Sunday, February 13, 2011

Anthology Films! More "Boo!" For Your Buck?

In the world of horror, you have many such a vast variety of films to pick from. Slashers, psychological thrillers, supernatural themed horror. The list goes on and on. But what if you wish to have as many themed horror genres crammed into an hour and a half? Well, sir! I have just the pick(or picks) for you! The horror anthology film!

Seen above with that rascal the Crypt Keeper are a few selections from my personal collection. We have(from left to right) Shock Chamber, the first season of Tales From the Crypt tv series, the double dvd set of the Amicus produced Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror, Deadtime Stories. On the ground are (left to right) Creepshow, Tales From the Hood and Chillers. While this entry is on anthology FILMS, The Crypt Keeper demanded "HIS" television series be included. Actors can be a burden to work with sometimes.

But enough of him, let's move on. Anthology films will usually entail 3 or 5 stories which may or may not interlock within each other. The central theme will be included in the story line sometimes.  Creepshow, my personal favorite, used five stories that seemed to come directly out of an EC Comic book of the 50s which, in those days usually meant that the villain of the story would find his comeuppance in an ironic or personal demise involving his flaws as a human. In Creepshow, the stories revolve around the main antagonists and their flaws. And by the end of the segments, they all met their demise in very comic-book like fashion. A true hallmark of the old EC Comics. Creepshow is a true classic and stands the test of time and is truly my pick for the greatest anthology film of all time.

Another favorite of mine is the cult classic Tales From the Hood which was released by HBO Films in 1995 and directed by Rusty Cundieff and stars many fine stars of the genre including Clarence Williams III, Wings Hauser, Corbin Bernsen, and even from Creepshow 2 Tom Wright among so many others who make this pick a great time. The movie twists the old EC Comics formula and takes it a step further with gritty stories from the confines of a funeral home and tells the story of four short stories that are based around an African American view of horror. Many central themes are drugs, racism, gangs and many other central themes. This movie was originally looked over as a "in the hood" movie which were rather popular at the time, but this movie stands on it's own. It was released by HBO Home Video in 1998, but sadly currently out of print. However, if you find it on Ebay or Amazon on dvd, it is worth a spot in your movie collection and gets one of my highest recommendations.This movie in my mind got it right. It's visually striking, can be humorous at times, and has 4 exciting stories and fantastic acting. While the movie wasn't isn't as popular as Creepshow, I personally feel it was a good pick.

Sometimes, you'll have a lot of silliness and dullness to the point that the movie is unwatchable to a small degree. In 1987 Troma films tried their hand at the anthology film with "Chillers". To be fair Troma IS not known for their serious side but more known for their wacky and slapstick side. Not to say Troma did not produce their share of classics(an entry in the future will discuss more), but this particular pick is a little on the...odd side. In Chillers, 5 strangers are stranded at a backwoods bus station and divulge of their recent dreams and how they "seemed so real". We the viewer get to relive those dreams as the strangers re-tell them. The problem with this particular movie(and many other low budget anthology films) is it starts off somewhat promising and even interesting with the story of a girl who falls for a swimmer, who she then realizes has been deceased. Fair enough, we then go into the favorite amongst fans of the film(and yes there are fans of this selection), the store of three boys who travel with their scout-master only to discover a unique secret about him. Then things start to slow down in the last three stories which involve satanism, an evil Spanish creature, and the power to bring people back from the dead. The problem with this film isn't really the stories. It's the visual style. This movie comes off very flat and dull. It goes from interesting to "yawn" within the span of 30 minutes. However, the first two segments are very fun to watch, especially with the performance of Scoutmaster Bob(also known as "WOLF!") who may be the shining star of the film. 

Anthology films are a favorite of mine. Perhaps due to me watching Creepshow at such a young age. Anthologies are a great way for a horror fan to have more "boo" for your buck. If your a fan of horror and want a little variety in your viewing pleasure, these are the perfect way to go. And in the span of over 20 years of watching horror, I've come across many good and bad anthology films. But then again in horror movies, we wouldn't have it any other way...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Trip Down Memorabilia Lane Part 1! (Freddy Krueger)

Much to the inspiration of my dear friend and fellow wrestling fan(and Batman 1966 fanatic!) Josh of JW's Wrestling Memorabilia, I've decided to do a blog entry(and maybe more!) showcasing the interesting, the memorable, the "wow, why did they make that!" in HORROR MEMORABILIA!
So with that, I begin my journey. I suppose everyone has their favorite piece of memorabilia. Be it a worn out vhs copy of The Horror of Frankenstein, an autographed photo of Vincent Price, a Pinhead action figure, or even a Freddy Krueger Snowglobe! I've seen collections that showcase a specific movie, trend, character, or just anything that a fan could get their hands on.

Personally, my collecting habits are a little(or maybe vastly depending on your definition of "fan") different. I've always focused on collecting VHS and DVDs. Just as recent as 2001, I began collecting autographs from horror stars and icons. But, in between being a young lad watching Creepshow and being a loud and obnoxious adult who watches movies like "The Carpenter", I've amassed a small collection of neat knick knacks that make my room go from "smelly basement" to "creep, smelly basement with slashers everywhere!".

Obviously my collection, much like yours I'm sure, has it's favorite...

Yep! Surprised aren't ya? Obviously everyone's collecting habits are different. Me? I like unique crazy stuff that you would find at a yard sale or a collectible store and say "wow! what is THIS?!?!?". For example:

A Freddy Krueger YOYO?!?! Yep, in the late 80s as Freddy and the Elm Street saga was slashing it's way to the top, we began to see silly merchandise opportunities for the Springwood Slasher. Freddy was everywhere. His glove was a very popular Halloween accessory. He appeared as action figures, in comic books, squeeze balls, sticker albums, pajamas, even a CAR SUN SHADE! These are just tiny examples. I could go on and on. The point is, when it comes to horror, most people don't want the movie to end after the credits! They want to live it by any means necessary! And this is where the merchandising really comes in handy.

Are you on a long trip and that radio is making your ears bleed? Sit back and enjoy "Freddy's Greatest Hits" by Freddy and the Elm Street Group. Yep, Robert Englund himself stepped into the studio to lay down some tracks with an allstar band called "the Elm Street Group" in this release. And of course the answer the yes...I DO have this entire record on my iPod. What can I say, it comes in handy when traveling to horror conventions!

Even a board game! Wow! What better way to spend Friday night with the family than celebrate your favorite killer? Don't forget the popcorn!

Perhaps my favorite piece of Freddy Krueger merchandise would be the infamous "Talking Doll" released in 1989 by Matchbox Toys. Most famous for those little diecast cars, the nice folks at Matchbox figured they would take a chance by releasing a doll of that pizza-faced maniac. And it would worked too...

That is until a bunch of parents had a problem with it. I mean a HUGE problem. A lot of parents objected to walking down the toy aisle and hearing a doll scream "Welcome to Elm Street" and a handful of other phrases. This WAS 1989 though. At that point the worst we had seen was Skeletor. So, after a hearing enough Matchbox took the toy out of the stores and pretty much stuck with toy cars. But that wasn't Freddy's last hoorah in the toy aisle.

In 1998 Todd McFarlane and his company "McFarlane Toys" released a new toy line called "Movie Maniacs" with consisted of Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and would eventually have many other horror luminaries including Edward ScissorHands, Predator, Ash from Evil Dead, The Terminator and many many others. These figures were extremely detailed down to a T. Everything was represented perfectly; his glove, the sweater, the hat, even that sinister snear that Freddy get's when he decides to gut his victim. These figures were and still are, highly collectible and very sought after due to their fantastic craftmanship. A variant in the line showed the characters with blood stains all over their bodies to simulate the villains at what they do best, and we all know what that means!

Many other companies have put their finger in the Freddy pie. Releasing many Freddy-related merchandise from lunchboxes, toys, posters, t-shirts, wallets, even a Halloween candy dish! The merchandising has become a little bit more refined these days. Now you can walk into Spencers and find Freddy dolls and bracelets and shirts. Heck, FYE still has many Freddy merch as well! It's all fantastic too. It puts horror out there for the masses to enjoy. Besides who wouldn't want a 3-D Poster replica of the original Elm Street theatrical poster!

But what's collectible for me, could very well be garbage to you. And that's alright! Collecting is all about personal taste! I'll return to this subject in the near future. There's so many great pieces of merchandising and horror subjects with odd merchandising that I'd like to cover and will. I hope you'll return to enjoy the trip with me
Next entry: I return to discuss horror anthology films! Thanks for reading!