The Funhouse and Maximum Overdrive

While working on a few new King Skull orders, I was able to take in a pair of horror icons.  The Funhouse was first.

How to summarize this film……

Talking about Funhouse will make it sound so much more meager than it actually is.  This film is a masterpiece and it’s kind of a select club that actually knows about it and appreciates it.

We open with one of the creepiest sequences ever captured on celluloid as this kid: (or a kid that looks just like this)

…gears up in a rubber mask and goes on a John Carpenter-style first person stalkfest through his own bedroom (not sure how that works) but ends up crashing in on his sister taking a shower.   The confrontation that ensues is reeeaaalllly uncomfortable as her brother plunges his rubber knife into her naked upper groin over and over again.

If that isn’t creepy enough, we then get to meet her boyfriend and it becomes immediately clear that this chick just surrounds herself with all the best people.

So she and all her friends end up going to an amusement park – or a carnival or whatever:  one of those traveling carnivals that visit the finest small towns in the outskirts of cities everywhere.

What this particular carnival doesn’t have in giant smoked turkey legs, it more than makes up for with creepy mutant animals and sideshows.  Aaaand what happens when teenagers on a double date are surrounded by mutant animals, smoked turkey legs, trash, drunks, creepy homeless men (and women) a crazy-looking Irish guy screaming “ALIVE, ALIVE, ALIIIIIVVE?”



“Wow, this place is fucking disgusting.”

“Hey, let’s sleep here.”

“Rock on.”

On the backside of the slope of Mount .Great Decision Making, they all spend the night in the Funhouse.  Things are going as great as you’d expect until they accidentally watch a mutant ride-operator with a split head, white hair, red eyes, and a voice that sounds like Mr. Bill get a handjob and then strangle a fortune teller to death.

If that’s not what it says on the back of the video box, it should be.

For the rest of the film, we get the standard series of stalking, murderstyle scarefests until the survivor(s?) escape.  We enjoy every minute of it.

This is one of those films that I like to look at through the other side of the mirror.

You’re a nice old carny, barking at a carnival in bumblefuck Southernsville when 4 kids decide to stay over illegally in your place.  They burn it down, kill everyone you know, and ruin your life, but not before most of them get killed as well.    What a raw deal.

I should mention also that this masterpiece is directed by Tobe Hooper.  Victory.

How do you follow a film like that?  It really is a great freakin’ 80s horror movie.

Here’s how you follow it.

Maximum Overdrive.

Bunch of trucks come to life and kill everyone while AC/DC plays Hells Bells.  Is this every 13-year-old’s fantasy or what?  Well in the 1980s it was.  When I heard about this film, I kicked myself in the face and my friends and I played air guitar for like 6 hours.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this film because it will just ruin it and make it sound stupid.  All I can say is that if you like Emelio Estevez, trucks controlled by alien souls living in a tail of a comet, and AC/DC, you need to watch this film.

This film has some great moments, no question.  If you can get over the retarded story, the character types are a lot more interesting to follow than in some of the other teenage films.

In fact – and this just occurred to me- this is exactly like Tremors.  I mean EXACTLY like Tremors.  Somebody should be suing somebody.

The best scene in the film is the one when a random guy we’ve never seen before opens the double doors of the truckstop, breaking all the windows while screaming for no reason “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON IN HERE?”   Think I’m making it up?

Let me clarify.  We’ve never seen that guy before and he’s gonna be dead in five minutes.  AWESOME.

Lots of great Deathrace 2000 style death scenes in this film also.  Just has to be watched in the right setting.  If you’re coming off of something like The Shining, you’re going to hate this.  But if you’ve been watching the Critters series and pop this bad boy into your VCR, you’re going to love it.

Friday the 13th Part 3: The greatest movie ever made.

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This was the third film and just like the third film in the Jaws series, it’s in 3d.  This is great because it fills the film with random images of people pointing things out at the camera in that “doesn’t THIS look cool” way that early 3d films had about them.  The fact that the DVD is not 3d just makes it hysterically awesome. Want a random scene of a guy sticking a broomstick into the camera, you got it.  Want to see a worms-eye view of a guy playing with his yoyo?  DONE.


This guy is the greatest character in the history of the moving image.  What’s his name?  Shelly.  You’d better remember that too, because if anything goes wrong, it’s his fucking fault.


This moron is totally, universally, and roundly hated by everyone in the film.  They react so strongly with so much negativity to everything he says and does…just the SIGHT of him….it’s freaking hilarious.   For example: all of the characters rib each other, constantly joking and just having a good time.  Shelly shows up and contributes to the conversation or plays a part in the prank and immediately it’s

“God DAMMIT Shelly, I’m so SICk of your SHIT! “

“Shelly, Jesus CHRIST.  What the HELL?!?”

“Holy shit, why don’t you just go off and DIE, Shelly, you worthless stain of a human being….”

They just all hate Shelly.  And there’s NO redemption for him.  He just blunders through the film being hated, ruining everyone else’s good time.

Shelly: “Well I can’t go on that ride anyway because they say I’m too fat.” (Sad face.)

Everyone Else:  “You’re goddamned RIGHT your too fat you stupid, lazy, BASTARD!”

This continues on until finally Shelly is blissfully murdered and the stain of human excrement that was his soul is whisked away from the earth.

You have to watch the film to really understand how great this is.  My friends and I have even taken to calling each other this in real life when one of us screws something up.  It’s also the beginning of an archetype in horror movies that we’ll see again and again:  the loser friend all the popular kids hate….who gets killed and never redeems himself.  He’s like the opposite of Charly from Critters.

This chick name Vera compliments Shelly in one of the scenes, saying she likes his juggling.  (NOTE: He juggles.)  Then he says something like “Hey, Vera….you know, your’e really nice…”

She cuts him off with something to the effect of “hahaah, no way Shelly. I’m going outside.  Screw off.”

The film gets better.

There’s a motorcycle gang.  That’s them about to whip up on that stupid sonofabitch Shelly.

There are three members of this gang and they have to weight 280 pounds combined.  They are absolutely fantastic.  Shelly and one of the chicks run into them in the pharmacy when they are buying supplies.  The music in this scene is this fantastic early 80s disco beat which plays while we witness how hardcore these bikers are.  Let’s say there is some epic sweetness.  Fist pump!  They go around causing mischief until they are all murdered while playing swingset in a barn.  Yes, that happens.

The group of teenagers in this film are also friends with two 50 year old potheads who hang out and explore the camp in a very scoobie-dooish kind of way.  Your’e so happy when they finally bite it.

We also finally get to see Jason in his hockey mask, which serves better than a guy with a bag on his head.  And who discovers the hockey mask to begin with?  The one that Jason ends up using?  You guessed it:

Thanks a LOT Shelly.

So this film also has some fantastic 3d-style deaths with popping eyeballs, flying harpoons, and other IN YOUR FACE 80s effects.  Rad.

For what it’s worth, this is one of the creepier Jasons as well.  He’s just big, lumbering, and dangerous.  More real than in the other films.

I’m going to watch 8 of these films, so we have 5 more to go, and I don’t love them all as much as I love this one.

Friday the 13th 1 and 2


What a classic, right?  At least it’s a classic in the sense that it’s the original series of Friday the 13th films which were produced with love and attention as only the finest rip-off genre films are.

The story is that these pictures were created following the success of Halloween and if we can believe the production notes, it was really a giant marketing experiment to see just how stupid teenage moviegoers really are.   Apparently for the longest time, they only had the movie poster.  No actual script.

Having just watched it, I’d say the script wasn’t entirely necessary.

Yep, that’s it.  I love the idea that people looked at that ^^^ and said “GO FOR IT!  MAKE THAT PICTURE!”

What follows is a surprisingly entertaining bit of good ole’ fun in the forrest.  We begin with the dirtiest, most unwashed hippy chick I’ve ever seen hitching rides to Camp Crystal lake.  Already, we know we’re in for a great time.  Next is a string of first-person murders in the style of John Carpenter’s brilliant opening to Halloween.  By the end, we find out that the killer is actually this woman:

Yeah, so I should probably explain this.  If you’ve been living in a cave for the past 32 years, you don’t know that this is Jason’s mother.  The best part is that she’s played by a self-professed “serious actress” who is by far the most melodramatic ham-fisted performer in the entire series.  It’s great when you encounter this special kind of actor in the “making of” and documentary features on horror DVDs because they always talk about how serious they take their craft and how the film was such a departure for them.  “Ha, ha, I can’ t believe I did THAT film, ha ha….”   She spends the last half-hour of the film screaming like a dolphin stuck head-first into a snare drum.

What saves this film is one of the coolest ending sequences in 80s horror.   That is, if your’e afraid of balding mal-formed mongoloid zombies springing at you from a lake.   Chalk me up as a “yes.”

I also got to take in the sequel, Friday the 13th part 2.  (Yes, I’m riding this one right into the goddamn mountain).  The best thing about the sequel is this guy:

This is “Ted.”  I don’t know what to say about him, but he’s just….fantastic.  This is clearly the nerdiest, most doofified guy on the planet and he’s cast in the film as the most popular, attractive, and intensely desirable “friend” in the group of counselors.   If you look at this picture and think “so what,” just imagine him in a pair of cutoff jean shorts, laughing with his hands on his hips.

This is really the first of the Friday films to have fun with the counselor characters.  We have memorable personalities in this one.  There’s the guy who jokes around all the time, the very, very popular kid (see above), the guy in the wheelchair, and the strange woman who has a look of confusion perpetually frozen onto her face.  Note how there is absolutely no attempt to turn this person into a fully-formed character.

I’d sum up the film with a single image.  Yes, that’s the wheelchair guy with a machete stuck in his head.  From here on out, we get a lot more character development for the counselors and also see the beginning of a lot of the horror-movies stereotypes featured in the first Scream film (which I hated.)   When they kill the kids off….like this:

We actually care a lot more than in the first film.  Not because they’re well developed…hahahahahahha…no, we care because we lose that awesome stereotype and can no longer enjoy watching them do whatever it is that they do.  For example, wheelchair guy is the strong-silent type.  When he gets chopped in the face, we say “damn, there goes the strong silent type……”

Fun fact: Jason doesn’t wear his hockey mask in this flick.  He doesn’t actually pick it up until the 3rd film (which might be my favorite in the entire series.)   He wears a bag on his head instead.

Critters 4 and Demons

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I took in Critters 4 as promised.  Closed out the franchise with that one.   I’m not even sure how to talk about it.  Truly this is the maraschino cherry on the sundae of epic crap that is the Critters franchise.  While I may have been disappointed with the lack of lasers and rocket ships in Critters 3, Critters 4 saves that battleship by setting itself in outter space.

Yes, if there’s anything that brings horror home to people – that makes it real – it’s setting the entire story in outter-fucking-space.

Somehow we also ended up with academy award-winner Brad Dourif,


acting sensation Angela Basset,

and Critters veteran and alleged 80s rock god Terrance Mann. (Did I mention he was also Rum Tug Tugger in Cats?)

as well as good ole Charly.  Yes, he’s back and as dim-witted as ever.  Zero gravity does nothing to improve his cognitive way-finding.

I really don’t want to spend any additional time talking about Critters or any of the 4 corners of Critter filmdom, so let’s move along shall we?

Demons.  Now we’re talking.  This one actually crosses that line into the “so-bad-its-good” zone.   Yeah, we’re a bunch of 80s punk kids who decide to go to a party in a house possessed by evil demons.  What gonna happen?


What I love about this film, aside from the fact that it doesn’t have Critters in it, is the hodgepodge of ‘friends’ that make up the gang of young punks.  You have the totally unlikeable fat guy with the mohawk and rubber pig nose who is just…, so ulikeable.  Yet totally inexplicably, he is joined by 3 or 4 beautiful women in various stages of life-ruining decision paths.  Also we have a few other dudes including random intellectual kid and a frat-boy who basically wears a tuxedo with the sleeves rolled up.

So let me summarize:

We’re a bunch of douchebag teenagers going to a party.  We go to a “party” at an abandoned house – which could easily be mistaken for a bunch of kids standing around in an old room, drinking beer and staring at each other while the fat guy looks for a place to shit.  I guess parties were different back then.

One by one, we start turning into demons until there are only two kids left, the stuck-up virginal girl and the token black friend.  Then we go home and get to see a random old lady who’s never been on screen before just randomly murder her asshole husband.

Yup.  Great watch, though.  A nice palate cleanser.

So we’re diving into the first in the Friday the 13th series next.  Still kind of saving the good stuff.

Critters and more critters


Imagine my delight as I sat down to finish up some rings for shipment this week and opened up my vault of DVDs to discover that I had two more Critters films to watch.  Lucky me.

So tonight I took in Critters 3 in all of it’s glory.  The film is full of flashbacks to the other to Critters films: strike one.  The film is also rated PG-13: strike five.

Perhaps you’re wondering: “What about the local town idiot, Charly?  Is HE in the third film?”   You bet your sweet young life, he is.

Yep. Although in the second Critters we got a chance to watch him crash his spaceship into hundreds of Critters fused into a giant bowling ball whilst screaming “I’m a bounty hunteeerrrrrrr!” (yeah, you read that right) We were totally dismayed when he turns up alive at the end of the film and then literally springs out of the ground at a group of young kids dressed like this ^^^ in the third movie.  Nothing creepy about that!

Plus, this being the third in the series and bearing in mind the audiences need to ‘kick it up a notch,’ the creators of Critters 3 introduce yet another horror-tard to keep Charly company named Frankie.

Franky spends most of the film carrying around a goldfish, talking to himself, and making lovable Italian-American remarks like “AAAYYYEEE!” and “you TOO pal!!!”  Break me off some more of that, right?   On the idiot scale, I think Frankie is slightly ahead of Charly – meaning he’s more ‘together’ and probably doesn’t carve things out of his feces.  Still, it’s a load-off when he finally gets iced.  Truthfully, Frankie really doesn’t fit into that archetype because he’s not meant to be lovable and charming.  He’s kind of a prick.

Another great thing about Critters 3 is that it has Leonardo DiCaprio in it.  He’s just a little kid and doesn’t quite look like himself yet.  It also has that bucket-headed kid who hangs out with Arnold in Kindergarten Cop.  Win-win.

This movie is more of the traditional horror format and less sci-fi.  No 80’s deathrocker bounty hunters in this one and a lack of outer space sequences.  I made some sci-fi laser sounds with my mouth while watching to try to turn that shit up.

This flick was made in 91, so it’s kind of late to the party.  The creature effects were definitely a big step forward, but the PG-13 rating is a hayoooooooge step backwards.  I guess selling this concept to a bunch of paste-eating 13 year olds was an easier play than trying to justify this goofiness to adults or even older teens out on a date night.

“See, baby, in the last two films, the Critters form a critter-ball to try to roll over the church, but Charly stops them with his rocket ship and they all end up eating lettuce….”

Yeah, a date spent watching this film resulted in going home ALONE for sooooo many people.

Still one more to go as well.  I have to say I don’t remember much about Critters 4, so all bets are off.

Spooky. 1 of ???


The holiday orders are starting to come in which means I’ll be spending more and more time sitting on my ass in my studio working on rings which means I’ll be watching a lot of movies.  Nothing beats blockading myself in the studio at night with a cigar, a drink, and a stack of jewelry projects.  I throw a flick on the screen and just whittle away.

Fall – also my favorite time of year.  So we’re doing what I do every fall: plowing through 70s, 80s, and early 90s horror films.  Hell yeah.

Todan, while finishing up Jonathan’s Boss Voodoo and a ring for Joe, I took in Critters 1 and 2.   Yeah, they suck, I know.  I usually wait until October to start this marathon of latex, fake blood, and Panavision lenses but I couldn’t wait any longer.  It’s getting cooler in the ATL and I was semi-in the mood.

Which is great, because Critters is semi-horror.

I can only guess that this crapfest came about after Gremlins came out and filled teenagers with a dread and fear of little shitty rubber puppets.  The Critters, in particular, seem to love eating lettuce, rolling around in the dark, shooting darts out of their spines, and biting people to death.  If this wasn’t reason enough to blow 5 bucks, you also get the parallel story of two 80’s cockrocker bounty-hunters who travel to earth in order to blow up the Critters, who apparently escaped some kind of prison asteroid.

Yeah, that’s Terrance Mann….looking 1980’s as hell.

I also got to watch Critters 2.  You’re welcome, universe.

Critters 2 is more of a party.  It takes place in the same small town and features some of the same characters – specifically Charly, the local simpleton who everybody just fucking loves.

Can you guess which one is him?

We’ll be revisiting this horror archetype, who I will call the horror-tard.  If you’re offended, join the club.

Neither one of these films is even remotely creepy.  In fact, they’re kind of a party.  Power of the Night?  Oh yeah.  Like THIS:

There are lots of “ROCK OUT” shots with the Critters all eating lettuce, smashing furniture, and squirting condiments on each other whilst listening to some fierce 80s cock rock.

Wow, glad we got through those two.  I like to ease into the good stuff.