Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Near Departed by Richard Matheson

**(out of 4 stars)
Another short from the collection, I AM LEGEND.
Written by:  Richard Matheson
Originally published in 1987
(It's so short that I talk pretty openly about the ending.  Read it first before reading this.)

I've reviewed and gave my opinions on some short stories, but The Near Departed is extremely short.  About three pages long.  Whew.

The characters:  The small man and the mortician.

Plot:  A small man (that's all we know him as) walks into a funeral parlor.  He's making preparations for his wife's funeral.  He wants everything perfect.  Just perfect.

The mortician assures him that everything will go smoothly and not to worry.  The little man repeats himself about how important that everything be ready and set for the tragic occasion. "Everybody loved her.  She's so beautiful.  So young.  She has to have the very best.  You understand?"

The mortician continues to assure the little man.

The great thing about these stories is the punch line.  The final daggar.  That last sentence.

Finally satisfied that everything will go as planed, the small man exits, and the mortician asks, "When did she die?"

Not to be too loud, the little man replies quietly and more to himself, "As soon as I get home."

It's the final sentence that will make you go "ohhhhh".  I kind of chuckled myself.  I think it's pretty brilliant.

The underlying theme is about marriage and what it can do to someone. I'm assuming the little man and his wife have had a pretty long and sustainable relationship.  The sparks die, and can't be rekindled.  The small man gets fed up and basically offs his own wife.

But what if the little bastard gets home and his wife has something in store for him?

The story is so short that you can go anywhere with it.  That's what makes it fun.  We bounce into the lives of these characters, not knowing too much into the past.  We just arrive.  So, we can have fun and go in our own direction.  That's the brilliance of a well-crafted short story.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Prey by Richard Matheson

****(out of four stars)

I read this story from I AM LEGEND
Written by:  Richard Matheson
Originally published in 1969

Long before films like Chucky, Demonic Toys and half of Full Moon Entertainment's catalog of films, there was a little short story gem written by Richard Matheson called, Prey.  

You've probably seen Trilogy of Terror, an anthology film based on three of Matheson's works.  The final episode, the one where Karen Black is terrorized by the Zuni fetish doll is based on this very short. 

The story starts with our girl, Amelia, coming home after purchasing a Zuni fetish doll as a present for her boyfriend.  She opens the case and examines the doll.  Matheson describes it having a skeletal body with an over-sized head. The mouth is home to razor-sharp teeth, and he's grasping a long spear in his hand. A gold chain is with the doll, and a scroll that reads, "This is he who kills.  He is a deadly hunter."  

Weird gift.  Anything to impress the BF.

She talks to her mother, who is overly possessive, a bit jealous, needy and annoying. Amelia is a 33 year old treated like a teenager. Apparently she lives on her own but keeps a room at her mother's house, who constantly reminds her that she doesn't visit enough. Arthur is her boyfriend, he's an anthropologist. Amelia likes him, obviously, but mother, not so much.

The doll manages to fall off the table resulting in the gold chain slipping off.  This is a pivotal part in the story, because this chain offers some protection.  Once off, the doll comes to life and is ready to... you guessed it, hunt.

What follows is the doll terrorizing Amelia for the rest of the story.  She tries her hardest to conquer the damned thing but she just can't get the upper hand.  As she kicks, and screams and writhes for page after page, I'm thinking back to the very beginning - before she walks into the apartment.  

From what Amelia says, she sees the thing in a store, and since Arthur is an anthropologist, she thinks he'll just love the doll.  Amelia is ready for the next commitment in her life.  She's away from her over-bearing mother, and Arthur seems like the guy she wants to be with for the foreseeable future.  Amelia seems like a woman who would do just about anything for some attention.  Attention given to her by somebody other than her own mother.  Maybe she has friends, but I highly doubt she has many.  She's probably a virgin and Arthur is probably her first real serious boyfriend.  She must stay balanced with his needs and her mother's. That's probably a real chore.  

Amelia's heart seems to be in the right place, but her gift, that she so eagerly sought out in hopes of impressing her love, will inevitably be a bad decision.  The doll doesn't die.  It can't die. Amelia ends up fighting a losing battle the entire story.  (Just like the battle with bf and mom.  One will get sick of the other, which will prove to be cancerous to both relationships and Amelia will be the one who loses the most in the end.) Once the doll's essence is released, it consumes Amelia's spirit and takes over.  

And who is the first person Amelia calls to come hang out?  


I loved this story for many reasons.  I loved the vulnerability of Amelia.  She's written so naturally. You feel as though you know people like this - starving to be wanted and loved, yet having to release themselves from the umbilical cord.  The Zuni fetish doll is interesting too.  It hunts right away.  It's a gift for a person who studies human behavior.  And one thing about us humans that can't be denied throughout history is our hunger for blood lust and violence. We've been killing each other since the dawn of time.  

We're the hunters.

We're the prey.


Monday, September 14, 2015

JAWS: Book vs Movie

I can't remember the first time I saw Jaws.  I do remember it was at a very young age.  The film was a favorite of mine when I was a younger man browsing the video stores of my town.  I swear that I rented that film a dozen or so times in the late eighties and early nineties.  There are so many vivid scenes that stand out in my mind.  Scenes that we stick me even if I never, ever watch the movie again.  The first scene with the first victim; how she swam out into the dark ocean, carefree and adventurous.  Nobody except her unconscious boyfriend knew she was out there.  All of a sudden there's a tug from beneath the waters.  Her expression terrified me.  Her jutting gasps of air still ring in my ears to this day.  Then, she's gone.  The last shot lingers on the cold, dark water.

I was scared shitless. 

Quint's death has never left my mind either.  One of my favorite scenes in film history.  The shark launches itself onto the boat, and chomps down into Quint's abdomen.  The agonizing screams, the panic.  He fights to no avail.  The way he's taken under; arms sprawled and descending down into the murky, mysterious waters.  

Okay, enough gushing!  Back on topic.

I just finished the book last week.  I was so excited to see what the source material had to offer.  I knew going in that there were some differences.  I was curious about those differences.  The film omits much that the book offers to the reader.  Give the producers of Jaws credit for cutting out the dramatic stuff.  They wanted an adventure story straight through.  None of this mafia business with Mayor Larry Vaughn.  The affair with Brody's wife, Helen, and the handsome Matthew Hooper is a glaring, but appropriate omission from the film.  Helen's character is like night and day.  She's much more prominent in the book.  In the film she's not nearly as important. 

The Shark

Let's start there.  He's the central character in the book and film.  Reading Peter Benchley's description of the shark made me feel, at times, like I was reading an academic book about sharks.  He admits having an immense interest with the animals and studies them vigorously.  His passion for sharks certainly seeps through the pages.  The shark is portrayed as a mindless killing machine, same as in the film.  The shark, although mindless, definitely has an agenda.  He won't go away.  The impulse to feed is unbearable.  The victims grow in numbers. Those damned beaches of Amity.  He's a monster so huge, that even God himself is saying, "What did I create?"

Because of mechanical malfunctions the mechanical shark didn't always work for Spielberg on set.  Verna Fields had the intuition to deliberately give the shark less screen time, thus amping up the scares for the unknown, unseen horror.  It worked well.  If you would see the shark more in the film those scares would diminish over time.  You would be able to tell that it was a fake shark crafted by the hands of a human.  Less is always more.  The POV shots are incredibly genius.  The camera is under the kicking feet and the thrashing arms.  The presence of the shark is felt without seeing him on screen.  There are times when you do see the shark; mostly the fin rising above the surface and giving chase, or the massive jaw with rigid teeth rising out of the water in hopes of devouring something.  And what about the anthem of the great fish? Whenever we hear that iconic music we know the shark is damn close.

The Characters

Police Chief Martin Brody.  He's the character I have the most sympathy for in both book and film.  He's a man with so much on his plate.  If it's not one thing it's another.  Martin Brody in the book is worse off than he is in the film.  He realizes from the very first shark attack that the beaches must be closed until further notice.  Mayor Larry Vaughn and his money hungry business partners think otherwise.  Although Mayor Vaughn seems to be a completely selfish human being, he's really got a great point.  The town of Amity just can't thrive without the summers financial income.  The decision to close the beaches is similar to slicing the throat of the town.  Brody comes under the scrutiny of the townsfolk because their businesses dry up.  He overrides his better judgment (after being threatened termination by Vaughn) and opens the beaches.  That means more fish food for the killer shark.  The shark does continue to feed. Meanwhile, Brody has to deal with his cheating wife, Helen.

The book version of Helen is very unlikeable.  At times there are moments where you may find some fine line to sympathize with her, but as the story progresses and you see inside her mind. She comes off as nothing more than a spoiled housewife.  She has a longing for her past.  She's feeling old, useless and miserable.  She doesn't find her husband attractive anymore, and she's quick to spark a fling with Matt Hooper, who is just as easily unlikeable.  In one scene in the book she has a dinner party and invites Hooper.  The entire party she flirts with him while Brody tries to keep his cool.  This scene alone made me despise her.  The affair doesn't last long, and Helen does come to regret what she did.  The affair was so pointless.  But if Hooper had lived what then?

Matt Hooper of the film is one of my favorite characters, but in the book I can't stand him.  Part of the charm is Richard Dreyfuss, who plays Hooper perfectly.  In the film there is a camaraderie with Hooper and Brody, while in the book they butt heads constantly.  The definitive similarity is the fact that Matt Hooper is a shark expert who wants nothing more than to know and understand the animal.  He wants to study it rather than kill it.  Matt Hooper's death in the book comes because of his curiosity.  He gets what he wants, the chance to get close to the shark, to see it with his own eyes.  The shark also gets what he wants.

And Quint.  Quint is Quint not matter how you slice it.  He's cantankerous. He's got a dry sense of humor and wit.  And he's got enough stories to know that he's been around or a long time.  He knows what he's doing.  He's determined to catch the big one.  In the film Quint is played by Robert Shaw.  This performance is one of the finest in the movie, if not, the finest.  Robert Shaw echoes what my first impressions of Quint are:  He's as mysteries as the water he travels on.

Harry Meadows is a prominent character in the book.  He's a newspaper man, who uncovers truths about Mayor Vaughn's association with the mafia.  He gets Matt Hopper involved by hiring him, after going against Brody's decisions to close the beaches.  He tries to be helpful to the town and assists in doing what he can to get rid of the shark.  He's obese and is one cheeseburger shy from a heart attack, but manages to outlive most of the characters in the book.

The book or the film?  I like them both.  The film is a straight up adventure story with great, compelling characters that are fun to revisit twice a year.  I love Benchley's voice.  I wasn't a fan of the mob stuff and the affair.  They slow the story down.  I'll always go back to the film.  I grew up with it and it's one fine piece of genius cinema made by a then 26 year old kid named Steven Spielberg.

While they're out there fighting for the town of Amity - the people, the victims and the safety of the community - that's where I had the most fun.



Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Driller Killer (1979)

Some film lovers believe that the 1970's was the best decade for movies.  They felt real, gritty, and dirty.  An upsurge of movies came out by directors who were making them cheaper.  It was also the decade where top echelon filmmakers would be putting their art out there for the world to see.  Scorsese, Coppola, Speilberg, Lucas and DePalma were all young aspiring filmmakers traveling on a new course, with a new destination.  Whether out on the sea, or wars in deep space, the films were more ambitious, bigger and exciting than ever before.

Talk about real.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the best films ever made and the raw imagery makes it feel like a documentary.  The Exorcist is still scaring people to this day.  And every kid with a few bucks and a computer is trying to replicate what Carpenter did with Halloween.  Horror films in the seventies was a truly defining decade.  The monsters of the seventies were pulled from the headlines; likely somebody you'd run into on the street.  Vampires, werewolves, and creatures from the deepest depths weren't nearly as scary or vivid any longer.

Abel Ferrara's The Driller Killer is one of those films you have to experience a few times to get a full grasp on it.  That's not a bad thing either.  Great films command that from the viewer.  Returning a few times may shed some light on something missed the first time around.  To understand what exactly is supposed to be happening and why we may descend into madness is to also understand the character and his development, or lack thereof.

From the start of The Driller Killer we know that the character, Reno (billed as Jimmy Laine, but actually played by director Ferrara), just isn't right up in the head.  There seems to be a few screws loose.  In the very first scene he walks into a church and is mesmerized by a crucifix.  An old man with shaggy hair and a beard stares at him and then grabs him.  Reno runs for his life, out of the church and into the awaiting squalid streets of New York City.  Religious overtones run rampant in Ferrara's films.  I'm not sure what this first scene is supposed to tell us.  My first guess would be that Reno fears Jesus, and that the old man would be Jesus.  Perhaps calling him home; death is knocking and Reno just isn't ready or fears he'll be sentenced to burn.  I believe that those thoughts would be swirling in Reno's deranged mind.

He's a struggling artist, testy with the people in his life, especially his girlfriend.  His apartment is filthy.  He's got no money.  And now he's being driven even more insane by a punk band that lives in his apartment.  The Roosters, headed by singer, Tony Coca-Cola, play the same tune over and over again, with the same groupies hanging on and the same drugs being passed around.  I like these scenes.  Ferrara is giving us a glimpse as to what the early punk rock scene looked like in New York City.

The streets of New York City offers no escape for Reno.  He watches as a man is stabbed in the back and robbed.  The stabbed man is bloody and writhing on the littered streets as on-lookers just... look.  Reno is fixated by this abrupt act of violence.

Derelicts line the streets.  Reno sees them as nothing more than skittering cockroaches.

His slow descend into madness is amped up by the fact that he lives in the city.  The city is the real bad guy.  Reno is just a rain drop in the storm.  From one scene to the next, Reno descends deeper and deeper into madness.  Meanwhile, the Roosters continue to play loud and sloppy tunes at all hours.  Reno just can't finish his god awful buffalo painting.  His art begins to struggle, as if it hadn't already.

All throughout the movie Reno verbally assaults his girlfriend as she stares at him with little to no expression.  I had to chuckle when her first outburst came from him devouring the greasiest pizza I've ever seen.  This pushed her buttons, obviously because he hadn't saved her a piece with green peppers. 

Reno is forever prisoner in his mind.  There's no escaping his abyss.  He snaps.  What triggers it?  I'm not sure.  Like I said, from the very first frame of film you can tell he's operating on less than what is needed to function like a normal human being.  Reno is Travis Bickle.  They're from the same mold.  They smolder in the chaos of New York City.  Fueled by some inner rage that flickers, only for the moment, then explodes instantaneously.

His course of violence is long and brutal.  He goes straight for the weak; those derelicts lining the filthy, disease-ridden streets.  With his handy drill he mutilates victim after victim.  In one particularly gruesome scene we see the drill enter a man's forehead, with no cutaway shot, and continue to burrow into his brain, lobotomizing him.  That scene is impressive for the special effect.  Reno hunts mercilessly.

Unsurprisingly, the film made its way onto the Video Nasties list and was banned in the UK.  It's an originator in the slasher sub genre of film, with a high body count and some pretty good violence.  The difference between this and other slashers is it takes a while for the killing to begin.

It's slow-moving but eventually gets to the goods and holds nothing back.  It's real, raw and uncompromising.

Starring:  Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day
Written by:  Nicholas St. John
Directed by:  Abel Ferrara
96 min


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lords of Salem (2013)

**** (out of 4 stars)

Rob Zombie's latest film, Lords of Salem, is quite frankly, superb.

Setting aside the incessant negative criticism that Rob Zombie has received, Lords of Salem is a masterpiece.

I'm talking every single frame of film.  From the dreary setting of Salem, Mass., to the unsettling score by Zombie guitarist, John 5, to the exceptional cinematography by Brandon Trost. Even the acting, especially by the lead, Sherri Moon Zombie.  She plays Heidi, a nightly radio DJ.  After receiving a record by a band named The Lords, she starts to experience ghastly visions that she cannot fathom.  Visions of a hairy behemoth bathed in red light, or Satan himself - a little disfigured monstrosity, naked witches with sagging flesh and rotten teeth, or tentacled creatures that don't resemble anything earthly.

We're on this odd journey with Heidi.  We sympathize with her.  We jump on and go for the ride because that's what good acting allows.  We're put in the situations; we feel alone and vulnerable.  We're left in the dark because the oddities and horrors that take place are unknown.

Zombie starts to pull back the curtain after a little bit.  We start to get little morsels of information about what the hell is really going on.  It seems as though there's a three hundred year old grudge.

The real witches of Salem were condemned and killed; approximately 20 people.  There was no evidence that anything supernatural was going on.  They were killed because of anger, fear, jealousy and ignorance.  Nothing more.  But the witches in Lords of Salem are brewing some nasty stuff.  They're evil, make no mistake about it.  The equally reprehensible Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne kills Margaret Morgan and her coven of witches.  As they're cooked and charred on the stake, they vow to avenge themselves by placing a curse on the generations of women to come in Salem.

The camera moves in and out.  A lot.  It's taking us on a tour with the characters and their surroundings.  The apartment that Heidi lives in, especially the dreaded room 5, is a character itself.  Those slow moves with the camera give the hallway a creepy vibe, much like what Kubrick did in The Shining.  It's like slowly walking to death's door.  Embracing the unknown.

Zombie's direction, the pace of the editing, the uncompromising score, makes this one hell of a compelling film to follow.  Every scene is building a new layer, yet revealing something more.

There really is no defending Halloween II but I'd say that Zombie has built a strong filmography since his debut, House of 1,000 Corpses.

Understand that whenever we see a new movie it's always paying homage to something that came before it.  That's how it's always been with film.  Nothing will be completely new or original.  Yes, some come closer than others but in most cases cinema will rely on what it has given us.  And even though you shed some old ideas and pick them back up, you must mold them into your own.

I see tons of Kubrick, Polanski and Russell in Lords of Salem.  I see the similarities that I'm sure were put there purposely.  That doesn't mean the movie is any less good.  It stands on its own two feet, and I do believe that one day it will be considered a modern classic.  How many good films are out there about the Salem witch trials?  This is the best.  Fictional or otherwise.

The horror genre, much like Heidi, isn't doing too well these days.

Lords of Salem is that rare gem that pretty much went unnoticed when it came out.  I'd take that over some of the garbage being put out regularly.

It's like a shiny gold nugget on top of a pile of steamy excrement.

Starring:  Sherri Moon Zombie, Meg Foster and Bruce Davison

Written and directed by:  Rob Zombie


101 min


Monday, March 30, 2015

Confessions From An Angry Artist #5: Making Three Lives Come Together Perfectly!

When you attend the New York Film Academy's 12 week program you are required to complete three film projects.  The first is a continuity film.  I wrote about this experience in another post a few months back.  It was my short film called, Russian Roulette.  After that first project I was really depressed and questioned many things.  Should I even be doing this?  Am I cut out for this?  Filmmaking takes time and dedication.  When you work with a crew it's all in or nothing.  But on Russian Roulette everything seemed to fall apart.  The actor I casted stood me up the morning of the shoot.  My other actor, Adrian, got sick and went home after Sid's shoot and Annie was difficult to work with behind the camera.

Should I have given up?  No.  Never.  That is not an option.

The first piece of great news came on the night that we actually reviewed all of the continuity films.  For all the drama and bullshit that played out during the making of Russian Roulette, it was actually well-received by my classmates and instructor, Billy Tyler Smith.  Aside from a few gripes everyone really liked it.  That feeling was quite good and it lifted my spirits immediately.  I took something that I didn't think had a chance to be glued together and made it my own.  And having others say positive things about it was even better for my confidence.  

The second piece of good news came after class when Billy told us that he'd be changing up the groups.  This meant that Annie was no longer in my group.  It was for the better.  We just didn't gel at all.  Fortunately, Sid and Adrian would be sticking around.  Taylor, another girl in the class took Annie's spot.  I was still kind of worried that Adrian would flake out again and come up with a million different excuses why he couldn't finish the full day's shoot and all the projects.  

Nonetheless, our second project was a music video.  Not a band playing to their music, but a video with the music telling the story.  Billy stressed that we tell our story with image and music.  Being a death metal fan I immediately went to something dark and heavy.  My first choice was Six Feet Under's Braindead, from he album, Bringer of Blood.  I wanted to shoot an autopsy scene in a hospital with the song telling the story.  My shooting and editing would've made this perfect because this was the style I was going for.  With time restraints, and location problems this just wasn't feasible.  You have to remember we only had a few days to prep for the project, because not only were you prepping for yours, but you were prepping for the others in the group too.  

I was always a huge Donnie Darko fan and fell in love with Gary Jules' version of Mad World from that soundtrack.  I listened to that song over and over again the ideas immediately started to brew.  My wife Jackie, and I, started bouncing ideas off each other.  We began storyboarding, and soon this story about three very different people living three very different lives began to take shape.  The outcome for these three lives would all be the same:  heartache, dispair, failures, addictions, and loss.

I wasn't about to retrace my first mistakes and depend on people who I knew I couldn't trust to show up and help.  This time I would use real people and challenge myself as a director.  I used Sid once again, because he was just so menacing in Russian Roulette and I knew he was dependable.  I used Jackie's cousin, Pam, and her father, Willie.  Jackie was a gimme because she was already trained as an actor from guess where?  

Did you guess New York Film Academy?  

Then you're correct.

On the first day of shooting we snuck into the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  Jackie and I had a specific location:  her father's head stone.  I loved shooting in the cemetery because it was April on an overcast day, and it just looked so beautifully bleak.  Adrian ran the camera while I just concentrated on direction.  This was perfect for me.  Adrian and I got along so well.  The first thing I noticed on this shoot was how much more relaxed I was without Annie involved.  It was just me and my little crew doing what we love best: telling stories. 

Jackie was completely natural in her ability to act.  She did go through the real loss of a loved one.  So she knew how to act and react in the scene.  She's beautiful in it.  She's also extremely organized where as I'm the opposite.  So when I got lost, she'd put me back on track and helped me keep my mind on the project.  I get Jackie's loneliness.  It seeps through the screen.  I can feel the anger, sorrow and regret through her performance.  

Willie is credited as The Guitar Player.  Jackie's father was a guitar player, as is Willie, so this was another natural element to the film.  Raw and real is what I wanted.  Shooting Willie was a breeze because he really didn't have to do much.  Looking back, I'm so honored that he was in this because he was just so good.  His scene really gets to me because for me it is really happening.  I hope Willie realizes the talent that he possesses. 

After wrapping up the shots in the cemetery we head straight to our next location, Pam's bedroom.  Pam plays the struggling artist who just can't kick the addiction or maintain self control.  She never acted before this (that I know of anyway) so I was unsure of how this would turn out.  Pam is a truly gifted artist and the work you see in the film is hers.  When I shot Pam, we used minimal lighting.  I didn't want it to be bright in that room, because the character's life isn't bright at all.  She took direction well and seemed to know the character in and out.  She was usually one or two steps ahead of me.  She knew what was going on at all times on set.  She was ready each and every time I called action.  Maybe her true calling is acting.  

That night I went home to watch the dailies and was delighted at what I saw.  I knew right then and there that I had something good.  I just needed to finish up the film with Sid's shoot in the city.  

I chose to shoot Sid right in front of the NYFA building down in Union Square.  The reason was because we didn't need a permit and had every right to shoot there.  So I just made it easy and hung out there.  Sid plays the bum in the film.  It's funny because you can see people just staring at him, and they have no clue I'm running the camera.  At one point he was actually holding out his little can and asking for some change.  Sid was method during this shoot.  He was extremely convincing.  I love the scene where he pulls out the apple from the dumpster and takes a desperate bite.  That one pulls the heart strings just a bit.  We shot different endings for Sid.  For one ending I had Taylor give him some money and he mouthed the words, "thank you."  Once I edited the film it didn't make much sense because he would've been the only character with any closure.   

I finally wrapped and went into the editing suite to finish up.  My first edit wasn't too good.  The lives of the three people didn't mesh properly.  I showed the editing teacher and he said I should cut the film again.  "This time make sure you tell the story of the three people," he said. In the first cut, Jackie's character was in it more than the others.  I re-edited the film, this time,  giving each character their time.  The second cut weaves through all three characters naturally.

It was done.  I was excited; I wanted to show it off to everyone.  I hurried home and showed Jackie that night.  I could see how proud she was of the film.  It just came together so natural and perfect.

When I showed it to the class they all agreed that it was better than Russian Roulette.  Billy had a few odd remarks about the film.  He asked about Willie's character.  Evidently, he thought he was some pervert prowling around in the graveyard.  Most of us rolled our eyes when he made that remark.  I think it's pretty obvious what Willie's character represents.  Maybe Billy wanted to see something different, I'm not sure. Other than that he thought it was a good film. One kid, two seats down, said nothing after the film ended.  At first I thought he didn't like it.  After his long, dramatic pause he whispered, "That was beautiful."

I knew then that we made something incredibly special.  Just based off of that single remark. 

This shoot was the best one for me.  It was so easy, and everyone involved just gave me 100% of their time, dedication, and talent.  This is a piece of time I'll never forget and will always appreciate.  I still get many compliments on it today.  I, along with the rest of us, deserve them.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Under a Nightmare - Monsters 89 - Album Review

*** (out of 4 stars)

"Now the Armageddon's here.
They've got your sister.
The dead walk the earth.
You'll never see that bitch again"

- Blood on the Wall

Track Listing:

1.  Intro
2.  Can't Wait Till Halloween
3.  Blood On The Wall
4.  She's A Banshee
5.  Monsters 89
6.  Boneyard Road
7.  Lost
8.  Become The Stranger
9.  Ghost Town
10.  Shelly & The Vampire
11.  Into the Unknown
12.  Frankenweenie
13.  Take It To The Grave
14.  Devil's Dragstrip
15.  Curse of the Living
16.  Wish It Away
17.  Lay Upon The Dead
18.  Beneath
19.  You Haunted Me
20.  Between Madness
21.  Make Me A Zombie
22.  The Rotting
23.  Dead Youth 

Under a Nightmare is based out of Pittsburgh, Pa.  They formed in October 2002 and have been unleashing hell ever since.  The line up for Monsters 89 is:  Coffin Keenan - guitars/vocals, Marky Madness - guitar/vocals, Jordy Coroner - bass/vocals and The Cubscout - Drums.

Under a Nightmare's 2007 release, Monsters 89, is the perfect love child from punk and grudge.   In fact it's some of the best horror punk I've heard.  As a person following the band for many years, I've watched them grow from afar.  There's a perfect simplicity to Under a Nightmare that I really adore.  The catchy sing-a-long choruses, the guitar work, fast punk drums, and the howling of the bands guitarist/front man, Coffin Keenan.  Keenan has one of the better voices in the genre.  He reminds me of  T.S.O.L's Jack Grisham.  His vocal range keeps the band interesting and makes you want to hear the lyrics that he's singing.

Monsters 89 is packed with twenty-three songs.  Can't Wait Till Halloween starts the album off as a fast-paced, in your face, punk song.  I love when the bass comes in and really sets the tone for the tune.  From there, Blood On The Wall kicks in.  This is the song that made me want to purchase this album.  I love the opening guitar riff, and I love the solo later on.  This is one of the best songs on the album.  The title track, Monsters 89 has a great feel to it, and another great guitar opening that turns into a relentless horror punk attack.  My favorite track probably has to be Make Me A Zombie, a track near the end of the album.  Catchy all around.  A song I go to often when listening to the album.

But the above-mentioned tracks are just a sample taste.  There are so many other songs that are really great.  Frankenweenie is a return to the early days of The Misfits with all the Whoa-oh-ohs. Take it to the Grave starts off slow and groovy, then hits you the face with a hammer.  Never fear because for those of you who want mood, just check out the next to last track, The Rotting, where the acoustic guitar and keys are the driving point.  Keenan's vocals and lyrics for The Rotting are haunting too.  The last track of the album is Dead Youth, a great song, but a depressing reminder that the album is done.  Dead Youth is a great way to finish off.

Although Under a Nightmare has been prominent in the 2000's, I could easily see them finding success thirty years ago.  They sound like a band that could have came from the late 80's early 90's. Overall, this album is really great.  If you're a horror punk fan, do yourself the favor and pick this CD up.  They're currently working on a new record with some great material.  Anything you can purchase will help the band out.

Top five songs on the album:
Can't Wait Till Halloween, Make Me A Zombie, Blood On The Wall, Dead Youth, Monsters 89

Bass seems to be lost in the mix for certain songs, while others it's prominent.

Favorite Lyrics:
Make Me A Zombie

Get their music here: