If there’s one thing that really bums me out about the “New 52 ” universe — and truth be told there’s far more than one thing, but that’s another matter for another time — it’s that DC editorial has roped in every single corner of its terrain and isn’t letting anything out. Even “weird” characters like Swamp Thing, John Constantine, etc. are firmly ensconced within the rigid confines of the dully homogenized “DCU,” as it’s called. And while the semi-fabled Vertigo imprint where they once had such a comfortable home has increasingly headed into creator-owned (after a fashion — see if you can get any of the creators of Vertigo-published books to tell you about how “good” the deals that supposedly grant them “ownership” of their work really are sometime) territory for at least 15 years or so now, I admit that I do miss the days when purportedly “marginal” and largely unused established DC characters were allowed to roam about a bit more freely under the Vertigo banner.

Jonah Hex is a perfect example of exactly what I’m talking about. The scarred bounty hunter, originally created back in the early ’70s as a kind of comic book answer to the “revisionist western” trend sweeping Hollywood at the time (think Butch Cassidy And The Sundance KidThe Wild BunchMcCabe And Mrs. Miller, and Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid), Hex ended up being, for the most part, a fairly standard gunslinger/outlaw who just happened to be a lot uglier than most. He managed a good run, and even survived a disastrous early-’80s reboot that saw him taken out of time and dumped into a Road Warrior-style post-apocalyptic future, but by the time writer Joe R. Lansdale and artists Timothy Truman and Sam Glanzman were given the green-light to revive him in a new “mature readers” iteration for Vertigo in 1993, he’d been sitting around gathering dust on the shelf of unused characters for a long time.

Lansdale, an acclaimed horror novelist who was new to comics at that point, wisely decided to blow off writer Michael Fleisher’s decade-plus run with Hex and yoke his take on Jonah a bit more closely to how co-creator John Albano scripted him, but by and large he was content to blaze his own trail with little to no regard for anything that came before,  and the result is a fairly accurate depiction of frontier life as it really was — illiterate, uncivilized, unwashed, unloved yokels leading nasty, brutish, and for the most part quite short lives in a largely-unsettled part of a country that was still a boiling, festering wound after the Civil War — and throws in a generous helping of supernatural “high weirdness” and bodily function and sex jokes to spice things up. His Hex is lewd, crude, rude, and usually in a bad mood. And needless to say, the end result is more fun than half-price day at an Old West whorehouse.


Tim Truman was a brilliant choice to illustrate these scripts as the samples reproduced here show, and his down-and-dirty style has an appropriately “old school” western feel to it combined with a modernist’s eye for just what a shithole the frontier really was. A better  penciller for this stuff would be hard — nay, impossible — to imagine, and when you add on the rich inks of the legendary (a term we don’t use loosely around these parts) Sam Glanzman, the result is pure gold. This remains, to this day, one of the most lavishly-illustrated of all Vertigo comics.

The gang united three times — for the five part Two-Gun Mojo in 1993, which  sees Hex taking on a zombie horde in his quest to get payback for a friend’s murder; the five-part Riders Of The Worm And Such in 1995, wherein Hex lands work as a hired hand at an Oscar Wilde-inspired ranch (yes, you read that right) infested by giant man-eating earthworms who have — uhhhhmmm — bred with humans to create truly moronic, yet decidedly dangerous,  offspring (the main ones we’re introduced to being two twin brothers who are obvious stand-ins for musicians Edgar and Johnny Winter, who in fact sued DC for unauthorized use of their likenesses); and the the three-part Shadows West in 1999 that pits our scarred “hero” against the freaks and geeks of the Wild Will (yes, you read that right again) travelling sideshow when Hex decides to free a Native American woman and her half-human/half-bear (yes, you read that right a third time) from, shall we say, indentured servitude to the troupe. The Lansdale/Truman/Glanzman triumvirate played each successive series for more and more laughs, but they’re all just unsettling enough to make horror fans happy, as well, and the combination of fun and fright works like a charm in all three adventures. The stories are simple and straightforward, and Lansdale’s scripts are brisk, pacy, and give his artists plenty of action sequences and creepy grotesqueries to really sink their teeth into. No single issue takes more than a handful of minutes to read, but you can spend hours looking at the pretty pictures of ugly things.



I would have expected all of this material to be reprinted in conjunction with the entertaining disaster that was the Jonah Hex movie a few years back (especially since Two-Gun Mojo was adapted for release as a “motion comic” at the time), but for some reason it wasn’t, and Vertigo is apparently making up for lost time now by finally collecting them all in the just-released Jonah Hex : Shadows West trade paperback, which is easily the most awesome thing you’ll find on the shelves of your LCS this week (or probably for the next several weeks). Even though these stories are all between 15 and 20 years old, they not only “hold up well” against most of the new stuff out there today, frankly they’re a whole hell of a lot better than, as they’d say in the West, ‘purt near all of it.  And while I could go on an on about all that for a thousand or so more words without much trouble, I do have one small gripe, so let’s get to that now, shall we?

The introduction for this volume, written by Lansdale himself and reprinted from the first collected edition of Two-Gun Mojo back in 1994, is one of the most egotistical, self-serving intros I’ve ever read. He doesn’t even drop Truman’s name — whose work really steals the show here — until the last paragraph of his three-page pat on his own back, and Glanzman, who’s never gotten anywhere near the level of recognition in the industry he deserves despite the fact that he, for all intents and purposes, invented the autobiographical comics genre back in the 1960s (and told some of the finest war stories the medium has ever seen, to boot) doesn’t even merit a mention from his author. Bad form, Joe, bad form.



To his credit, by the time he does lower himself to acknowledge Truman’s contribution, he says that he’s “the perfect artist” to draw Hex, and he’s absolutely right about that. Then he goes on to say that he, himself, is the perfect guy to write Hex — and while that’s mighty brazen of him, he’s also right on that score, as well. At the end of the day, this superb team created a whole new subgenre — the western/horror/comedy. Nobody’s really tried anything like it since, and there’s not really much point, because the bar has been set so high (even if the material is decidedly low-brow, as it should be). Do yourself a favor and grab Jonah Hex : Shadows West now. No fooliin’ pardner, it’s the best durn funnybook yer gonna read in a mighty long spell.



It occurs to me that I’ve been slacking, friends — but fear not, I have an excuse. I’ve reviewed all four previous installments in the Paranormal Activity series, perhaps Hollywood’s most unexpected “franchise” property, previously on this site more or less immediately upon their release,  but never did get around to the latest, 2014′s Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones,  when it was out in theaters back in January.

Now for the excuse part : I didn’t see it. More specifically, I didn’t see it until last night, when the DVD showed up in the mail from Netflix (and before you ask, it was one of those “for rental only” discs with no extras to speak of, so I can’t fairly comment on any of that). As to why I didn’t see it — truth be told, it came and went before I had the chance. It’s not that The Marked Ones was a “flop,” per se, but it did have the lowest opening-weekend gross of any of the five PA flicks (which was still more than enough to put it at the top of the box office that weekend),  and while it still made a healthy profit upon its theatrical run ($32 million on a $5 million investment? I’ll take that every time — and so will Paramount), it didn’t generate nearly the “buzz” its four predecessors did.

There are a couple of “reasons” that have commonly been bandied about for that, one of which has some merit, the other of which is complete hogwash, so let’s examine each quickly before getting into the nitty-gritty of the film itself, shall we?


The first thing offered up by armchair box office observers in regards to The Marked Ones‘ purported “failure” is the fact that it was, in fact, a spin-off, rather than a direct sequel. This makes a certain amount of sense to me, given that it features entirely new characters and the main thrust of the plot only tangentially intersects with the rest of the PA ongoing storyline. In a nifty trick on writer/director Christopher Landon’s part, this film and the “main” story do, in fact, come crashing together most unexpectedly at the end, but to say more would be giving away too much. Suffice to say, even if this is more a side-step than a direct continuation, they could have titled it Paranormal Activity 5, had they chosen to, and it probably would have raked in another $20-30 million. I bet they’re kicking themselves over that.

The second rationalization given for this film’s more modest take at the gate is a real kicker, though : folks have opined that The Marked Ones was marketed “only” to Hispanic audiences, and that they didn’t support the flick in big numbers. Sorry, but I recall seeing ads for this one on any number of non-Spanish-language TV channels upon its release, and while it certainly was heavily advertised to Latino/Latina movie-goers, the fact remains that it was hyped on all the usual horror-centric websites, etc., as well.

As to the idea that Hispanic film-goers didn’t “turn out” in big numbers for it, how does anybody know that? Were they asking people who purchased tickets to fill out demographic surveys? Was the film only shown in predominantly-Spanish-speaking neighborhoods (“no” would be the quick answer to that, since I noticed it playing at a multiplex in lily-white Edina, Minnesota when I was there seeing something else)? Sorry, but this is a cheap — and frankly offensive — attempt by retrograde elements of society  to “blame” the movie’s “failure” on Hispanics because they blame them for — well, every other goddamn thing in the world that they’re not actually responsible for, like crime, taking “our” jobs, driving down wages, “mooching” welfare benefits, etc.  The simple fact is that there are a lot of reactionary assholes out there who don’t like the fact that this film was marketed to Hispanic audiences at all  (even though it makes perfect sense to do so given that the characters are all Latino/Latina) and furthermore just plain don’t like Hispanic people in general. So allow me to give a huge, collective middle finger from any and all horror fans with a brain to anyone and everyone trying to advance that racist line of “thought.”


Ohhhhh-kay, now that we’ve got all that out of the way, how about was the movie? To make a long story short, Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones was, in this wannabe-critic’s view, a very pleasant surprise indeed and quite possibly the best flick — original, sequel, prequel (which is what the first two supposed “sequels” actually were) or spin-off — to go out under the PA  banner. The Joost/Shulman team had worn out its welcome pretty thoroughly after that lackluster fourth installment, and by taking the core concept of “hand-held horror” into the inner city and adding a dash of Santeria-influenced spice, Landon (who served in a producer’s capacity on parts 3 and 4) has managed here to breathe some new life into a franchise that was sorely in need of it.

The main thrust of the plot concerns the exploits of three recent high school graduates and lifelong friends, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh). When Jesse gets a snazzy new HD camcorder from his dad as a commencement gift, the trio do what all kids these days apparently do — record every fucking they do in the hopes that they might accidentally film something funny, stupid, interesting, or weird enough to slap up on YouTube.

Things take a turn for the frightening, though, when there’s a murder downstairs in Jesse’s apartment building, they go in to do some amateur (and, it has to be said, illegal) sleuthing, and the mysterious forces at work in the run-down ground floor unit decide to “mark” our would-be Spielberg as a suitable “host” vessel for their malignant presence. At first Jesse just thinks he’s landed some pretty cool super hero-style powers out of the blue, but he soon learns, to his regret, that all power comes with a price, and that in this case it’s a very heavy one indeed as all those who have been similarly “marked” (oh, and am I the only one who thinks the filmmakers here ripped off the main circle-within-a-triangle symbol emblazoned all over the place in this flick — including the poster pictured at the top of this very review — from the Canadian Antichrist-themed movie Abolition?) have met with untimely — and spectacularly violent — ends.


There’s plenty of the usual teen summer hijinks on display here — boozing, pot smoking, fumbling attempts to get laid, etc. — but the genuinely terrific performances from the entire cast (particularly Jacobs, who does a really nice job driving home the horror of what his character is experiencing) make even that trite, overdone material bearable, and Landon gives you a trio of young people you actually — believe it or not — are willing to give a shit about, before doing what all good directors do and putting ‘em though a meat grinder.

As for fans of Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat (is there such a thing as a fan of Micah Sloat? I suppose there must be, but I’m sure glad I don’t know of any personally), rest easy — they’re here. But they certainly don’t pop up either when you would expect it, or in the way you would expect it. Kudos to all involved for the manner in which they pulled this off.

Throw in some other genuine surprises, a generous helping of fun n’ cheap scares, hand-held video camera footage that actually doesn’t get annoying, and the coolest use of the old “Simon” electronic game I’ve ever seen, and Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones is a winner. There’s probably not much chance of us ever seeing these characters again in future installments, but the time we do get to spend with them here is a heck of a lot of fun.


So here’s the thing about Oculus — like the haunted mirror that serves as the film’s centerpiece, it’s all just a reflection. But it’s a rather appealing one.

Specifically, it’s a reflection of pretty much everything else going on in horror at the moment, combining elements of the “found footage” subgenre with those of the “haunted objects” subgenre, shaking ‘em all up a bit, and coming out the other end with something that’s hardly new, by any stretch of the imagination, but at least well-executed.

The project started life back in 2006 as a short film by director Mike Flanagan, and after the generally positive reviews given his full-length feature Absentia, a veritable smorgasbord of financiers (including the WWE wrestling juggernaut) came together and threw roughly five million bucks at him to go back to his earlier work and flesh it out (along with co-screenwriter Jeff Howard) into a full-length movie. The finished product does, in fact, feel a bit padded in spots, as you’d probably expect, but no moreso than anything else coming out of Hollywood these days, and while there’s (again) admittedly not much here by way of originality, some reasonably strong performances, a nifty if derivative core concept, and a heaping helping stylish atmospherics save Oculus from becoming “just another” horror flick.


Here’s the deal : 11 years ago, a wealthy software designer named Alan Russell (Rory Cochrane) bought a haunted antique mirror, became seduced by the strange  secrets it whispered to him (not to mention the evil woman who occasionally stepped out of it), and ended up killing his wife, Marie (Battlestar Galactica‘s Katee Sackhoff) and traumatizing the shit out of his kids, Kaylie (played as an adult by Doctor Who‘s Karen Gillan and as a youngster by AnnaliseBasso) and Tim (full-grown version portrayed by Brenton Thwaites, youthful counterpart by Garrett Ryan) before Tim put a stop to it by pumping the old man full of buckshot. Here at TFG we like it when bad things happen to rich people, so hey — so far, so good.

The experience had remarkably different effects on the two siblings : Tim ended up confined to a mental institution, where years of “therapy” managed to convince him that the whole incident played out in a remarkably different way that he remembered it, while Kaylie went to work hatching a long-term plan to clear her family name by obtaining work at a prestigious auction house (and getting engaged to the owner’s kid), tracking the mirror (which had since fallen out of her family’s possession) down, researching its lurid history (pretty much everyone who ever owned it since it was first made had tragedy befall them), maneuvering to have it re-installed in her family’s former home between owners, and, the very night her brother is released back into the world. setting it back up with a video camera aimed right at it to document its “actions” before, if all goes to plan, ultimately destroying it with a complex swinging-axe contraption of her own design. Obsession or initiative? I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide.


Needless to say, everything doesn’t go according to plan — not even close — and as our narrative unfolds over two separate timelines, we see the the mirror in both slow-burn action as it rips the family apart 11 years ago, and working considerably quicker in the present day, as it only has one evening to save its — errmmmm — life. Genre stars Gillan and Sackhoff both prove they’re ready for the big time with their performances (even if Gillan struggles at times to mask her Scottish accent), but it’s really Thwaites who operates as the audience’s central point of identification here, being called upon to both relive a past he’s done his damndest do forget/obfuscate and to save the day in the present.It’s a damn solid turn on his part, and one hopes we’ll see more of him the not-too-distant future.

Flanagan, for his part, transitions between the two time frames smoothly throughout, and manages to keep both storylines intriguing, which is no mean feat given that we already know how events in the past shake out, and he uses his (generally speaking) one location to solid, claustrophobic effect. Throw in some well-executed CGI work and “modern gothic”-type atmospherics and you’re all set for a fun and agreeably bumpy little ride that manages to make even something as innocuous as dead house plants seem laced with foreboding and dread.


On the minus side of the ledger, when the film goes full-bore into “mind-fuck” territory towards the end, as the mirror (which, by the way, sure looks cool, doesn’t it?) begins altering our protagonists’ perceptions of reality, things get  a little jumbled and the overall effect falls more than a bit flat, and you’ll probably see the ending coming from a mile off, but screw it — at least the ride from points A to B is an interesting one, even if we finish things at more or less the exact spot we’d expect to.

Which, in fairness, still makes Oculus a modest accomplishment in my book. Maybe my standards are just really fucking low at this juncture — to the point where I don’t even expect, much less demand , anything terribly fresh from Hollywood horror and am willing to settle for the same old thing as long as it’s done with some style — but if we’re going to have another supernatural-themed “franchise” thrust upon us (and we are, trust me — this thing screams “sequel”) at least all indications are that this won’t be a shitty one.

It may not be much, sure, , but I’ll take it.

trashfilmguru (Ryan C.):

My thoughts on “Captain America : The Winter Soldier” for Through The Shattered Lens website.

Originally posted on Through the Shattered Lens:


I’m firmly of the belief that nobody my age has any business whatsoever using the phrase “WTF,” but nevertheless — WTF? Captain America : The Winter Soldier has been playing for two weeks now, there are, what, either or ten people who write regularly (or semi-regularly) for this website, pretty much all of ‘em are bigger fans of Marvel’s cinematic product than I am — and I’m the first person to review this flick here, even though more or less  the entire country saw the thing before I did yesterday? Well, okay, but somebody had better get busy on writing a rebuttal to this, because what I’ve got to say is going to piss a lot of people off.

It’s not that DisMar’s latest blockbuster is “bad,” per se — it’s just that it’s exactly what you expect it to be, that’s all these things ever are, and sorry, but…

View original 1,045 more words



Running the kind of site I do  here, it’s only natural that certain folks I’ve gotten to “know” vicariously via the internet would be putting a bug in my ear for some time now to check out 2012′s Kickstarter-funded Osombie — I mean, a movie about Osama Bin Laden coming back from the dead and leading an army of zombie terrorists? That’s got “trash film” written all over it, right?

I was certainly intrigued enough, especially when I heard how cut-rate the CGI effects were, how wooden the acting was, how inauthentic the supposed “Afghan” shooting locales were, and how rancid the film’s dialogue was — charges which, I’m happy to report, are all true. Still, for one reason or another (or maybe I was just being petulant because the filmmakers never sent me a free screener copy), I never got around to it. But when I noticed last night that it was leaving the Netflix instant streaming lineup as of March 31st (fair warning for those of you who fast-forward to the end of reviews to check out the DVD and Blu-Ray technical specs, there won’t be any provided here because I can’t fairly comment on them), I decided to finally give it a go.

What I found was pretty much in line with what I expected — but also something else entirely, and I think that the B-movie “community” — to the extent that there even is such a thing — had been suckered here a bit. Sit back and I’ll lay out the details as to why.


The plot, for starters, is about as absurd as one can imagine — former New York fireman-turned-conspiracy-theorist heads to Afghanistan to prove not only that Osama Bin Laden is still alive, but to kill the guy himself, given that he lost his whole company in the Twin Towers while he stayed home sick that day. Now, I know that commercial flights from JFK or LaGuardia to Kabul are, as of this writing, still a non-existent thing, but he does make it across the Afghan border, somehow — as does his sister, who’s trying to talk him out of his( in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi) “damn fool crusade,” a few weeks later. So I guess it’s not that tough a place to get to after all.

Along the way they each separately meet up with members of the exact same international team of coalition forces, who are happy enough to enlist a couple of civilians, on the spot, to fight alongside them — but then they  don’t seem to care much about following established battlefield protocols in general given that one of the female members carries a fucking samurai sword around with her and another, the film’s ostensible “star” (played by low-level supposed heart-throb Corey Sevier — although he’s not anything like the central character here, so I guess it’s  more accurate to just say that he gets top billing) seems to be allergic to wearing a shirt. Maybe the military’s just running a really loose ship over there, who knows.

That’s not all they run into, though — truth is Bin Laden really is still alive. Or, more precisely, he’s not. He’s, as you’ve no doubt pieced together by now, a zombie. It turns out that the government was trying to develop a Captain America-style super-soldier serum but it went horribly wrong (a bit of back-story not entirely dissimilar to the origin of Cap’s enemy Nuke), kills whoever takes it, then brings ‘em back from the dead. Al Qaeda apparently got ahold of a sizable stash of this stuff, and Bin Laden took it just before he was captured by Seal Team Six, woke up in the C-130 they were transporting his supposed corpse in , killed everyone on board, crashed the plane, and landed in the ocean (giving rise to the first of many rancid blue-screen shots in the film as his shambling form emerges from the water). After that he got the old gang back together, shot ‘em all up with the rest of the zombie juice, and now they’re back on the front lines of the “war on terrorism” ( I guess now we know why it won’t end in our lifetime).

Apparently these zombies play by the “Romero Rules” of needing to be decapitated or shot in the head to be killed (for good) and transmitting their infection via biting, so cue plenty of horseshit CGI effects in a few lackadaiscal battles here and there inevitably leading up to the “big moment” when our one-time fireman does, in fact, get to kill the world’s formerly-most-wanted terrorist himself and our “heroes” (a surprisingly large number of them, in fact, for a zombie flick) live happily ever after.


If it all sounds action-packed, I assure you it’s not. This is an incredibly talky film with the characters divulging way more about their personal lives than anybody’s going to give a shit about — and that’s why I first started smelling a rat. They blather a lot, sure — but they never swear, even in the midst of this hyper-macho environment. And a lot of what they talk about seems tailor-made to appeal to those with a very specific, and frankly juvenile, worldview. Consider : one of our cast is in no rush to get home because he got divorced. He married his childhood sweetheart, the girl he’s loved his whole life, and their relationship went south when she started seeing a shrink, who charmed his way into her pants within just a few months. Hmmmm — how often does this really happen? Answer : pretty much never, but there’s a certain segment of the population who reflexively view the husband as the injured party in every divorce, and distrust psychiatry in as equally knee-jerk a fashion.

You know who I mean : the people who think praying and going to church and reading the Bible together will keep a couple happy forever. The folks who have built an entire “alternative media” of cheaply-made movies, “soft rock” music, and home-schooling textbooks to prevent their offspring from being exposed to the real world. I’m talking, of course, about evangelicals.

Also worth noting in addition to the “no cursing” rule in effect is the fact that apart from Sevier, who’s always eager to peel off his shirt at the drop of a — errr— hat, is the fact that there’s no actual nudity here, despite the film having two reasonably attractive female cast members (one of whom, the civilian sister — played by Eve Mauro — even demonstrates a modicum of acting ability). How many actual horror flicks, especially low-budget ones, can you say that about?

The most telling sign that there’s a “home team” that Osombie is playing for, though, is also the most repugnant — sure, a couple of the “good guys” die when they’re bitten by zombie terrorists, but director John Lyde always cuts away at the moment of their actual demise, while every single Muslim who gets killed gets the “full treatment” in all its cheap CGI gory “glory.”

Clearly, then,  the slaughter here is an entirely one-sided affair — but so are the film’s conspiratorial politics. A quick Google search for “Bin Laden is alive” conspiracies reveals that there’s no shortage of that viewpoint to be found out there (and who knows, I’m as conspiratorially-inclined as the next guy, maybe there’s something to it), but every single site I found promulgating that idea, without exception, also takes the view that 9/11 itself was an “inside job” and that the whole “War On Terrorism” has been what they call a “false flag” operation from the get-go. Give them points then, at least, for consistency. —but you can’t say the same for Lyde and screenwriter Kurt Hale. In their view, 9/11 went down exactly as it was reported, the Bush administration told us the truth, and it’s only that dastardly Obama fella who’s lying because Bin Laden really isn’t dead. Throw in one quick, cheap Obama joke made by one of the cast — which is frankly pretty innocuous on its face and probably far less extreme than anything you’re likely to hear from your crazy conservative uncle at the next family get-together, but stands out by dint of its being the only openly political wisecrack in a movie featuring a character who tells one sorry (and entirely G-rated) riddle after another — and the politics of this crowd-funded endeavor, as well as who was in that “crowd,”  suddenly becomes crystal clear.

All in all, by the time the end credits for Osombie rolled around and I saw that one of the film’s executive producers was a reverend, I was hardly surprised. And a post-viewing look at IMDB that showing that both Lyde and Hale have written and directed a fair number of Christian and “inspirational” movies (among other marginal TV and film credits) surprised me even less. This may not advertise itself as a religious production, and nobody in the movie does anything as obvious as take a break from the action to pray or read the Bible (they’re too busy droning on about their lives back home, their hopes, their dreams, and all kinds of other shit that goes in one ear and out the other), but such a blatant approach isn’t really necessary to convince the aware viewer that this a piece of cultural propaganda with a very definite agenda that’s been sold to the B-movie movie crowd rather than the Christian crowd simply because, I’m guessing,  there’s probably more money to be made there and, who knows, maybe there are even a few souls to “save.”

Not that I have anything against church-funded projects, mind you — we wouldn’t have Plan 9 From Outer Space without them — but this kind of duplicitous marketing rubs me the wrong way. If you’re so proud of your evangelical faith, don’t hide it. Be honest and upfront in your beliefs, otherwise you’re no better than those tricky Islamic fundamentalists who supposedly want to brainwash all our youth and then, I dunno,  kill ‘em all in spectacular acts of mass terrorism. Or something like that —  there have been so many entirely imaginary “Muslim plots against America” that they all sort of blend together at this point.

Osombie as himself


None of which is to say that fans of bad — or trashy, or whatever —  movies won’t find plenty to like about Osombie. It’s loaded with more rank incompetence than most films and has kind of  a Birdemic meets the war on terrorism” vibe that kinda works in its favor. It’s outrageous, stupid, boring, incomprehensible, and features a good number of “what the fuck, did I really just see that?” moments. In short, all the shit we like around these parts.

But it’s also a modern-day Christian “scare” flick that reinforces some pretty ugly, and blatantly false, cultural stereotypes, not the least of which being that Muslims are mindless, violent, cannibalistic savages who blindly and reflexively hate all Westerners — even, apparently, after they’re dead. And you’d have to be a real zombie to believe that crap.

frozen scream dutch vhs front & back2


What happens when the largely unintelligible Renee Harmon — best known for her collaborations with B-movie auteur James Bryan such as Lady Street Fighter  and The Executioner Part II — tries to fly solo? Nothing good, I assure you, as 1975′s rankly amateur production Frozen Scream proves beyond a shadow of a doubt. This is a flick that not only has no time for dull banalities such as logic, continuity, believability, or even generally-accepted consensus reality — but also, by all accounts, has no real comprehension of what they even mean.

Which, I guess, is fine. Because I’ve always been of the opinion that the best way to get away with ignoring something is to feign ignorance of its very existence. “What? Taxes? Never heard of ‘em, and nobody ever told me I had to pay ‘em, that’s for sure!” has always been a line I’ve wanted to try, for instance.

It’s quite clear that nobody ever told Renee Harmon that she couldn’t act, but that didn’t stop her from trying. Hell, she and her principal co-star here were both LA-area community college acting instructors at the time (and most of the “talent” they assembled for this cheapie came from their classrooms).  She also couldn’t write a coherent screenplay and couldn’t produce anything like a remotely competent motion picture — but again, she didn’t let these pesky facts stand in her way, and she didn’t need to be able to do any of those things, either, apparently, because Frozen Scream exists regardless of those absolute truths.

All of which means that in her own private war against the words “can’t” and “shouldn’t,” ,  she won. We all seek to impose our will on the rest of the world to one degree or another — she actually managed to do so, after a fashion. Can you say the same?


I have to reiterate, though — none of that means that this is a good movie. Or even a good bad movie. Or a “so bad it’s good” movie. It really is shit. The “plot” — a term we have to use very loosely here — centers on evil scientist Sven Johnsson (Lee James), and his trusty lab-coated sidekick, Lil Stanhope (Harmon herself), and their attempts at achieving immortality. They run some kind of new-agey college course together which gives them ample access to “volunteers” for their experimentation, and wouldn’t ya know, they do find the fountain of youth — in the form of walking death. Yes, friends :  you, too, can live forever — you just have to die first to do it, and then come back as a mindless, shambling,  zombie corpse! I did warn you about the massive gaps of logic in this film’s story, did I not?

Anyway, when one of their guinea pigs, a certain newlywed university student named Tom Girard (Wolf Muser) disappears, his nosy bride, Anne (Lynn Kocol) starts asking a few too many questions and getting a little too close to the truth and — ah, shit, none of this matters. Really. Because there’s nothing like a linear structure going on here, anyway. Honestly, filmmakers who love to fuck with your head by tangling up timelines (think Gaspar Noe, for instance) could learn a thing or two from Harmon and her nominal director on this project, one Frank Roach, because they achieve by dint of sheer bloody-minded incompetence the kind of reality-bending that others have to work really hard for. The results are far from pretty, but consider this — the constant voice-over narration in Frozen Scream, which is evidently meant to explain so much of what the characters on screen never seem to get around to, actually has the opposite effect and only makes things more confusing! That takes a profound level of commitment to the art of incomprehensibility that simply can’t be faked— or planned. Any flick this haphazard and reckless can only be the result of pure, unadulterated accident, matched with a willful disregard to both what you’re doing and what anyone else will think of it.

And hey — giving a fuck is such a bourgeois thing to do, anyway.



Harmon, to her credit (again, a term we use loosely) knew the worst-kept secret to holding audience’s interest, anyway — as long as there’s a minor amount of nudity and gore sprinkled about here and there (keep in mind, it doesn’t even have to be very tantalizing nudity or very realistic gore), it literally doesn’t matter what the fuck you put on the screen the rest of the time. People will just keep watching, hoping for more. We’re predictable like that.

And honestly, that comes as near as anything can to explaining both what’s going on here and why. Try this — when you watch Frozen Scream, and the numerous questions along the lines of “dead God what the hell were they thinking here?” come up in your mind (as, I assure you, they will), just answer every single one with “ah, who really cares, anyway?” Trust me, it works.

At this point I’ve probably wasted enough of your time trying to codify and classify what can only be described as truly and utterly inexplicable, anyway. This is a movie the defies analysis or understanding as surely as it eschews quaint, shop-worn notions of good and bad. It just is and that’s all the more that can really be said about it — apart from the fact that you should skip the various bootleg DVDs of it that are out there and just watch it for free at the YouTube link below, because while a viewing experience this singular really should be experienced first-hand, it just as certainly should not cost you one red cent of your hard-earned money.

trashfilmguru (Ryan C.):

I take a look at issue three of George Romero’s “Empire Of The Dead” for Through The Shattered Lens website.

Originally posted on Through the Shattered Lens:


If you’ll recall — and, hell, it remains true even if you don’t — the second issue of Marvel’s “event” mini-series Empire Of The Dead left me feeling decidedly unenthusiastic about this book”s future, given that all it really managed to do was tread water for 20 pages and then stop. But hey — maybe I’ve been a little too quick to judge. It’s been known to happen before.

I’m not here to tell you that Empire Of The Dead #3 (or, to be true to the copyright indicia, George A. Romero’s Empire Of The Dead Act One, #3) regains all the momentum we lost after a really solid first issue, but it does go some way toward explaining a few head-scratching things left over from last time around, like what all those rat slaughterhouses all over town are about (rat blood is provided as nourishment for the vampires…

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