Compact Macabre: A Selection of Horror Short Films, Part 3 of 3

Hey there, Fright Fans! Jenny here, bringing you the belated wrap-up of our Compact Macabre blog series. I’m here to bring you the weird, the strange, and the downright twisted that the Short Attention Span Theater has to offer. So without further ado, here are ten more shorts for those days when you don’t have time for a movie marathon!

Alexia, written and directed by Andre Borghi

Alexia is a 2013 Argentinian short that absolutely won my heart. Franco, played by Sergio Berón, tries to delete his ex-girlfriend (the titular Alexia) from his social media, with shocking results. Borghi manages to inject a commentary on love and loss into a tight 9 minutes, and also manages to fit some cool, creepy effects for good measure.

Bits and Pieces, written and directed by Jenn Wexler

This 3-minute, fun-sized treat was created for the 2013 Shock Till You Drop “Halloween Night” series, and stars Larry Fessenden as the guy with the best treats in town. As his nosy neighbor soon finds out though, he also has some tricks waiting!

The Cat With Hands, written and directed by Robert Morgan

This 4 minute film is short, but I wouldn’t describe it as sweet. Part live-action, part stop-motion, this film centers around the legend of a cat who wants to be human, and steals body parts from unsuspecting passersby. Warning: this film may make you doubt your cat’s intentions when they reach for you.

Firebase Volume 1, directed by Neil Blomkamp, and written by Neil Blomkamp and Thomas Sweterlitsch

We talked about 2005’s Alive in Joburg, the short that led to District 9, but Blomkamp has a vast catalogue of short films. In 2017, he started Oats Studios, a film studio dedicated to producing short films with the potential to become feature films. My favorite short from Oats Studios is Firebase, a 27-minute horror tale set in Vietnam. This short feels like the love child of Coppola and Lovecraft, and tells the story of the River God, as told by a soldier and some amazing visual effects. Sadly, Blomkamp’s plan to crowd-fund this into a full-length feature didn’t work out, but I hope someday that does come to fruition, because I need MORE of this story!

Ghost Train, written and directed by Lee Cronin

This Irish/Finnish short follows brothers Peter and Michael as they make their annual pilgrimage to the abandoned amusement park where their friend Sam disappeared when they were children. This year, however, the ghost train ride is ready to collect the remainder of their fare.

The House Call, directed by David Schuler and written by David Schuler and Julie Page

This 13-minute short follows a psychiatrist returning to work after a family tragedy. She is sent to make a house call, and quickly realizes it is more than it seems. If you love an exorcism story like I do, give this one a look!

Other Side of the Box, directed by Caleb J. Phillips and written by Caleb J. Phillips and Nick Tag

This 15-minute short has won 5 awards, including the Grand Jury Award for Short Films at SXSW, with good reason. A couple is making dinner when an old friend shows up with a cheerily wrapped gift, and makes a hasty exit. Opening the gift makes it immediately clear that this is more a curse than a gift. This odd, unsettling little film has a vibe that I would describe as Poe meets The Ring, and the filmmakers pack a lot of punch into 15 minutes.

The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, written and directed by Ari Aster

If you’re familiar with the work of Ari Aster, it shouldn’t surprise you that this, his directorial debut, is deeply disturbing. I would be remiss if I didn’t include a big trigger warning, as sexual assault is the cornerstone of this film. This film follows the Johnsons, a seemingly perfect family with some serious dark secrets. Raw, heartbreaking and bleak, this 29-minute film is not for everyone, but is a solid precursor to the direction Aster takes in later works.

Teaching Jake About the Camcorder, Jan ’97, created by Brian David Gilbert and Karen Han

This 10-minute short centers around a video of a father (played by creator Brian David Gilbert) showing his son how to use the camcorder, an “expensive piece of equipment.” As the tape is played over and over, the footage gets stranger and stranger. This odd little film won’t leave you with any answers, but is still a fun ride!

Through the Night, written and directed by Lee Cronin

This Irish short is brought to us by Lee Cronin, who also gave us Ghost Train. This film doesn’t have an amusement park, but is still a wild ride! It follows a couple who has been dealing with one partner’s chronic sleep issues, until they escalate to something far more sinister one night.

And there you have it-ten bite-sized samples of the best horrors in the dish. You can find Chris’s selections Here and Joe’s selections Here. Check them out and let us know what you think!

Compact Macabre: A Selection of Horror Short Films

Season’s Greetings, Fright Fans! Chris here. I’m hoping you are all well fed and warm as we wrap up 2022, and to us all transition into the new year, we are going to be doing a series of posts providing our personal selections for some of the best horror short films we’ve watched this year. I get the privilege of kicking things off, so let’s dive right in with my list of ten, in alphabetic order.

The Backrooms (2022) – by Kane Pixels

You ever play a video game and have a moment when you fall through the terrain or a wall? At the barest explanation, that is what 17-year-old Kane Parsons (aka Kane Pixels) did in this incredibly impressive and unbelievable short. An amateur film crew is making a film when the cameraman falls down, but he falls into another dimension instead of just landing on the ground. A seemingly never-ending maze of yellow wallpapered corridors lays before him, and an ominous presence may be waiting around any corner.

Made with zero budget and released on YouTube early this year, the initial short has gone on to develop a series of clips and shorts to expand this universe, with other fans contributing to the lore. Since the original short dropped, it has garnered over 43 million views! (Available on YouTube)

Do No Harm (2017) – by Roseanne Liang

When an elderly man with crime syndicate connections needs lifesaving surgery, he chooses well by getting a surgeon who will go to great lengths to insure that rival gangsters will . . . Do No Harm.

This has to be one of the more creative fight scenes I have ever seen in an operating room, even if that is a pretty short and niche list. The story, the pacing, and the resolution in this one are everything you can want in a short film. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)

Goodbye (2015) – by Tyler Russo

Picture combining parts of Phil Tippett’s Mad God with the aesthetics of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, and then set it in the employment office for the afterlife. That’s the best shorthand I have to describe this tasty and twisted bit of existential dread where a man who has died in a car accident faces a series of faces who will determine his placement. A great bit of stop-motion animation that may leave you questioning just what you have done with your life. (Available on YouTube)

Halloween: Harvest of Lost Souls (2013) – by Jay Burleson

Jay Burleson popped up on my radar this year with the festival release of faux franchise The Third Saturday In October and The Third Saturday In October Part V. No, there are no part II, III, or IV, and Burleson advises viewers to watch V before I. This kind of unconventional lunacy always gets my attention, and I did stream both films from the Popcorn Frights Festival in August.

After seeing them, I checked his IMDb and found he had done this fan-made trailer for a third Halloween film that never existed, but damn, would I love to see it! This short captures the homage-almost-parody line that Burleson would go onto do even better in his feature films. Eagerly anticipating anything else he releases, and I hope the TTSIO make it to Shudder or Screambox in the near future. (Available on YouTube)

Hide and Seek (Kakurenbo) (2013) – by Kayoko Asakura

I’ve found that I’m a sucker for Japanese ghost stories, and this bite-size bit was a satisfying selection. A young girl visits a house, seeking music lessons. The woman of the house seems slightly on edge from their first interaction, and the story unfolds from there. I feel this was a perfect and compact way to tell a story such as this, and I will say no more. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)

Honeymoon (2016) – by Ruth Pickett

I love comedies the way I love my coffee: black as midnight on a moonless night. Ruth Pickett delivered a savory cuppa in this short that at times reminded me of Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers. A slightly repressed and prudish couple booked an Airbnb for the titular honeymoon, but on arrival find that the cottage also meant for swiggers, role-players, and other kinky activities. It even comes with its own mistress to help with any problems you may have! Of course, a comedy of errors ensues, and the couple quickly strengthen their martial bond over disposing of a body and tapping into knowledge gained from true crime podcasts and TV shows. This was a great laugh to have in the middle of all the research viewing I was doing, and I hope it gives you a bit of a tickle as well. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)

Job Interview (2013) – by Julia Walter

With the current market, landing an interview can be brutal. Sometimes, the interview itself can be murder. In this German short, Lisa sits for an interview with her potential employer, Marie. Everything has the appearance of going well in this well-lit, fashionable business office, but appearances aren’t everything, are they? There is a delicious and well-crafted twist that I really enjoyed in this one that goes dark quicker than you may expect. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)

Not Alone In Here (2020) – by David F. Sandberg

Told almost exclusively through the interior monologue of the lead, we are given the story of a woman who lives alone yet feels that she is never truly alone. Is it all in her head? Settle in for six minutes of brilliant atmospheric horror and dread to find out. (Available on YouTube)

De Noche Y De Pronto (Suddenly, One Night) (2012) – by Arantxa Echevarria

By happenstance, I actually have a Christmas season short for my list with this entry from Spain. A woman is running late for a party when a desperate man, who says he is her upstairs neighbor, comes knocking at her apartment door. Claiming that someone broke into his flat while he was out and is still in there, he begs her to let him in. The next 20 minutes is an intelligently devised high stakes game of who do you trust. This one genuinely kept me guessing until the final moments. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)

Slut (2014) – by Chloe Okuno

After watching and loving Chole Okuno’s feature film Watcher, I obviously wanted to see more of her work. Well, this short from 2014 goes dark and gory in the best ways possible, and it may be my true favorite on my list. Lonely 16-year-old Maddy lives in a backwater Texas town with her wheelchair-bound and desperately craves love and romance, which she might only be able to find at the local roller rink. But, as bad luck would have it, she gets found by a sexual predator instead.

This short goes literally balls out faster than you will expect in its 21 minute runtime, and I highly recommend giving it a watch. You may be picking up your jaw from time to time. (Available on YouTube)

That wraps up my list! Be sure to check in weekly for Joe and Jenny’s lists to tide you over until we record again in early January. Thank you all for reading and listening. Happy Holidays!

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – LLAMAGEDDON (2015)

An episode of impulse viewing was brought on by the randomness of Amazon Prime’s recommendations recently. My thought process was pretty much, “No matter how bad it might be, I’m willing to give this film a full 69 minutes of my attention.”

Yes, Fright Fans. They deliberately made it with a 69 minute runtime.

2015’s LLAMAGEDDON is the crazy creation of director Howie Dewin who also co-wrote it with James Earl Cox III. Both appear in the film as Rob and Floyd, respectively.

Who knew alien llamas could be so cute?

In the animated opening that reminded me of old “Flash” media cartoons, a member of an invading force of space llamas, whose spaceship looks suspiciously like a horse trailer with wings, crash lands on Earth near a family farm in the middle of nowhere. Enter the “Killer Llama” (played by Louie The Llama) who shoots lasers from its eyes, spits mutagenic green goo, and wreaks havoc on the sexually active yet sadly unsuspecting owners of said farm.

Louie’s got lasers!

Enter nebbish dweeb Floyd and his dominating sister Mel who are given the responsibility of Meemaw and Pep Pep’s farm after their tragic passing. Mel bullies her bro into having a party with her collection of college friends, and the cannon fodder is quickly supplied for the alien’s wooly wrath!

One of Dan’s many stylish shirts . . .

I dare not say more regarding the story or plot, but this movie had me laughing more than I had in a long time. Not once does it take itself seriously, and never is there a care about the quality of a performance or the continuity between scenes. The character Dan (Dany Ambassa) changes his shirt 23 times through the film! Rob’s facial hair vanishes in a hallway when he turns a corner to use the bathroom! You even get the added bonus of watching the movie twice in one sitting if you hang out through the credits . . . because they replay the entire film in 4 minutes. And God bless ’em, they made only one alpaca joke, and it was NOT “alpacalypse” related.

Everything about this film just screamed to me that everyone was having a blast, drinking beers, blowing shit up, and splattering blood, goo, and gore on each other. So I strongly recommend cracking your own beer (or beverage of choice), grabbing some friends, and see how alien llama spit can make someone turn into a were-llama. What have you got to lose?

Available on Amazon Prime and Tubi

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now?!? – NUDIST COLONY OF THE DEAD (1991)

As I’ve stated before, and as this blog series shows, I tend to watch some obscure and flat-out weird titles from time to time. Rare is the time when I mention to Joe and Jenny a title I’m considering doing a write up on, and one of them has already seen it! Well, this gem scarred Joe in his youth, and now we all can share in the trauma.

Nudist Colony of the Dead was released in 1991, the year I graduated high school. As the opening credits declare, it was “written, rewritten, rewritten, and directed” by Mark Pirro and produced on a budget of about $35,000. The version I rented on Amazon Prime was the remastered version that combined numerous elements to try and make for a better final product. … Yes. This is indeed the better version of the film. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

Following a parody of the old THX sound test, our opening scene finds the parishioners of the Merciful Father of The Holy Guilt Ridden Church in a courtroom battle with the members of the Sunny Buttcheeks Nudist Colony in an effort to shutdown the fornicators and kick them off their property. With Judge Rhinehole (gawd, I’m a sucker for cheap puns!) presiding, the church wins. I must admit now that while watching the movie, I completely missed that the legendary Forrest J. Ackerman played the judge!

The nudist, agreeing that they would rather die than give up their land and way of life, form a suicide pact and literally drink the Kool-Aid. But with her dying breath, the tough as leather (and looking like it, too!) Mrs. Druple curses any bible thumpers that come upon the land.

Jump ahead five years, and Reverend Ritz has planned a retreat to Camp Cutchaguzz Out (formerly the location of the nudist colony) for all of the fornicating and wayward teens of the congregation that need redeeming. This goes ahead, even over the objections of Mr. McRighteous. Objections that remind everyone of the two other groups that were killed at the camp. Well, accidentally died, that is. Especially that group of 47 that all got fed to a woodchipper!

As the kids are all packed into the van, we get our first of many musical numbers, because “God’s Gonna Show Us The Way.” This is the moment I would like to give respect to Gregg Gross, Joyce Mordoh, and Mark Pirro for the ear-wormy and actually pretty funny songs. But is also when we get into the cringey racist humor of the time when we meet “Juan Tu” (“My mother was Mexican, and my father was Japanese”), complete with a bad Asian accent. The rest of the campers have their own little quirks to make them stand out from each other.

Upon reaching the camp, Ranger Bygbutts tries to warn the counselors to leave through the traditional method of rapping a retelling of the last slaughter of churchgoers. But the pious parishioners aren’t put off, of course, because we wouldn’t have a movie otherwise! Bygbutts is brighter, though, and bails right away before the bloodshed begins. On cue, the undead nudists rise from their graves and start the carnage with the counselors.

Blissfully unaware that they are now unattended, the campers great the day with an eye-opening musical number (complete with a random Black man that you see no other time in the film) that seems to be one of the bits that most people might know from it. And I’m happy to share that earworm with you here.

Like any other slasher camp, bodies body parts start to appear. Some of them even talk. As the campers are picked off one by one in several hilarious and creative methods, the zombies have to get in on the musical fun, too. Trust me: the legacy of Thriller is still very secure.

Even though I’ve shared a lot of the plot at this point, I’m going to bury the urge to talk about the ending. I’ll just say that it’s as goofy as the rest of the movie was and gives an unseen twist before the credits roll.

So was this a bad movie? Yes. But was it fully self-aware that it was a bad movie and had fun with it? Oh, indeed it was! And for me, those are the best kind of “bad” movies. From the opening credits, to the thumb in the eye of religious zealots, and the closing credits of this edition that list “Scraggs – Camera Operator’s Seeing Eye Dog” and “Helen Keller IV – Focus Puller” as a nod to the poor visual quality, Mark Pirro and company were 100% in on the joke. I’m glad they chose to share it with us.

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – DON’T F*** IN THE WOODS (2016)

**SPOILER & NSFW Warnings Up Front, Fright Fans!**

Through out the history of horror cinema, there have been many films, from the auspicious to the aspiring, that have used the directive of “Don’t” in their titles. This fraternity of fright includes such features as:

  • Don’t Torture A Duckling (1972)
  • Don’t Look Now (1973)
  • Don’t Go In The Basement (1973)
  • Don’t Go In The House (1979)
  • Don’t Go In The Woods (1981)
  • Don’t Breathe (2006) and Don’t Breathe 2 (2021)

There was such a plethora of them that Edgar Wright found it to be worthy of a mock trailer that was featured in 2007’s Grindhouse:

But in 2016, Shawn Burkett had the vision and the balls to put out a “Don’t” title that stood out of this crowd: Don’t Fuck In The Woods!

Every horror fan knows of the classic troupe of sins and vices (i.e., sex, drugs, etc.) that will make you a prime target to most killers and monsters in a horror movie. So why not just say so? The plot involves a group of college friends celebrating graduation by planning a weekend of debauchery in the woods, fueled by booze, weed, and hormones.

Our opening couple, Luke (Scott Gillespie) and Meg (Brandy Mason) get in the tent, and things become intense as a creature attacks out of the dark and mutilates them. This ended up being a bonus to the budget because Scott would be in the creature suit throughout the film!

We then meet the rest of the gang of grads, each helping to fill in some of the cliche’ archetypes we know and love. Efforts fail at first to locate Luke and Meg, but that doesn’t lessen the libidos as the sunsets. Turns out the creature is drawn by the scent of sex. Literally. And you’re not even safe to take matters into your own hands as a pervy hiker learned while spying on some of the ladies at a swimming hole.

From there, the film rolls on with an increasing body count, some fun pop culture winks and references, and as much gore as they could afford. With a runtime of just over an hour, I encourage you to check this out over on Tubi TV, especially if you are a fellow HoopToberer and need an “In The Woods” selection for your list.

If you wish to dive deeper into this one (and I do!), Shawn Burkett made a documentary about the film. The documentary is actually longer than the film and covers the controversy and issues created by going with this title.

Sadly, the documentary has only been out on the festival circuit and not available for streaming. But here’s hoping that changes soon. Because there’s also a sequel out there from 2018 that’s only on festival circuit, too! (The trailer is age restricted and only available on YouTube, or I would share it here.)

Don’t miss your chance to see this! Don’t forget to like and subscribe to this page and the podcast! Don’t forget to be a great human! And most of all . . .


What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – THE GEEK (1971)

**NSFW Warning – Some graphic images included in this post.**

You know what? Looking back on it, I should have realized it as I was ordering it. Would it have changed my purchase? Probably not.

But I digress. Let me set up the story for you that lead to me watching a sasquatch sex film.

(Yes. You read that correctly. A sasquatch sex film.)

During Vinegar Syndrome’s “Halfway to Black Friday” sale a couple months back, I found this collection at 50% off:

I figured twelve genre films, potentially artsy, indie, and low budget, for the low price of $15 was a bargain. What did I have to lose? They also looked to be a bit on the sexy side, so I bought it.

It seems so obvious now, what with the cover blown up like that, prominently showing “Rated X” there. But my eyes ain’t what they use to be when looking at thumbnails on my laptop! What I thought was a collection of nearly homemade softcore genre flicks turned out to be a dozen hardcore horror films. … Oops?

The first film in the set, 1971’s The Geek, is the focus of this entry in the blog series because it genuinely had me asking myself, “What the hell am I watching??”

There are zero credits on this, so I can’t tell you who made it. Three of the uncredited cast members are listed on IMDb, but who knows who added them. Clocking in at just under an hour, The Geek starts out with the feel of a nature documentary, including a voice over and scrolling text. It made me think of The Legend of Boggy Creek that would come out a year later. Three couples take a trek into the woods, hunting for Bigfoot. Without a weapon in sight, without any obvious camping gear, the party manages to hike “about 30 miles” without any change in the lighting. (Old Hollywood joke: “What’s the difference between a studio film and a porno? The lighting!”)

From here on out, at about 10-15 minute intervals, the couples break off on their own to have some tastefully intimate relations in the realm of nature. Or, to be more honest, they go off to the grope each other and screw in the woods to the accompaniment of some laughably terrible dubbing. Seriously, I was in tears at some of it!

Around the 40-45 minute mark, we finally have a Bigfoot sighting! The make-up vaguely reminded me of how Andre The Giant looked in the classic episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, but only if you squinted real hard and had had a few whiskeys already.

Now comes the reveal that the guys wanted to use their women as bait to lure in Bigfoot! Whether or not the women were in on this plan wasn’t fully clear, but their reluctance when Sasquatch wants to get sexy is not. The piecemeal costume allowed the actor fairly easy access to engage in what the makers of this production deemed to be the mating rituals of said creature. But the make-up on his hands kept wiping off during the deed, leaving big black smudges on the pale white bums of his female co-stars.

In the end, this was a laughable lark, though a bit rapey, that looked like someone had swinger friends that would be willing to go out in the woods for a day or so with a 16mm camera and fuck on film, under the pretext that they were looking for Bigfoot. Not high art in the slightest, but it’s also not the worst film in the set either so far (I’m only 5 films into it). Other films in the set deal with satanic cults, hauntings, possessions, witches, and more.

Bless Vinegar Syndrome for preserving and distributing stuff like this that would otherwise just vanish from existence or only be talked about in the tones of myths and legends. Just like Bigfoot.

Irish Horror Films To Enjoy On St. Patrick’s Day

By Joe Meyers

If you’re looking for some Irish horror films to watch as part of your St. Paddy’s Day celebration, I’ve got eight personal favorites to share as recommendations. While some have folklore, plot details, and/or monsters in common they’re all unique in their own way and showcase how great Irish horror is and can be.

Byzantium (2012) / Directed by Neil Jordan / Written by Moira Buffini

This vampire film drips with atmosphere and great cinematography. As the movie unfolds you get the tale of a mother, Clara Webb (Gemma Arterton), and daughter, Eleanor Webb (Saoirse Ronan), who are vampires hiding out from others of their kind. We get just enough lore in this exceptional tale that I’ve always wanted a sequel that further explores the world.

Citadel (2012) / Written and Directed by Ciaran Foy

Foy used his own real life trauma as inspiration for this physiological horror movie about a widower attempting to raise a child after the murder of his wife. When the same gang of teens that killed her kidnaps his daughter, Elsa, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) battles grief, despair, and an extreme case of agoraphobia to get her back. Citadel is a tense character study, and exploration of trauma’s effect on the human psyche, with a stellar performance from Barnard.

From the Dark (2014) / Written and Directed by Conor McMahon

When Sarah (Niamh Algar) and Mark (Stephen Cromwell) get their car stuck in the mud while driving through the Irish countryside the couple finds getting their vehicle back on the road is the least of their worries. This is the second vampire movie on my list, but McMahon skips the “can pass for human” variety for a nocturnal beast, creature-feature version. This is a low-budget gem of a horror film that plays to its strengths, and manages to bring its own flair to vampire mythology.

Grabbers (2012) / Directed by Jon Wright / Written by Kevin Lehane

Part sci-fi/horror, part comedy/satire, part alien creature-feature, and ALL fun! Newly partnered Gardas Ciaran O’Shea (Richard Coyle), an alcoholic, and Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), a workaholic ladder climber, have to put aside their “odd couple” differences when the Irish island they’re bound to protect falls under an alien invasion. Fans of Tremors should **LOVE** this movie.

The Hallow (2015) / Directed by Corin Hardy / Written by Corin Hardy and Felipe Marino

I’m a sucker for horror films dealing with deep, dark forests and The Hallow delivers in a big bad way, while showcasing Irish folklore at the same time. Adam (Joseph Mawle), Claire (Bojana Novakovic), and their baby Finn relocate to a remote Irish village on the outskirts of a massive forest due to Adam’s work as a plant and fungal life conservationist. The family quickly realizes they aren’t wanted by the locals (or the forest and the things that live there), but they aren’t prepared to battle the creatures of the forest that begin to attack them…and have an apparent fascination with baby Finn. This is a total love letter to Irish legend and folklore, and a fantastic horror film.

The Hole in the Ground (2019) / Directed by Lee Cronin / Written by Lee Cronin and Stephen Shields

Recently separated from her husband, Sarah O’Neill (Seana Kerslake) and her son, Chris (James Quinn Markey), have started a new life in the Irish countryside. After an altercation, Chris runs away from his mother and into the forest next to their home (like I said, I’m a sucker for horror films with forests). Sarah is unable to catch him and loses Chris from a time before discovering a large sinkhole. She panics, thinking Chris has fallen into it but is quickly relieved when Chris appears behind her…or is that Chris? Odd events begin to transpire, and Sarah becomes more and more convinced that what returned from the forest with her wasn’t her son. This is another great movie, and a love letter to Irish folklore, anchored by solid writing, sharp directing, and wonderful performances.

Sea Fever (2019) / Written and Directed by Neasa Hardiman

A marine-biology student, Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) books passage on a fishing trawler, owned and operated by Gerard (Dougray Scott), Freya (Connie Nielsen), and their crew, to conduct research into deep sea faunal behavioral patterns. The couple’s fishing business has been down on its luck, so it’s decided an off limits, exclusion zone just may have all the fish they need to make some money. The ship gets bogged down and stopped due to running into an unknown, aquatic organism. This newly discovered life form begins to infect them, and tension rises, tempers flare, and paranoia explodes as the group tries to figure out their next steps…quarantine before heading home so nobody else gets infected, or head back to shore right away to find help. A timely story, as many of us are still dealing with COVID-19, wrapped up in aquatic horror goodness.

Without Name (2016) / Directed by Lorcan Finnegan / Written by Garret Shanley

Eric (Alan McKenna) is dispatched by his boss to conduct a land survey of a forest. He jumps at the chance as an affair with his with his student-assistant, Olivia (Niamh Algar, making this her second film on this list), has caused strife in his family life. The more time Eric spends in the forest, the more and more his mind begins to unravel. Out of all of the movies I’ve listed this is by far the biggest slow-burn that won’t be for everyone. However, if it is in your wheelhouse you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous looking psychological horror.

I told you all that I was a sucker for horror films that have deep, dark forests. Thankfully I’ve found that’s a major, reoccurring setting in Irish horror. Please share your thoughts if you check any of these films out for the first time, your opinions on them if you’ve seen any already, and give me any of your favorites I’ve failed to mention here. Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day and, as always, don’t be afraid of the dark…be afraid of what’s in it.

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – DEVIL TIMES FIVE (1974)

With the range of topics we cover on the podcast, I can travel down some rabbit trails that find the oddities that end up being perfect fodder for this (oft neglected) blog series. May I present to you “Exhibit A”, a film I stumbled into while trying to create a starting list of Satan and satanic cult films for our “Desert Island Picks” episode of them. Though it didn’t even come close to making my list then, it hung out on my Amazon Prime queue anyway.

Devil Times Five also caught my eye for one cast member in particular, and that’s ’70s child star, Leif Garrett. As a child of the ’70s myself, I remember having one of his albums on 8-track (or one of my siblings did) that had his smash disco hit “I Was Made For Dancin'” that came out about 4 years after this film. It also includes his sister, Dawn Lyn, who would appear as his sister again in a couple other productions. So with that twinkle of nostalgia in my eye, I figured why not give it a go.

Turns out that Devil Times Five isn’t even the original title for this! On it’s initial release in 1974, it was titled PeopleToys or People Toys. On re-release in 1976, it was changed to Devil Times Five in the US and UK, and then even changed again to Tantrums for a home video release in UK. And that’s the least confusing or convoluted thing about the film and its production.

Strap in for this ride, Fright Fans.

The quick and dirty synopsis of this delight is that a van loaded with what turns out to be five kids from a pediatric sanitarium crashes in the remote and soon to be snowbound woods. Not everything is revealed about the kids from the start, but you learn right off the bat that Brian (Tierre Turner) has a delusion of being a military commander and can’t actually tell when people are dead. Seriously, he says, “They’re all dead,” to Moe (Dawn Lyn), Susan (Tia Thompson), and “Sister Hannah” (Gail Smale), only to have David (Leif Garrett) stumble out without a mark on him two minutes later. The doctor who was driving comes crawling out of the wreckage not long after the kids have fled.

As for the victims, I mean other cast of characters, Rick (Taylor Lacher) is a doctor and the boyfriend of Julie (Joan McCall), the daughter of “Papa Doc”(Gene Evans), a gruff asshole who owns several medical facilities, including a new sanitarium that Rick is aiming for the director position of. But Rick has competition from Harvey Beckman (Sorrell Booke), who has a hard time standing up for himself, especially when he keeps getting savagely cut off at the knees by his perpetually drunk wife, Ruth (Shelley Morrison). Pour another glass for Lovely (Carolyn Stellar), Papa Doc’s gold-digging wife, as she spreads her own discontent about the scene as well. The six of them are spending a weekend at Papa Doc’s winter lodge, along with the mentally challenged caretaker, Ralph (John Durren). Ralph even talks to his small herd of rabbits.

Yes. … They went there.

The kids find the lodge and break into the wine cellar. Following their trail through the snow, the doctor finds them, only to be dispatched in a gratuitous slow motion, sepia-toned scene of slaughter that drags out for over 2 minutes. Meanwhile, around that same time, Lovely is trying to bed Ralph, who misses every single hint, no matter how blunt. But when Julie walks in on this stunted attempt at seduction, she and Lovely have an argument that quickly devolves into one of the tamest “cat fights” to come out of ’70s cinema.

The kids are found (or reveal themselves) to the other occupants of the lodge, with most of them taking pity on their plight. From here, it’s a steady progression of the kids getting creepier and the adults getting deader, so I won’t go into those details because I don’t want to spoil some of the better parts of this good-bad film.

But what I will go into is some of the batshit craziness that happened behind the camera! Such as rumors that director Sean MacGregor was having a relationship with under-aged actress Gail Smale during the production, and that the reason her character was dressed as a nun was to conceal her albinism. From there, we have tales of MacGregor and producer Michael Blowitz getting physical with each other. MacGregor reportedly punched Blowitz in the face, and Blowitz threw MacGregor through a plate glass window in reply. Add to that that MacGregor was pulled from the film 2/3 of the way in because his work was deemed unusable, and David Sheldon was brought on to finish the film. To cap off MacGregor’s saga, it’s also reported he was admitted to an actual psychiatric hospital shortly after he left the production.

As for other endearing errors within the film itself, play a drinking game for each time Leif wears a wig because he had had his hair cut short for another film he started working on when he was brought back for reshoots. I would say you could do a drinking game around how often night immediately turns to day (or vice versa) or when the snow levels change outside, but I respect your respective livers far too much to abuse you like that.

**WARNING** This trailer gives away over half the kills in the movie.

Did You Miss Us?

Hey there, Fright Fans! Our holiday hiatus has ended, and we are returning to your ears shortly. The good news for you? We already have a packed line-up of episodes planned for the remainder of January, starting this Sunday with our next installment in the “Desert Island Picks” series. It’s Jenny’s pick for this month, and she choice movie sequels. Be on the look out for that one to drop on Sunday night or early Monday morning (depending on where you are) next week.

As for the rest of the month, we will be bringing current recommendations for Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, and Shudder with “Streaming Screams”, a Drive-In Double Feature (also Jenny’s pick), and then wrapping things up with our recap of the best of 2020, including our personal top ten horror film picks.

Thanks again for listening, and be sure to check out the “Podcast Macabre 2021 Horror Challenge” over on Letterboxd that is now underway!

Letterboxd Challenge Link:

Friday Night At The Video Store: HEAVY METAL (1981)

“They’re totally naked! You can see everything!!!”

Yes. To a pubescent boy (that boy being me), this movie was a holy grail back in the video era. You heard about it from older guys or siblings. You saw the magazine up on the top shelf in the supermarket, next to the tattoo periodicals and “naughty” books. And those rumors, suggestions, and even possible exaggerations (who cared!) lead me and my buddies to hunt this film down.

Following its theatrical release in 1981, Heavy Metal was only available on cable channels, once in a blue moon. It was usually HBO or Cinemax that would have it, and we would scour the monthly program guide when it arrived to see if it was in the rotation. Thing was, I did not grow up with cable. I lived in the rural area just outside of town, and this was also a few years before my grandfather got an 8 foot parabolic satellite dish that opened up sooooo many worlds for me. So it fell upon one of my best friends, Doug, who had cable, to help plan for the right night for a sleepover at his place so we could view this elusive creature at last.

By now, it’s at least two to three years since Heavy Metal was in theaters, and it was steadily gaining cult notoriety and might be found on a low quality bootleg as the home VHS market was starting. The soundtrack was released on LP and cassette in 1981, and even that was a hard find. But Doug and I finally found a night to catch this unicorn on late night Cinemax. Cue us staying up until 1:30 AM, sitting close to the TV with the volume down, as the epic opening segment “Soft Landing” begins. . . . Then cue us falling asleep before the end of “Den”.

I know, a less than epic conclusion to that chapter, right?

Now fast forward to 1996. Legal issues with rights holders for the music in the film bogged down any plans for re-releasing anything related to the film in the new media formats of CDs and VHS. But by luck, perseverance, and the work of Kevin Eastman (aka the co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), the soundtrack was released on CD in 1995 and the film officially on VHS in 1996. And you know damn well I got a copy as soon as they hit the stores.

My pre-teen quest was finally finished in my mid-twenties. I had on my shelf the film of my hormonal desires at last. And a part of me is actually glad it took me that long to see it because it gave me time and life experience to appreciate the film for what it is and who helped create it versus just thinking “Boobs!”

The opening segment of “Soft Landing” was based on a comic written by Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Return of The Living Dead, Dead & Buried). Featuring songs from The Riggs and Sammy Hagar, it was the perfect set up for the feast of hard rock and animation that would continue throughout. The mix of rotoscope style animation and traditional styles came about from hiring the work out to multiple studios to expedite production.

That opener flows seamlessly into “Grimaldi,” the wrap-around tale that introduces us to the unnamed daughter of the astronaut and the McGuffin of the film, The Loc-Nar, voiced by the legendary Percy Rodriguez (think of any film trailer from the 70s and early 80s, and you know his voice).

The first tale the Loc-Nar tells of those who seek its power is “Harry Canyon,” written by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum, based off The Long Tomorrow by Moebius. In this wonderful future-noir tale, the animators do a fine job of mimicking Moebius’s style. Whenever I here Journey’s “Open Arms,” this segment always pops into my head.

The tales shift from noir to now (or 1981 now) as we meet “Den,” the titular tennage nerd (David Ellis Norman) from Richard Corben’s comic. In a freak storm that involves the Loc-Nar, Den is zapped from our world into another dimension and becomes older and buff as hell in the process while still being voiced by John Candy. This one was hilarious, gory, and just fun in so many ways.

Continuing in the vein of dark humor, we return to space and arrive at the trial of “Captain Strenn.” Loving all things Bernie Wrightson, I’ve always had a lot of love for this one since the character of Captain Lincoln F. Strenn is his creation, and, again, the animators do a decent job of striving towards his style. When Sternn’s chief “character witness” of Hannover Fiste takes the stand, all hell (and the space station) breaks loose. Legend Eugene Levy voices Strenn, and Rodger Bumpass (the voice of Squidward!) is Fiste. Adding Cheap Trick’s “Reach Out and Take It” is just a cherry on the sundae.

Hands down, “B-17” is the best blend of the animation, the story, and the music in the film for me. Maybe I’m just biased because I love World War II stuff, I like reanimated corpses, and Don Felder’s “Take A Ride (Heavy Metal)” is just a damn good song. You be the judge.

“So Beautiful, So Deadly” makes me laugh every time and makes me think they raided the SCTV cast for half of the voice talent in this. John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Harold Ramis all show up in this one. Just remember: Always go for broke with the nyborg, man.

Last but far from least, we are given the the longest segment of the film, “Taarna.” Featuring the last of the Taarakians, Taarna is seen in all her powerful glory on the poster. The sole survivor of a warrior race, she is summoned by an elaborate ritual to help a city under siege, only to find the enter city has been slaughtered by a band of raiders that were empowered and resurrected from a lava flow created by the Loc-Nar. Epic battles and epic tunes ensue (including “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” by Blue Oyster Cult), bringing the saga to a conclusion. . . . Or does it?

Surprises await the viewer and the Loc-Nar in the closing segment of the wrap around, and we exit on a happier, hopeful note.

Is there a film you searched for in your youth? Something you saw on the store shelf but missed out on? Just remember, Fright Fans: Never give up the hunt. Because when you finally find it, and night can be your Friday night at the video store.