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Teacher Talks Zombies

This week I talked with an old classmate, Tracy Tidwell, about zombies. In high school, I never really knew he liked horror movies as much as he does. Strange the things you find out so many years later. 

Tidwell is a TV Production and Technical Theatre teacher at Opelika High School in Opelika, Alabama. For those unfamiliar with the geography of the state of Alabama but are acquainted with its football teams, Opelika is the city next to Auburn where the state’s other football team plays. He has been a horror movie buff since the age of 5 when his parents let him watch Poltergeist

Zombie films became a fast favorite after watching the remake of Night of the Living Dead. The love of the genre also comes from Tidwell’s fascination with apocalyptic fiction and films. He feels that zombie films and stories capture the feelings of desolation that apocalyptic fiction is predicated on. With zombie movies being like apocalyptic film, he says, “[I]nstead of being alone, there are these dead things that make it more challenging to survive in an already impossible situation.”

With so many zombie movies and stories in the world today and more being written and created every year, Tidwell thinks there are still some good zombie stories being told. He points to television shows like The Walking Dead as a litmus test proving “the subgenre is alive and well.” He does believe, however, that zombie fiction and film are beginning to mix the horrific with the comedic. “Shaun of the Dead was able to make me laugh and is still a film about a friendship and love. It’s both scary and hilarious at the same time,” he said. Tidwell says that he feels the low-budget quality of a lot of zombie movies and some of the subgenre’s reliance of straight horror is making many of those pieces of fiction fall flat. 

With that being said, Tidwell has some other opinions about his zombies. He prefers them fast and victims of a viral infection like in 28 Days Later, which he states is his favorite zombie movie. “I went to see 28 Days Later, which was being shown on the Quad lawn by Auburn University’s student organization. It blew me away and was the first fast zombie films I can remember seeing,” he recalled. “We got there just as the opening scene played, and so I felt lost as far as the plot was concerned, and the next thing I knew, I’m seeing a singular figure wake up in a hospital equally lost as to what had been happening around him. It mirrored my confusion and made a powerful connection.”   

Tidwell also stated that he likes a zombie world where there are two kinds of zombies co-existing in the same place. He said that fast zombies are “alive and victims of a virus” and that the shambling zombies are the reanimated corpses of dead fast zombies. His favorite zombie book series The Morningstar Strain brought this grim zombie worldview to his attention. “Unfortunately, the author died before he completed the series, so I’ll never know how it ends,” he stated. He prefers flesh-eating zombies over those who seek out brains, stating that brain-eating seems “campy and goofy,” but he also finds the fleshing eating “a little thin” as well. 

As a teacher, Tidwell says that he has discussed the previously mentioned film 28 Days Later when teaching about planning a production and how music can set a scene. He further stated he discusses other zombie films when talking about subgenres. 

There is nothing like a teacher who appreciates a good zombie movie, except maybe a teacher who is a zombie. The last time I checked Tracy wasn’t trying to gobble down any brains, but I wouldn’t put it past him. 

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Frontier Psychiatry

Stand on the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, just up the hill from where I live, and look west. Past downtown, past the shady trees, lawns, and gardens, past Salt Lake City itself, you will see a poison lake and the first salt-baked ribbons of a vast erasure. When Brigham Young declared this “the place,” he made a wise decision – which is more than can be said of the ill-fated members of the Donner Party, who also passed through here on their journey to California a year before the Mormon pioneers. The Donner Party, for those of you unfamiliar with the more gruesome chapters and bloody footnotes of American history, are primarily remembered for resorting to cannibalism in order to survive a series of calamitous choices and a spate of terrible luck.

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Shark Exorcist: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Cross

There aren’t many movies that I can’t do in one sitting. I mean, I watched five Sharknado movies in one day. This one…I took about 15 smoke breaks and hard-boiled some eggs just to have a short reprieve from this steaming turd of a film. Director: Donald Farmer

It is a damn shame because it starts off pretty awesome with a great premise. A nun is on the lam for torturing and killing a bunch of kids. We see her walking slowly through a cemetery to the water’s edge. She is confronted about her crimes by an angry woman. The nun stabs her and lays her in the water. She offers her victim as a sacrifice to Lord Satan to bring her an avenger! Then we see the shark, eyes a-glow, animated by a first year film student who maybe took three classes of CGI 101. Hey, that’s okay. I understood this was low budget going in. I can forgive that when we are talking about a Satanic psychotic nun invoking a Satanic psychotic shark! Yay!

After the credits, my dreams for a so-bad-it’s-good movie experience were drowned dead in hot holy water. First of all, the water we are talking about is a lake. A lake? Where did the great white come from? I guess it is not a normal shark, it’s satanic. Gotta keep the salinity level low. 

Enter the bikini-clad bimbos. Most of the movie, and I am not exaggerating, consists of long lingering shots of women’s bodies with no reason. There is no attempt to cast actors. Just who looks best in a bikini. Every scene goes on and on with not much happening at all. This movie could have been done in about 20 minutes if they just got to the point. And if you simply adore Casio keyboard music, this one’s for you. 

The shark attacks are a hoot. Everyone seems to be getting attacked before the shark gets anywhere near them. Never do you actually see the shark inflicting any bodily damage. That would be way too advanced for these filmmakers. The first victim, Ally, is attacked and I swear I cut myself shaving worse this morning. She becomes the land lubbing minion of the devil shark. She seduces hapless victims into the water, disappears under the surface and they get eaten. Does she become the shark? Does she just summon it? We never find out and trust me, you won’t care. 

One of her sacrificial lambs happens to be the brother of a priest. Now, for a movie about a shark exorcist, his screen time is about 5 full minutes total. God forbid we cut out any of the bikini time. We see him mostly looking at pics of the devil on his cell phone and crossing himself a lot. 

Where this movie really shines is the writhing. I have never in my life seen so many women writhing on the ground. The writhing seems to be contagious, sometimes sexual, but always pointless. Like every other shot of a woman, the scene lingers for a good ten freaking minutes. I guess it is appropriate that I kept whispering “Dear Lord” to myself often during my viewing. If anything was going to make me pray to end my suffering, it is Shark Exorcist. 

I wish I could explain the evolution of the plot to you guys. I can’t. The plot is as flavorful as a can of lime La Croix. Ally lures people to their deaths. There is a rivalry between a show called Ghost Whackers and one called Ghost Fakers. It wasn’t even important to the movie but at least I remembered something. The priest ends up trying to exorcise Ally but all I could gather from the shitty audio and horrible editing was that it didn’t work. The shark makes an appearance in the sky a couple times. 

Are y’all confused? Good. That is all you can expect from this piece of sharksploitation trash. I usually defend bad shark movies. There are usually some fun moments and campy gore. This offered me nothing. NOTHING! (on knees, shaking fist in air)

Oh wait, there’s more. We get treated to not one but two after credit scenes indicating some plans to make a Shark Exorcist sequel. Someone needs to find that sequel and kill it with hellfire in its crib. 

Okay I am taking a deep breath and cleansing my damaged mind from any memory of this movie. Time to make some deviled eggs. 

See ya next time!

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Leprechaun’ (1993)

If you didn’t like this movie, why the fuck did you watch it?

And now for an old classic in fucking BAD movies. Look, literally everyone going into this movie should know it’s a giant shit show. They didn’t even attempt to make it sound like serious horror back when the were producing it. But it’s been 26 years at the time of this review. There is zero reason for anyone to not know the Leprechaun franchise is basically one long running joke. They were just trying to figure out how loony-toons they could get with the concept. Shit, by nowadays standards, with movies like Sharknado, this franchise didn’t even go far enough.

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The Dollcraft of Thomas Ligotti

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The towering influences of writers like Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allen Poe, and Mary Shelley extend well beyond the boundaries of horror and into the wider realm of literature proper, a point that has been belabored enough that I don’t need to make it again here. Less explored (and perhaps more interesting) are the occasions on which writers who are well-loved and respected outside of the cobwebbed graveyard of macabre literature have slipped through the gates of that cemetery for a midnight jaunt. My favorite example might be the short story “the Comet” by William E.B. DuBois, a brilliant writer not usually known for his ghost stories. “The Comet” can be read as many things – an early science fiction story, a sharp-eyed tale about race, class, and American society, and – with its necropolitan flair — an excellently-crafted horror tale. I think it is best understood as all and none of these, and a great example of how fluid and arbitrary the boundaries that separate so-called “genre fiction” from so-called “literature” can be.

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Ghost Shark: Gore with a Glow

Director: Griff Furst

Ok kids, I ain’t going to lie. This is one of my favorite sharksploitation films I have seen so far. Released in 2013 for the SyFy Channel, it does an amazing job of blending a ridiculous premise with some of the most inventive and snort-worthy kills of any shark attack movie. A ghost shark can  appear in any water! Think about that, folks. The possibilities for wet and wild carnage are endless. That pleases me. 

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Milk by Evelyn Deshane Pt. 3

In honor of Pride Month, we are so happy to offer this story about a young transgender man by author Evelyn Deshane. This story was originally submitted for the Body Horror anthology, and we didn’t think it fit that theme, but we knew that it was an important story, and one we wanted to be able to tell the world. We have broken it into three parts, and one part will be offered each week of the month. Enjoy!

Editor

P.S. due to multiple deaths in the family we were forced to postpone the fantastic conclusion of this fantastic story, Enjoy.
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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Hell Fire’ (2015)

The Devil, Some Hookers, and Gore. Oh my!

I’ve been on an indi kick lately and I wanted to share with you all a gem that randomly fell into my lap.

It didn’t start out perfect. Audio! Fucking audio people! There was so much echo and feedback it was hard to hear what people were fucking saying! I shouldn’t have to watch an English movie with the subtitles on! Especially one that was loud enough to be heard normally if it wasn’t for all the earsplitting distortion. Man, don’t get me wrong, the dialog is solid and even natural, and the soundtrack is pretty smart too. But Jesus FUCKING Christ, wish someone had checked the levels on the god damn audio. Thought I was going to have a migraine.

The cinematography was good though. I’ve gotta say that the camera filters were fascinating. It reminded me of an old disco video, or that scene from Carrie (1976) when she final goes full psycho and kills everyone at the prom. It was really quite brilliant use of filters. The angles, the shadowing, the colors. It’s a far smarter way to hide the shit practical FX than with “shaky camera,” and it creates a darker and grittier atmosphere.

So, the opening monologue seemed to be completely needless. It was kinda neat to do opening introductions like Smokin’ Aces, but maybe just cut out the “I’m the Antichrist” bullshit? We could have figured that out later, and it would have been a lot more fun to find out naturally. That’s kinda neat, right? Narrator introduces the characters, the plot takes off, and then we find out he’s the Antichrist. It feels like something I should have to save for the spoilers.

But let’s talk about the pace! After the needles exposition, HOLY FUCK do things get going! This movie does not fuck around! GOD DAMN what a fucking ride! The first 30 minutes were almost as violent as the original Oldboy. Dude, the fight scenes are bananas! You think they might jump the shark with the second big blowout, but it just keeps getting crazier.

Look, this is definitely not a movie for all adult audiences. It certainly is an acquired taste. But Horror Heads are guaran-damn-teed to love it.

SPOILERS!!!

There was a lot of shit during the fight scenes that should have left way more marks. Apparently, they didn’t have the makeup budget for that. Everything from getting bashed in the head to punched in the face. There were too many times to count when me and my wife were like, “That should have left a mark.”

How the fuck didn’t they check on Frye when they thought they killed her? I get that Frye manifested an evil duplicate of herself and that the Antichrist accidentally killed the duplicate (see? Bananas), but the moment he thought he killed her, someone should have fucking checked. I mean seriously! That was some fucking amateur hour shit, and this movie isn’t exactly full of professional criminals.

And you’re telling me the Antichrist could have just raised some zombies and had them kill the son of God the whole damn time?!? Seems like an easy workaround. Can’t kill the son of God because you’re the Antichrist? Raise some fucking zombies to do it. Why hire some damn pimp and start this whole movie to begin with? I know, we couldn’t NOT have a movie. Just saying, kinda a big plot hole.

Frye also pulled a cringe-worthy horror movie trope by going to the police and informing them the Antichrist was killing people. First off, she’s a seasoned street walker. She may not be book smart, but I guarantee she ain’t no fool. Second, why the fuck did she drive off in a car, almost to freedom, only to ask a complete stranger to bring her back? I mean, she could have just asked for a phone, called the cops, and fucking went on her way.

Anywho… Say it with me now, in your best Morbo impersonation, “THERE WERE NO SURVIVORS!!!” That’s honestly the only way you could end this movie. Somehow the Antichrist just barely manages to scrape by while the cops storm the place and shoot Frye.

Overall though, shit was bonkers and way too much fun to pass up!

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