s, when Italy was churning out some of its reddest,
wettest fare, Balun was one of the only reviewers to bang the drum
for these guys. It was through Balun that I learned the names: Bava,
Argento, Lenzi, DeAnato, Franco, Fulci... These were the guys who
carved out their own style and added to the genre I had come to
consider one of my closest friends. In fact, one of the first times
Mark and I saw videos it was a double bill that his father had rented:
Alan Ormsby’s “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead
Things” (which had a killer box cover that had me really excited)
and Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie” (which I had never
heard of and didn’t much care about).
It turned out that “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead
Things” was a yawner that never lived up to the expectations
created by its box cover, but “Zombie” was an experience
that shook me to the core.
Mark and I were both disappointed in Ormsby’s lobster so the
first scene of “Zombie” knocked the hell out of us.
It was only a warm-up for what was to come. I can still remember
the sunlight inching its way through the windows in Mark’s
living room and his Mom asking if we could use some lunch -- she
was making omelets, did we want any? I wasn’t too big on omelets
then but Mark and his younger brother, Derek, who we’d occasionally
let hang around with us, said "okay."
The pacing of "Zombie" is definitely Italian but after
the Ormsby disappointment it seemed roadrunner quick. The gore scenes
hit us with full impact and Fulci did something that Romero hadn’t
even done; he put the flesh eaters back in their original place
-- the Caribbean. In an exclusive interview with Chas. Balun in
1992, Fulci explained what he was attempting to do with his film.
"I feel that Zombie is an authentic zombie film. I wanted to
send them back to their origins; this is why we shot the film in
Santo Domingo. My inspiration came from Jacques Tourneur, not from
Even way back then I realized how different Fulci’s zombies
were from Romero’s. The zombies in “Night of the Living
Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead” just kind of resembled
normal people turned pale or blue with a few scars and blank expressions;
the zombies in Fulci’s films look like they’ve been
dead and buried for awhile, lots of maggots and decomposition. I’m
not criticizing Romero because I like his work a lot, but let’s
give credit where it’s due. Romero has been hailed from here
to forever and Fulci still isn’t very well known beyond us
My favorite memory of that first viewing of "Zombie" was
the splinter scene. That was when Mark covered his mouth and sprinted
to the bathroom. It was followed by the sounds of pure, heaving
vomit splashing in the toilet. How many times have you seen a video
make someone lose their lunch? I’ve only seen it that one
time and I consider it to be pretty damn special.
I don’t think that Fulci’s other films have the same
power as “Zombie”, but they are worth seeing. “The
Beyond”, “House by The Cemetery”, “The Gates
of Hell”, “Don’t Torture A Duckling”; they’ve
all got scenes of extraordinary violence enveloped in a surreal,
pot boiling pace. All the things that make Italian cinema worth
other Italian directors to check out are:
Mario Bava: The Hitchcock of Italy, and truly the
kingpin of Italian horror. It must be acknowledged that if his debut
classic, “Black Sunday,” hadn’t been dogged by
censorship or distribution hassles, Bava would’ve been recognized
as the one who started the whole ball of wax instead of H. G. Lewis.
And it also must be said that H.G. Lewis’s “Blood Feast”
has absolutely none of Black Sunday’s atmosphere, production
values or Barbara Steele.
Bava’s films are lush with atmosphere and mood. No matter
how bad the story is, Bava always includes some great dialogue and
scenery. “Black Sabbath” (which directly inspired Ozzy
& the boys to change their name; also has some of the creepiest
dead people in it I’ve ever seen), “Planet of the Vampires”
(a direct influence on “Alien”), “Bay of Blood”
(aka: “Twitch of The Death Nerve,” which was a direct
inspiration for “Friday the 13th” and therefore, a direct
inspiration of all those ‘80s slasher films that followed
in its wake), “Blood & Black Lace” (which ought
to give Freddy Krueger fans one helluva case of deja vu) and “Hatchet
for The Honeymoon” (which has some great dialogue and remains
watchable throughout its entire running time). I’d say that
nearly anything with Mario Bava’s name attached to it is worth
seeing. His influence stretches across the Hammer films of the ‘60s
into the Splatter films of the ‘80s and even into contemporary
As Balun states: "In view of all the shit he had to put up
with in the industry all through his career, not to mention the
microscopic budgets, it’s a miracle that Bava ever made anything
worth watching at all; yet he is, undoubtedly, the towering figure
of Italian horror. More than that, he is, arguably the most influential
horror director of them all. Period."
Dario Argento: Probably the biggest darling of
the ‘80s Italian Horror Scene, Argento’s films have
been lauded far and wide for his violence and surrealism. Balun
has called him "the true inheritor of Bava’s gialli mantle,
and nothing less than the genre’s Pagliacci..." He seems
to place his emphasis on dynamic camera angles and sound so his
work has an edge that puts him heads above all the other imitators.
I personally feel that Argento has more misses than hits, but also
think that anything he does is worth checking out nonetheless. Even
though some of his films have next to no narrative (“Inferno”
anyone?) he always manages to throw in something to keep your eyes
glued to the set. His most famous stuff is: “Deep Red Hatchet
Murders”, “Tenebrae”, “Opera,” and
it must be noted that he co-produced what was to be Romero’s
classic: “Dawn of The Dead.” Check out his original
director's cuts because the U.S. censoring of his films makes them
Ruggero Deodato: Father of the modern cannibal
film, Deodato represents the "realist wing" of Italian
horror. His name was solidified in the field with “Cannibal
Holocaust,” one of the thirteen most disturbing films ever
made. “Cannibal Holocaust” became the focus of a long
running obscenity trial which may have given Deodato the jitters
because he never made a film as disturbing as this one. The film
was finally acquitted but many prints of the film were mysteriously
burnt in a warehouse fire. I’ve got a copy of Cannibal Holocaust
and it’s pretty strong stuff. Difficult to watch and some
would feel, impossible to enjoy. I’ve cleared rooms at parties
by putting this on.
Jess Franco: The Spanish Roger Corman? Jess (aka:
Jesus) Franco has made an insane number of low budget erotic horror
films (apparently he made over 200 films between 1968 and 1981!)
which range from the well-done to the downright pitiful. Franco
is a self-confessed Dyanne Thorne fanatic and he seems to be trying
to infuse many of his productions with the same sort of power and
sadism of those Ilsa films. Sometimes he succeeds but when he fails,
he fails miserably. I can’t even call him an "acquired
taste" ‘cause he’s too "all-across-the-board"
to be considered a singular taste. You’re really taking a
chance if you pick up a film with his name on it. Hit or miss? Probably
best watched while under the influence of something. Something strong.
Amando de Ossorio: Creator of the Blind Dead. Ossorio
came up with this series of films about the Knights Templar returning
to kill off those who’ve disturbed their tomb. The only problem
is that before they were executed (way back in the Dark Ages), they
had their eyes put out and now their corpses can only track their
victims through sound and super hearing. Kind of a neat twist, no?
I haven’t seen all of these films but I’ve enjoyed the
ones I have seen. Check out: “Tombs of the Blind Dead”,
“Return of the Evil Dead”, “Horror of The Zombies”,
and “Night of the Seagulls” (???). All have similar
plots so one is as good as any other but “Tombs” is
Now would be the time to mention Mario Bava’s son, Lamberto
Bava. You’ve got to be really careful when approaching the
younger Bava’s oeuvre. Lamberto is closer to Fulci’s
style but not nearly as good. The only film of Lamberto Bava’s
that I’d recommend is “Demons” although even that
isn’t too hot. It was okay despite itself. There’s lots
of gore and a breakneck pace, but it doesn’t strike me as
being that well put-together. I get the impression that Lamberto
has slid into the "take-the-money-and-run" style and this
is why most of his films yank. Check out “Demons” to
see what you think but beware of his other stuff.
A new upcoming talent is a guy called Michele Soavis. He apprenticed
under Argento and served as second unit director under Terry Gilliam.
I remember when his film, “The Church” was released,
there were many people who considered him the next big Italian import.
He directed "Cemetery Man" and played a brief role in
Fulci's "The Gates of Hell." It might be a bit on the
late side to call him “upcoming” since he’s been
working for more than a decade and a half, but he’s the most
recent Italian director of power I can think of right now.
If the Italians were the red warriors of the ‘80s, then one
ought to take a close look at Japan for a contemporary equivalent.
There’s a guy named Takashi Miike (pronounced MEE-Kay, I believe)
who has done some unbelievably severe stuff. Miike has made a number
of strange yakuza films that push a level of comic book violence
to over-the-top heights. I’d urge everyone to check out “Audition”
for some dark psychological twistedness (but avoid reading the rental
box as it might give away some really necessary plot twists) and
“Ichi: the Killer” for some really underhanded vileness
served up with party favors and buckets of blood.
Another Japanese director of interest is Shinya Tsukamoto. His work
invades the realm of high weirdness and brings it straight through
your brain. There’s a lot of humor behind his images so you
can chuckle while watching the blood fly. Be sure to get ahold of
“The Goblin”, “Tetsuo: the Iron Man”, “Tetsuo
II: Body Hammer” and “Tokyo Fist.”
So from where I sit, that’s how things look. I’m continually
going outside our North American boundaries to see anything worthwhile.
Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and George Romero have
all failed to deliver over the last few years so until they start
producing something worthy, it’s time to turn our attentions
elsewhere. Were all those films I grew up with really great, or
did I just remember the cool experiences surrounding their viewing
and mistakenly call them great? And does it even matter? If any
film gives you any pleasure, then why bother questioning it at all?
I don’t know about any of that, but I can say that I won’t
be feeling any nostalgia for the many great moments in all of those
Because there just weren’t enough and I didn’t like
them the first time around.
Needless to say, a big thank you and much of the credit for this
goes out to Chas. Balun.