“What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now?” – ROBO VAMPIRE (1988)

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Every now and then, you come across a title in your streaming platform scrolling, and it just jumps out at you. Or in this case, hops out at you.

Godfrey Ho’s (aka Joe Livingstone) 1988 opus, Robo Vampire, just sounded like cheesy, low-budget fun, and the poster even leans into that vibe fairly hard. The core concepts of this production just make you giggle and ask, “Wait, what??”

As simply put as I can, American heroin smugglers in south east Asia get tired of the repeated run ins with “Tom, the anti-drug agent” and his team, so they hire a Daoist priest to train jiangshi (“Chinese hopping vampires”) to fight those darn anti-drug agents.

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Are you still with me? Tom and most of his team are killed in their first encounter with the jiangshi. After literally 3 seconds of mourning from his commanders, one asks to use Tom’s corpse for his android experiments. Thus, Tom is resurrected as “Robo Warrior” to continue the fight against the vicious smugglers and their vampires. Keep in mind that “Robo Warrior” is one of the worst RoboCop knock offs you will ever witness. But wait! There’s more!

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In an effort to counter Robo Warrior, the Daoist raises a vampire beast. Or at least a vampire in a gorilla mask. The raising of this creature is not without difficulty as its ghost witch (or witch ghost?) lover interrupts the ritual and battles the Daoist as two of the American drug smugglers stand around watching. One of strongest powers of the witch ghost (or ghost witch?) is being able to spew out a crap load of exposition in under 3 minutes.

Often, I use closed captioning just to not miss dialogue. But one of favorite things now is how the CC interprets sounds or actions on the screen. Anytime it says <squelching sounds> during a movie, I know great things are happening on screen! Robo Vampire brought a new level to the experience for me with <mystic whooshing>, <frightened groaning>, and <monstrous wailing/yelling> during the fight scene between the Daoist, the witch ghost (or ghost witch?), and the vampire beast. And just when I thought it couldn’t be topped? They dropped this cherry on my sundae: <intense mystic whooshing>!

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Now’s when we cut to the story of Ray being recruited by Chief Thompson to go and rescue Sophie the spy a group of gangsters and smugglers that captured her. And by “cut to,” I mean cut nearly an hour’s worth of footage from the 1984 Thai film Paa Lohgan into this one for all of the gang war and spy story stuff. Keyways to tell which is Paa Lohgan versus Robo Vampire when key characters aren’t on screen? Besides the visual difference in color grading of the film, all the Thai footage uses real guns with blanks. All the Chinese footage uses these weird barrel attachments that contain 5-6 firecrackers (that you can often see) that fire off in quick sequence.

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Okay. Some are bigger than firecrackers. . . . .

There are a couple scenes of old school “Chinese water torture” under a dripping faucet for Sophie that feel almost quaint now when you think of waterboarding. But it seems to work on her! Ray and Wendy face the same torture later with the same results.  But let’s get back to Robo Warrior and the hopping vampires.

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Careful! Sophie looks like she knows how to look like she knows karate!

A scene that I’ve found the most GIF worth, the jiangshi encircle Robo Warrior on a beach. Immune to most of his bullets, he goes hand to hand for a brief bit with limited results. He then summons his machine gun back into his hand like it’s fricking Mjolnir! This happens at least two other times in the movie, as well as his gun suddenly being able to shoot a rope of flames. Seriously. It’s a flaming rope strapped to the end of the gun!

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This movie was just bad in so many ways, from the acting, the dubbing, the effects, and beyond. Man was it fun to watch! The only part I found a bit objectional was a scene out of nowhere that had a woman cutting open the belly of a cow or oxen to stuff several bags of heroin in and sew it back up. Outside of that, Robo Vampire is just straight up laughable. Even the closed captioning made me laugh.

Kick back with a beverage of choice, some snacks, and a few friends (however social distancing permits), and just have a good laugh with this one. Heaven knows we can use a laugh or three right now.

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(On Amazon and YouTube)

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – THE VELOCIPASTOR

(Holy hell! It’s been a year since I posted one of these?!? I swear, fright fans, that this will be coming out more often again as we continue to create more original content for our site.)

Have you ever had one of those nights where you just want something brainless, short, and funny to watch? A little while back, such a night made me finally dive into an indie micro-budget film that hooked me clear back with its “is-this-real-or-a-parody?” trailer: The Velocipastor!

As told by the writer-director, Brendan Steere, he tried to type “velociraptor” into his phone one day in film school, and autocorrect changed it to “Veloci Pastor.” Kind of weird how a seed gets planted sometimes, eh? Anyway, after a few funding hurdles, Steere secured an investor and $35,000 to make his film.

Clocking in at just 75 minutes and featuring not a single person you’ve probably ever heard of, The Velocipastor is just silly fun that pays homage to low-budget indie films but never taking itself too seriously. Most of the performances (many provided by friends and family members of Steere) are bad in the best way possible. Even the trained actors do a deliberately bad performance, and that makes it even better!

(**Minor Spoilers Ahead!**)

The plot of this film you never knew you needed to see revolves around young Pastor Doug Jones (Gregory James Cohan), who shortly after graduating from “priest college” witnesses his parents die in a fiery car explosion. … Or at least that’s what the placeholder card tells us on the screen. Seriously, this moment was the true hook for me. A brilliant yet hilarious way to save on the budget. It set the tone for me and let me know what to expect from here on out.

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Following this tragic event and the not-so consoling words from his mentor, Father Stewart (played by Daniel Steere, Brendan’s father), Doug travels to China. (Trust them, it’s China.) While there, he happens upon a woman wounded by ninjas (yes, we get ninjas, too) in a forest, and she gives him a dinosaur claw that passes the curse onto him. Now, when Doug gets angry, he turns into a velociraptor-sized dinosaur. Or at least a step up from the inflatable T-Rex costumes you see at Halloween.

As fate would have it, Doug is spotted by Carol (Alyssa Kempinski), a lady of the night, when he transforms and decapitates a mugger in the park. Carol then encourages Doug to use his powers for good and eliminate the criminal element in the town. From there, montages ensue, romance blooms, ninjas (like you’ve never seen) resurface, an exorcism is sort of attempted, and an out of left field Korean War flashback help progress the plot to a gloriously “WTF?!? LMAO!!” finale.

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I highly recommend checking this one out, fright fans. Go in with the only expectations of having some laughs, some gore, and a good time. It’s not often in this series I can genuinely say, “Go see this!”, and mean it with sincerity. So, go now, my children, and may the blessings of The Velocipastor be upon you.

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The First Cut Is The Deepest [by Joe Meyers, Co-host of The Podcast Macabre]

During my second grade year I discovered an album in the play area of the classroom called “Scary Spooky Stories.” I’d spend any free time we had in class at the record player, giant headphones on and eyes closed in a bean bag chair, listening to the six, (as advertised) scary, spooky stories. This was my first exposure to commercially produced, audio-only driven horror…and it ignited a love of ghost stories and other horrific, campfire tales in me.

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“Scary Spooky Stories” is a 1973 children’s story album adapted by Cherney Berg for the Troll Associates label. The six stories contained sound effects by Barbara Wood and Hamilton O’Hara, with music provided by Jim Timmens. Ralph Bell (you may know him as the Commissioner in WOLFEN), Robert Dryden, and Dan Ocko took turns narrating. While the tales are beyond tame by current standards, I truly loved listening to the album over and over as a kid.

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A Side

A1: “The Dare” (Narrator – Ralph Bell)

In this tale a kid gets more than he bargained for when he accepts a dare to sit on a specific grave at midnight. When the kid doesn’t show up at school the next day, his friends go to the cemetery to investigate.

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A2: “Dark, Dark, Dark” (Narrator – Robert Dryden)

This track is a kind of silly exploration of how your mind can play tricks on you in the dark…or does it?

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A3: “Big ‘Fraid, Little ‘Fraid” (Narrator – Dan Ocko)

A father’s attempt to “scare his unruly kid straight” backfires on him.

 

B Side

B1: “Wait ‘Til Martin Comes” (Narrator – Ralph Bell)

A traveler wrecks his car on a stormy night, and seeks assistance at an old, rundown house.

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B2: “The Skinny Toe” (Narrator – Robert Dryden)

In a tale that will be familiar to many, especially if you love “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”, a woman finds a skinny toe in her garden, and regrets taking it when the toe’s owner returns for the severed digit.

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B3: “The Thing At The Foot Of The Bed” (Narrator – Dan Ocko)

In a nice bookend to the album, a skeptic reexamines his beliefs when he accepts a bet to sleep in a supposedly haunted house.

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I know I’m not the only one who remembers this collection of stories, as the album can be found on eBay for sale between $80.00 and $100.00. If anyone would like to listen to them, for the first time or again for the nostalgia fix, the entire album can be heard here:

“The Dare” and “The Thing at the Foot of the Bed” were always my favorites of the bunch. Growing up my friends and I enjoyed telling scary stories, and I’d recount both of those tales. At first it was word for word off the album, and over time I’d change them here and there, slowly making them my own. This helped me hone my own story telling skills, which came in handy when I saw my own unexplained, scary, spooky things years later…

but those are tales for another time.

First Cut Is The Deepest: Chris Duck (Co-host of The Podcast Macabre)

(This is the first installment of what we plan to make an ongoing blog series here, featuring horror fans of all walks of life sharing what sank its claws into them early in life and made them into lifelong devotees of the genre. Enjoy!)

Movies have been a passion for me for as far back as I can remember. And some of the ones I am the most passionate about are horror films. Nothing can quite replace the thrill and adrenaline rush you get from having the crap scared out of you while sitting in the relative safety of your living room, your local cinema, or even your car at the drive-in. The impression these movies have left on me are frequently fond ones and some of my oldest memories. (My wife says they just warped me, but that’s for another blog.)

My earliest and clearest cinematic memory is of the family piling into an old Plymouth station wagon in the summer of 1975 to head out to the drive-in near our home. Mind you, I was barely passed the age of two, but I do remember my siblings and me being told to just lay down in the back and get some sleep while Mom and Dad watched the grown-up movie. Rebel that I was even then, I peeked out from under the blanket and saw a woman running down a beach and dive into the ocean while some guy just sat on the beach watching her.

Yep. My first movie-going memory is from the opening scenes of Jaws.

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Time would pass, as it tends to do. Star Wars would consume my youth and become another lifelong obsession that I now share with my own daughter (who’s also quite the gorehound now). But during that time, I still loved a good scare. My dear aunt, Charlene, was a fan of the frights, too, and she would introduce me to many of the classic films from the 50’s, 60’s, and earlier. I always loved the story she told me of watching Psycho for the first time and screaming three times before the private eye hit the bottom of the stairs after Mrs. Bates stabs him.

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At the tender age of seven, there was a night that my mother and I shared together that is still one of my fondest childhood memories. We rented a video disc (not to be confused with a laser disc) from Webster’s Furniture to watch together. I even remember what I got to eat as a treat that night: Swanson’s Fried Chicken dinner with the mashed potatoes, corn, and the brownie dessert. The movie we watched? Well, let’s just say mom and I both screamed and jumped off the couch a little when Jason lunged from the water and tipped Kristy’s canoe.

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But then we both laughed at each other. That roller coaster of  building and releasing tension, when done right, was one of the hooks that horror films had sank into my psyche before I even realized it.

My first honest-to-goodness-horror-movie-in-a-cinema experience, though? I was a very blessed little eight-year-old. My mother, my aunt Charlene, my sister, and I all went. Mom and Charlene joked that we only needed three seats since my sister was probably going to be in someone’s lap the whole time.

— Now let me state here that my sister is 2 years older than me and enjoys a good horror movie, too. But she did tend to be a duck-and-cover kind of viewer for the scary bits and had the occasional bad dream from the movies back then. Myself? Even then I was discovering Fangoria magazine and was fascinated by the make-up effects. I even wanted to attend the Tom Savini School of Special Make-Up Effects when I got older. And to this day, I have no memory of a nightmare directly related to a horror movie I watched. Back to the story. —

I said I was blessed for how I lost my big screen horror movie cherry, right? For an 8 year-old boy that loved make-up effects, what better film was there in the fall of 1981 than the John Landis classic An American Werewolf In London?

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As a parent now, I briefly glance back now and say to myself with a grin , “Holy shit! My parents let me see this stuff when I was that old?!?!” That reaction is understandable but again, brief. Would I have let my daughter watch any of those at that same age? No way. But that is because she was a totally different kid than I was. At that age, I could barely get her to walk by the skeleton decorations in a Halloween aisle. Now, at the age of 17, she’s currently working on her own Ashley Williams cosplay for Crypticon Seattle in May. I do my best not to judge other parents on what age they let their own offspring watch different horror movies or other entertainment. They know their kids better than I ever will. And my mom knew what I could and couldn’t handle. Do I feel like these movies had a lasting effect on me? Hell yeah. But not a bad one. (Shush, dear.)

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Family Halloween photo 2017 — Hipster (me), Charlie from Trick ‘r Treat (Lisa, my wife), and zombie girl (our daughter, Rachel)

Book Review: NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD: AN ANTHOLOGY

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Anthologies, be they in book or film form, have always been one of my favorite things when it comes to horror. So, it’s no surprise to me that I did enjoy 2017’s “Nights of The Living Dead: An Anthology” by George A. Romero and Jonathan Maberry. What did surprise me was the through and through quality of the stories gathered into this collection! Usually you’ll have one or two stories that fall a little flat or just aren’t to your taste. Well, for my taste, all nineteen tales hit the mark in evoking a response in me. Some made me laugh, other gave me chills, and one even filled me with a sense of revulsion that had me gagging at the visceral descriptions given.

The linking thread to this collection is that all of the stories take place on or very near the beginning of the living dead outbreak portrayed in the cinematic classic, Night of the Living Dead. Some are set are the same time as the film, others just before, and a select few even look at the aftermath of that night. All of the stories do hold true to the rules of the NoTLD universe as we know them and remain grounded within it.  My only real complaint is that there are some anachronistic moments in a few stories that took me out of the 1968 setting (one mentions a cell phone), but others are clearly set in a date just beyond the 60’s and 70’s, maybe even at the time of Tom Savini’s remake in 1990. I admit that it’s a minor nit to pick, but it was there. Otherwise I can’t say anything bad against this anthology.

Check out the impressive list of authors that contributed and my own blurb about each story:

  • (The introductions from George A. Romero and Jonathan Maberry are not to be skipped.)
  • “Dead Man’s Curve” by Joe R. Lansdale – Back country racing runs into the living dead.
  • “A Dead Girl Named Sue” by Craig E. Engler – Even the undead deserve justice.
  • “Fast Entry” by Jay Bonansinga – What if a psychic could see what the dead are thinking?
  • “In This Quiet Earth” by Mike Carey – True devotion doesn’t end with death.
  • “Jimmy Jay Baxter’s Last, Best Day on Earth” by John Skipp – MAGA in the apocalypse . . .
  • “John Doe” by George A. Romero – Meet the possible Patient Zero in a Philly morgue.
  • “Mercy Kill” by Ryan Brown – A soldier returns from Vietnam to fight a different battle.
  • “Orbital Decay” by David Wellington – Zombies: In Space!!!
  • “Snaggletooth” by Max Brailler – A love triangle that will make you think of The Tell-Tale Heart.
  • “The Burning Days” by Carrie Ryan – Fire is a great barricade, but how long will the fuel last?
  • “The Day After” by John A. Russo – Picks up right after the sheriff drops the torch in the film.
  • “The Girl on The Table” by Isaac Marion – Karen’s transformation from her point of view.
  • “Williamson’s Folly” by David J. Schow – “We’re from the government and here to help . . .”
  • “You Can Stay All Day” by Mira Grant – One for the animal lovers out there.
  • “Pages from A Notebook Found Inside A House in The Woods” by Brian Keene – The undead aren’t the only things that go bump in the night . . .
  • “Dead Run” by Chuck Wendig – Am I my brother’s keeper?
  • “Lone Gunman” by Jonathan Maberry – A soldier left behind … and under a mass of undead.
  • “Live and On the Scene” by Keith R. A. DeCandido – Undead outbreak! Film at Eleven!
  • “Deadliner” by Neal and Brendan Shusterman – The show must go on . . .

Now I did listen to the audiobook versus reading it (I had a 7 hour round trip car ride to take a chunk out of it), and a couple of the stories lend themselves well to the audio format, specifically “Orbital Decay” and “Live and On the Scene.” Another treat with the audiobook is having “Dead Man’s Curve” be read by Kasey Lansdale, a musician and author in her own right and Joe R. Lansdale’s daughter.

Whichever format you choose to get of the anthology, just get it! This collection is a must for any fans of the zombie genre, especially if you are a die-hard fan of the universe George A. Romero and John A. Russo created over 50 years ago. You can tell each of the authors that contributed to this have a true love of this world, too.

Best of The Year? You Decide! – Streaming Suggestions of Horror From 2018

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Chris here, Fright Fans! As you may know, I kind of have an OCD thing for making movie lists. December is always the prime time to start thinking about your “Top Ten” lists of whatever for the given year, and 2018 is no exception.

If you are a regular listener to the show, you may have heard us mention we will be doing a recap of 2018 for our final episode of the year at the end of December. As I began preparing for it (by making lists, of course), I found that there was a helluva lot of horror I had not seen yet this year that I meant to! In an effort to do some last minute catching up, I scoured the streaming services to see what I could set my eyeballs on. And as I complied the lists, I figured why not share this glorious undertaking with you guys, too!

In the lists below, I have found what I could through Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, and Shudder. By no means are these lists fully inclusive, but they area pretty strong start with a selection of mainstream, indie, and international films that have crossed my radar this year. I’m counting 2018 as the release date of the films based on the US release date, whether that was theatrical (not festival) or streaming. Unless indicated otherwise, all of the films are included with your subscription to the given service. Just click on the film titles and be taken to their respective IMDb pages for more information.

Ready to sink your teeth into this?

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AMAZON PRIME (* = Rental)

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I’ve only seen ten films out this entire list, so I’ve got a bit of homework ahead of me! Two notable films from this year that aren’t listed are Suspiria and Overlord. Well, no home release date could be found for Suspiria, but Overlord is being released on DVD and blu-ray in February 2019. Until then, I’m sure you can find plenty to watch here. (UPDATE: Suspiria will be out on VOD January 15, 2019.)

Have any films you loved this year that you feel I missed? Say so in the comments section, and I will add them to the list with credit to you for suggesting it. Just get any suggestions in by Christmas 2018, please. Thanks for reading, Fright Fans. Now go watch some movies!!

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