Catching Up Is Hard To Do

Shock Rock (1992), edited by Jeff Gelb; containing

Stephen King – You Know They’ve Got a Hell Of A Band
F. Paul Wilson – Bob Dylan, Troy Jonson, and The Speed Queen
David J. Schow – Odeed
Nancy A. Collins – Vargr Rule
Ronald Kelly – Blood Suede Shoes
Don D’Ammassa – The Dead Beat Society
Graham Masterton – Voodoo Child
Paul Dale Anderson – Rites Of Spring
Michael E. Garrett – Dedicated To The One I Loathe
Brian J. Hodge – Requiem
R. Patrick Gates – Heavy Metal
Rex Miller – Bunky
Bill Mumy & Peter David – The Black ’59
Richard Christian Matheson – Groupies
Michael Newton – Reunion
Mark Verheiden – Bootleg
Ray Garton – Weird Gig
John L. Byrne – Hide In Plain Sight
Thomas Tessier – Addicted To Love
John Shirley – Flaming Telepaths


Very uneven original anthology of rock-and-roll horror stories from the early 1990’s. I’ve always liked King’s contribution, an ultimately nihilistic story from the ‘We stumbled across a weird town’ sub-genre of horror. John Shirley’s story cleverly inverts the stereotypes that too many of the other stories play straight with (specifically, ‘Rock-and-roll is the Devil’s music!’), as does Ray Garton’s “Weird Gig.” The Wilson, Tessier, Verheiden, Masterson, and Schow stories are also solid work. The graphic sex and violence in a couple of the stories manages to be unpleasant without really being horrifying (or terrifying, for that matter). Lightly recommended.


Shatner Rules by William Shatner and Chris Regan (2012): What seems like Shatner’s umpteenth non-fiction book goes down as smoothly as a Romulan Ale Smoothie. More anecdotes, more self-promotion, more pointed comments about George Takei’s Shatner obsession, and so on, and so forth. Recommended.


Hellboy: House of the Living Dead, written by Mike Mignola; illustrated by Richard Corben (2011): Fun original graphic novel set during Hellboy’s “lost months” while on a bender in Mexico during the 1950’s, during which time he professionally wrestled and fought various supernatural menaces, generally while either drunk or severely hung over. Forced to kill a young wrestling, monster-fighting ally after vampires turned the young man into a bat-headed monstrosity, Hellboy went on a blackout-inducing bender, the end of which we see here.

Richard Corben’s art combines the grotesque and the voluptuous in a variety of fun, pleasing ways, while Mignola’s script strikes the right balance between humour and heartbreak. Hellboy has to face his guilt before he can get out of Mexico, but the whole voyage of self-discovery avoids the usual rote, Afterschool Special platitudes and lessons we often see in such a story. Recommended.



Fright Night, written and directed by Todd Holland, starring William Ragsdale (Charlie Brewster), Chris Sarandon (Jerry Dandridge), Amanda Bearse (Amy Peterson), Roddy McDowall (Peter Vincent) and Stephen Geoffreys (Evil Ed) (1985): About as good as I remembered it, which is to say spotty but with a great performance by Roddy McDowall as a horror-movie actor turned late-night horror-movie television host.


A vampire moves in next door to high-school student Charlie. With remarkably little set-up, Charlie is soon battling for his life and the lives of friends, family, and everyone else with a neck and a pulse against 1980’s fashion-victim vampire Chris Sarandon. For a vampire, Sarandon eats an awful lot of fruit. The movie picks up once McDowall comes on the scene as a vain, failed actor who is nonetheless the only vampire hunter Charlie has access to.


80’s-style cheese gets smeared across the lens by the soundtrack (mostly awful) and some awful ‘sexy’ scenes between Chris Sarandon and Charlie’s girlfriend Amy. There’s also full-frontal nudity and lots of swearing, two things that are probably missing from the 2011 remake, along with Roddy McDowall. Writer-director Todd Holland seems to have lifted all his vampire lore directly from Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Retro fun. Recommended.


Twilight Zone: The Movie, written by John Landis, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Melissa Mathison, Jerome Bixby, and Robert Garland, based on the TV series created by Rod Serling; directed by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller; starring Vic Morrow, Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Kathleen Quinlan, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Cartwright, Donna Dixon, Abbe Lane, Dick Miller, and Bill Mumy (1983): Veteran TV actor Vic Morrow and two children died while filming the John Landis segment of this movie when a helicopter blade decapitated them thanks to a special-effects explosion that should never have been green-lighted but was because John Landis is a big fucking idiot. That the segment, a ham-fisted bit about prejudice, is awful only adds a last insult to the injury.


This Hollywood tribute to that mostly unHollywoodish writer-producer Rod Serling and his 1960’s TV series is pretty uneven. Well, the Landis segment and the Spielberg segment stink on ice. The Joe Dante sequence and the George Miller sequence are good, owing a lot of that goodness to veteran TZ screenwriter Richard Matheson’s screenplays.


Dante remakes the famous “It’s a Good Life” episode of TZ with a lot less menace and realism but a lot more visual effects zing, while Miller directs a remake of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, a great TZ episode starring William Shatner as an airplane passenger who sees something walking on the wing of the plane…at 20,000 feet.

Lithgow’s screaming, sweating performance makes Shatner’s original turn look restrained by comparison — the 1980’s version now seems much more campy than the original, though it remains fun. Recommended if you skip the first two segments. The Albert Brooks/Dan Aykroyd frame story is pointless, probably because it, too, was written and directed by John Landis, who as I mentioned before is a big fucking idiot.


Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, written by Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec, based on the series created by Bruce Geller; directed by Brad Bird; starring Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Jeremy Renner (Brandt), Simon Pegg (Benji), Paula Patton (Jane), and Michael Nyqvist (Hendricks) (2012): Pretty much every Mission: Impossible movie involves the Impossible Mission Force being disgraced, framed, discarded, and/or hunted by its own employers while nonetheless tracking down the real miscreants.

And that’s the plot of this movie.

The globe-trotting seems more James Bondian than ever, and animation director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant) makes a nice transition to live-action directing, especially in several snazzy, convoluted action sequences. The movie does invoke Hudson Hawk in its utopian vision of the life-saving power of airbags. And no, that’s not how ballistic missiles work during the descent stage. Extra marks for blowing up a landmark I haven’t seen blown up in a spy-thriller before. Recommended.

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