Saturday, January 30, 2010

Watching Necropolis

[The following occurred a few days ago, after the writer decided to search the "Impact" OnDemand folder for newly posted horror movies. WARNING: Minor Spoilers]

AMM: Hhmm...Necropolis sounds interesting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

H.P. Brickcraft

Thanks to many childhood experiences of making original characters (and monsters) with Legos, I have a great appreciation for people who figure out creative ways to make things with those nifty little plastic bricks. So you can imagine my reaction to EvilJester1214's Lego/Lovecraft ad parody:

I tried searching for any Cthulhu Lego how-tos, but found something even better: a massive Lego diorama depicting explorers tangling with a variety of Lovecraftian monsters.

I was, however, baffled and a bit annoyed by the random insertion of Doctor Who characters into the mix. I did some further research into the matter and found that there were a few Doctor Who novels featuring Cthulhu Mythos references. Although I'm less confused now, I'm still a bit annoyed by the Doctor's appearance. It's more than a little goofy to me that all-powerful alien "gods" can get beat up by some guy in a time machine. After all, much of the horror from Lovecraft's stories stems from how the Great Old Ones and Outer Gods can't be defeated. Also, wouldn't a being capable of defeating Cthulhu & co. take their place among the races that worshiped them? Frenzied chants to a man who lives in a mysterious blue box just wouldn't have the same "umph" that stuff like "...those grinning caverns of earth's centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players" has.

Even if you disagree with me on the above, I'm sure we all can agree on this: Lovecraft's mind would be blown if he ever found out people were recreating things from his horror stories using kids' toys.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Angry Beavers: The Day the World Got Really Screwed Up

Nicktoons generally have at least one Halloween episode.  Doug, The Mighty B, Catscratch, SpongeBob SquarePants and Rocko's Modern Life have had one.  I hardly need to mention Danny Phantom in this paragraph.

None of the aforementioned shows can hold a candle to The Angry Beavers' late-October 1998 episode, "The Day the World Got Really Screwed Up."  Titular rodents Norbert (Nick Bakay) and Daggett (Richard Steven Horvitz) go trick-or-treating on October 30, in an ill-fated attempt to avoid the Halloween candy rush.

By pure luck, they arrive at the home of their B-movie idol, Oxnard Montalvo.  A meteor has crashed on Montalvo's property.  Statues of monsters come to life, Daggett gets pissy and bad things generally happen.  Since it's a Nicktoon, lots of adult-oriented jokes are wadded into the episode.

Tom Kane is great as Montalvo, spewing the most hilariously insipid dialogue imaginable.  Kane plays Kane, his voice being one of the most identifiable in cartoons.  This is one of Kane's best-ever roles.

Jonathan Haze, a/k/a Seymour Krelboin from 1960's The Little Shop of Horrors, voices Mann Servante.  Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Creepshow, Swamp Thing) is cast as Toluca Lake.  Mission: Impossible's Peter Graves has a dual role as narrator and General Warning.

Former Screen Actors Guild president William Schallert voices Dr. Cowtiki, a man with a knack for both science and moving the plot along.  Cowtiki is the episode's authority figure, a default Schallert role.  Schallert is about as good as Kane, showing films and blandly explaining pseudoscience.

The best casting has to be John Byner as the alien - yes, Bizarre's John Byner.  The alien is feeding off reality in order to take over the universe, or something.  The alien's motivations aren't that clear.  It also has the tendency to repeat dialogue.

I have the tendency to repeat dialogue!

The thin joke of a plot is an excuse to show off monster designs.  Once possessed by the alien, Servante brings the creatures to life, turning Oxnard Montalvo's world into a black-and-white reality of madness.  Not surprisingly, Montalvo, Cowtiki and Lake don't live in the real world to begin with.

The Angry Beavers' odd sense of humour is amply demonstrated.  Redundant dialogue abounds.  Toluca Lake sprains her ankle repeatedly, screaming whenever it's dramatically convenient.  The military base has a Kit-Cat clock - at least, a version that won't get Nickelodeon sued.

This is, without a doubt, the best Angry Beavers episode.  It takes one of The Angry Beavers' core strengths - the juxtaposition of realistic artwork with cartoon beavers - and runs with it for a half hour.  This is to The Angry Beavers what "Toby Danger" is to Freakazoid!

The Angry Beavers is among the last of the great 1990s Nicktoons.  AB would be cancelled by Nickelodeon in 2001, in part due to its breaking the fourth wall in one unproduced episode.  It's never a good idea to make fun of the network paying your cheques, doubly so when it's Nickelodeon and the show specifically states that it's ending.

More of The Angry Beavers' horror film allusions will be mentioned in future GdL articles.  They're a staple of Norbert and Daggett's viewing habits, the horror parodies being the best parts of the show.

Remember, anything is possible...if it happens.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Horror's MARVELous Influence

It just occurred to me just how much Marvel Comics seems to have been influenced by the horror genre when it came to creating some of their superhero characters. And no, I'm not talking about how many of them either made their debut in or had stories published in former horror/sci-fi comics such as Tales of Suspense, Journey into Mystery, Strange Tales, Amazing Fantasy, and Tales to Astonish.

Sure, it's pretty obvious how certain horror stories influenced the Incredible Hulk. Dr. Banner's (usually) unwilling transformation into the destructive force that is the Hulk nicely mirrors Dr. Jekyll's relationship with his Mr. Hyde persona. Like Universal's take on Frankenstein's monster, the very large and very strong Hulk often comes into conflict with people who deal with things they fear (and don't understand) by attacking them. Like Frankenstein's monster, the Hulk's limited intelligence and speaking abilities also impede his efforts to find peace. Those factors might also explain why both have befriended small children.

However, what you might not know is that the Hulk's origin story seems to be lifted from The Amazing Colossal Man (which came out about five years before the first issue of the Hulk's comic book). Think about it: both involve a scientist being mutated due to exposure to an experimental bomb blast while trying to rescue the driver of a vehicle stranded in the test area! Come to think of it, I wonder if the name "The Amazing Colossal Man" could have influenced Marvel's decision to add adjectives to the titles of many of their superhero titles (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Uncanny X-Men, etc).

Even those without much knowledge of the character can tell that Dr. Henry Pym (aka Ant-Man) is based on The Incredible Shrinking Man. The influence become more apparent when one realizes that Dr. Pym made his debut in a science fiction story called "The Man in the Ant Hill" in 1962, wherein he is accidentally shrunk in an experiment and has to battle ants in order to survive. By his next appearance, Pym has mastered the ability to change size and created a device that lets him communicate with his former foes.

Also, is it merely a coincidence that both the Mighty Thor's alter ego and the title character in Monster on Campus are both named Dr. Donald Blake? Pat yourself on the back if you guessed that the horror movie came out years before Thor made his first appearance!

But this (seeming) influence also works in reverse. The monster costume used in 1962's Hand of Death was a blatant rip-off of the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing, right down to the trench coat and sunglasses disguise used when both characters try to blend in with the general public. I must admit to originally thinking the Thing was the rip-off until I took the time to research the year the first issue of the Fantastic Four was published: 1961. Now if only I could get a definitive answer as to whether Full Moon's Doctor Mordrid was originally planned as a licensed adaptation of Doctor Strange or if it was just a shameless rip-off...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Free D&D: 2nd Edition

My monthly visit GdL's Google Analytics page revealed that August's "Free D&D" entry seems to have gotten fairly popular. So as a special treat, here's another batch of free downloads culled from Wikipedia:

Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill should be of interest to horror fans who play RPGs.

Similarly, Palace of the Silver Princess is interesting due to the cool monster on the cover and the fact that the original "banned" version (more info here) is now available online.

Dare you uncover the strange secret of Dungeonland and The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror?

Wizards of the Coast's general downloads page offers The Secret of Bone Hill and a plethora of other freebies. They include (but aren't limited to):

City of Gold
Fires of Zatal
Gold and Glory
Endless Armies
Ronin Challenge
Test of the Samurai
The Savage Frontier
Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw

Finally, it should be stressed that the disclaimer from the Free D&D "First Edition" applies to this (and any future) installment(s). Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Down, Down, Down

You might know that Ween wrote a song for Spongebob Squarepants, and you might be cool to know that The Ghastly Ones did the music for the Halloween episode. Perhaps then, you might remember a live-action episode sandwiching Tom Kinney in a pirate costume in between cartoons, which ended with this song. Just discovered that it was Lux Interior singing. I guess I was a real birdbrain, myself.

We lost a good one last year. Shame.

Channel 68 Memories

Maybe it's due to writing about some video rental store memories in my last post or maybe it's just nostalgia for the "the old days" sparked by my dissatisfaction with the place I'm currently stuck in, but I've been thinking a lot about my past lately. More specifically, I've been thinking about Channel 68 (aka WABU).

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 (corpses to bury)

(and only two cups of coffee left.)

Goodness Ghoulies, where has my head been? Weird Jon and the Atomic Mystery Monster come back and I disappear. Dig, dig, dig.

2009 ended with the finale of Season 2 of Transylvania TV and the X-mas special of Spook House Dave. Check them out. If you scrounge up some spare silver-dollars, throw them their way. Puppets. We've got some more puppetry coming up this year along with some other stuff. 

Man, it's good to have WJ back. Sorry I've gone underground and been quiet for a while but it happens to the best of us. But a good gravedigger never stays buried for long.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bloody New Fear!

I honest was going to call this entry "Bloody New Year," but I didn't want people to think that I was going to review British schlockmeister Norman J. Warren's Bloody New Year (also known as Time Warp Terror in the UK). Instead, all I'm offering is a trailer (thanks to Unhinged1980s' channel), some memories and a wish that you all have a Happy New Year.

Although I've never seen Bloody New Year, it holds a special place in my heart. I first saw the VHS release as a little kid in Connecticut during one of the family trips to a little "mom and pop" store called "Absolute Video." It was my first "real" video store I had ever been to, as all prior rentals had been done at the public library. Even then, I was a horror fan and would sneak off from the kiddie section as soon as I got a chance. In addition to the standard classic horror films and 80's slasher series, Absolute Video had several tapes whose covers always fascinated me and etched themselves into my brain: Mako: The Jaws of Death. Link. April Fool's Day. Prince of Darkness. The Wizard of Gore. The Being. The Kindred. And of course Bloody New Year. Although my parents did let me watch certain horror movies, they drew the line at those movies. And yet they let my younger brother and I watch Prophecy. Go figure.

There was something about its cover, an odd mix of cheesy and cool that always drew my eyes toward it whenever I visited. It's easy to imagine some employee at Academy Home Entertainment desperately gussying up a skeleton borrowed from a high school science class with various goods from the local party supply store, just so they can collect a bonus promised by the boss. But I kid because I love. In the age of DVD and Blu-Ray, covers like this are a rarity.

It's been ages since my last visit to Absolute Video. Sadly, there will never be another visit, as they closed up during the late 90's. I've long since forgotten what business eventually moved in the vacated space. The same went for another video store from my childhood, Stop and Shop Video. That part of the grocery chain shut down, apparently due to increased competition from Blockbuster Video. Although I do not know the exact fate of the "Video Galaxy 2" (yet another rental store from my youth), I fear it has also gone the way of Absolute Video and Stop and Shop Video.

As for those movies whose covers fascinated me, I've actually managed to track down and watch April Fool's Day and The Being. They haven't disappointed. Maybe I'll write about them someday; It's a whole new year full of untold promises. Hell, maybe I'll even get to see Bloody New Year one of these days!

Happy New Year!