Monday, August 31, 2015



...And thank you for all the fun thrills, chills and imaginative scares. Your body of work will inspire our dreams forever!!!

Friday, August 28, 2015


Jason Crawley's BLOKE'S TERRIBLE TOMB OF TERROR #13 has arrived, and as should come as no surprise, it's fashioned to fulfill every horror fan's demented whim.

The stories and artwork are to-die-for (quite literally, I dare say), capturing that fine, grisly essence of EERIE, CREEPY and those EC gems, TALES FROM THE CRYPT and VAULT OF HORROR.

I recommended Crawley's comics in the recent past (see "Collection Recommendation #1": May '15), and this new installment continues the grand, ghastly tradition to the utmost extent, with each macabre tale hosted by that wickedly congenial undertaker, the Bloke. 

Treat yourself to this issue and others at Etsy and Amazon. You'll be devilishly pleased you did. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I saw the Hell of Salvation...

The western genre is as vast in adventure and blunt-edged drama as any science-fiction and/or dark fantasy, even comparable to those spirited tales of knights and space rangers old and new. Still, not all fans are apt to leap among the categories, but there are those occasional entries that have crossover appeal. On this basis, I'm boldly going out on a limb and reviewing Kristian Levring's auspicious "The Salvation". 

Just on the grounds of its cast, the film ought to catch the attention of imagi-movie lovers. It stars Mads Mikkelsen ("Hannibal"); Jeffrey Dean Morgan ("Watchmen"); Jonathan Pryce ("Something Wicked This Way Comes") and Eva Green ("Penny Dreadful"). Also, its air of austerity places it alongside "Mad Max", with hints of sadism one would likely find in a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" entry. However, its longest roots reside in the lonesome "High Noon", the embittered "High Plains Drifter" and the gritty films of Sergio Leone, hammered hard with Steve Ditko's clear-cut divide between good and bad. 

Written by Levring and Anders Thomas Jensen, "Salvation" centers on Danish ex-soldier/immigrant, Jon Jensen (Mikkelsen), who along with his wife and son is attacked by a couple cretins on a stagecoach ride to their new home. His wife is raped, and she and their son later murdered by the fiends. Jon hunts the men down and kills them; then returns to his family's once intended abode to mourn. 

What Jon doesn't realize is that one of the slain men is, in fact, the brother of land baron Colonel Henry Delarue (Morgan), who (in addition to taxing folks of Black Creek for imaginary protection) demands revenge. Initially, he blames the timid townsfolk, including the undertaker/mayor, Nathan Keane (Pryce) for the events (whatever they might possibly be) that led to his brother's death. This leads to three of their own being chosen for sacrifice, including a legless man and a grandmother who runs the general store. Delarue shoots each, but acknowledges the desperate charade and insists that the actual "culprit" be uncovered, or else...

Soon thereafter, Jon and his bother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) head to town, with Jon intent on selling his land back to Keane. The mayor agrees to pay him, but no sooner is the deal sealed that Jon is pinpointed and along with his brother, tracked and imprisoned. 

Delarue decides to torture Jon, who bravely claims his act of vengeance, and from there the poor man endures a frightening plight, assaulted by Delarue's henchman (Eric Cantona) and eventually placed on Christ-like display in the blazing sun. Also, as an ugly warm-up to these horrid circumstances, he's accused of having been too harsh on the men he killed. This preposterous blame adds to Jon's sad fate, but also increases our yearning for justice through his anguished eyes. 

While Jon suffers, Delarue has his way with his brother's widow, Madelaine/"the Princess" (Eva Greene), who's position on the proceedings remains initially vague, since her tongue was severed by Indians years prior. Her pained glances, however, imply a possible disdain for Delarue and a need to flee before things worsen. 

Meanwhile, the resilient Jon escapes with Peter's help, and though they face recapture and more loss, Jon finds the fortitude to take the law once more into his hands, administering it without mercy or remorse. This is the only way he can find peace of mind, and if he can settle the score, perhaps a chance at personal salvation.

On the surface, Levring's movie may appear a simple, revenge tale, or as it progresses, an essay on the consequences of greed. Indeed, avarice is a catalyst in this story, for we learn that the town is stationed over a precious commodity, only clarified at the movie's end: a motivating factor for Delarue and the behind-closed-doors big-shots who employ him.

However, there's more to the ensuing villainy than just that: the greater evil being the way the townsfolk quiver to the point of hurting their own, becoming as selfish as the primary evil-doers for the sake of self-preservation. Though they work together in their misguided cause, they also look out for number one and thus add to the chaos. This pathetic defense characterizes the town's puppet leaders, including Keane and even the preacher-man Sheriff Mallick (Douglas Henshall), who falls in line with Delarue's every, unjustified whim. 

The profuse lack of morality and indifference makes the town similar to those of "High Noon" and "High Plains Drifter". As in those classic westerns, the citizenry creates its own private hell, by shirking responsibility and letting its people perish. 

This also makes "Salvation" an excessively dark, brooding western. but also comparable to those adventures featuring the lurid likes of the Dark Knight and Punisher. To reinforce this angle, the shades of gray are cast far to the wayside, growing nonexistent as the climax stirs. The film's dusty, foreboding atmosphere reinforces the latter, thanks to Jens Schlosser's photography and Kasper Winding's haunting score.

However, what really makes "Salvation" tick is its superb acting: Mikkelsen giving a slow-burn woefulness on a par with his award-winning "The Hunt", and Morgan rivals his famous "Watchmen" character, Comedian, with unapologetic callousness. Green, Henshaw, Persbrandt and Pryce are also impressive, giving subdued but nuanced performances that inject realism into the rising disquiet.

"Salvation" is a rough, piercing film, but its fierceness paves a potential path for future adventure films. Imagine the upcoming Boba Fett outing opting for such dark ilk, or a "Star Trek" movie soaring into such uncompromising depths. With that said, "Salvation" is as rare as it's familiar: its execution hard, refreshing and regardless of the potential genre, ripe for emulation. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Here's a long-lost image I found by chance on eBay: one of my old booklets, described in the listing as Michael F. Housel's Chambers of Horrors!!! (I'm deeply flattered by the attribution, I must say.)

The damn endeavor never made it beyond the initial issue, but man, is that Steve Goodrich "They Live" cover still eye-catching!!! (Steve also fashioned that creepy logo.)

This failed 1989 experiment was an anthology of sorts, containing short stories, cartoons and a John Carpenter article I penned. Acclaimed author, David C. Smith, of Red Sonja fame, also shared a tale.

Anyway, this copy stems from the estate of a man named Mr. Cox, who had accumulated a massive number of monster mags and fanzines over the years, building what's now known as "the Cox Collection". How Mr. Cox came across this particular artifact is beyond me, but I'm rather flattered that he did. (Gosh, he even took the time to preserve it in plastic with cardboard backing. Bless his heart.)

Friday, August 21, 2015


DEVOLUTION Z: THE HORROR MAGAZINE is here, and inside you'll find my story, THE BOG DEMON TRIUMPHANT!!!

DEVOLUTION Z also commences the chronicles of Ivy Gage, who relays the early phases of a living-dead holocaust: penned with gnawing intensity by Alaric Vaughn.

The Vaughn serial headlines the periodical's powerful thread: a homage to the likes of George A. Romero, John Russo and of course, the mega-popular, flesh-eating epic, "The Walking Dead".

In addition its zombie homages, Editor-In-Chief Carter J. Hughes offers a supplemental variety of devolving scenarios and weird, mutant creatures: case in point, my story, "The Bog Demon Triumphant". It's a roundabout tribute to the likes of "Creature from the Black Lagoon", "Curse of the Swamp Creature", "Monster of Piedras Blancas", "The She-Creature" and others of the same soggy sort. (Fans of "How to Make a Monster '58", "Shadow of the Vampire" and "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" might also find it of interest.)

Right now the August '15 issue is available through Amazon in digital format, with the promise of printed copies after the new year.

Check out what all the buzz is about. You won't be sorry!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Hello, folks--Just a heads-up to inform you that my short story, "The Bog Demon Triumphant" (originally titled "Man in the Rubber Monster Suit") will appear in the August issue of Devolution Z Magazine, available through

The story was inspired by such "Creature from the Black Lagoon" knock-offs as "Monster from Piedras Blancas" and "Curse of the Swamp Creature". 

Though Devolution Z caters to the flesh-eating zombie scene, the publisher was gracious enough to accept my offbeat story. It's about a fellow who wishes to sequelize a '58 monster flick, and in donning the original costume, begins to react in a most peculiar way. 

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on the official release date. Sure hope you'll seek out the issue...


GOODBYE MS. CRAIG...You truly meant the world to me. 

You'll be missed more than mere words could ever convey. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

An Alternate Reality #11: Star Trek/Planet of the Apes--the Primate Directive

When the conceptual splicing of classic "Planet of the Apes" and classic "Star Trek" was first reported, some scoffed and said it would never work. Some even referenced the "Star Trek"/"X-Men" overlaps as proof of why. However, few seemed unnerved when "Apes" and "Alien Nation" merged through Malibu Comics as "Ape Nation" in the early '90s, though perhaps because that crossover seemed wisely suited based on the franchises' commonalities. However, to me, combining the mythic simians with the stalwart Enterprise crew seems simply...well, as Mr. Spock would say, "logical", if not foolishly delayed. 

Both "Apes" and "Trek" have acknowledged the existence of alternate dimensions: sometimes speculative; sometimes concrete. "Mirror, Mirror" is the basis for the recent alternate-track "Trek" movies, and the retelling of Caesar and his rise among suppressed simians has folks hungering for the next, revisionist chapter, but oh, how splendid to merge the concepts by returning to where each started.

This is what IDW Publishing/BOOM! Studios has accomplished, placing all five installments of its comic-book saga into one thrilling, alternate-reality volume. And does it work? Heck, it's rather like if we, as kids, had intermingled our Mego action-figures from both sectors and fashioned our own, crossover epic, except that this tale is far more sophisticated than any child could construct, for "the Primate Directive" acts as more than a "Mirror, Mirror" offshoot, by cleverly including those unscrupulous Klingons for melodramatic impact.

The Klingons are led by "Errand of Mercy'"s Commander Kor (played by John Collicos in the series), who has found the means to penetrate inter-dimensional space: i.e., an ape-based parallel Earth. The Klingons wish to arm the evolved simians with specialized rifles, as a stepping stone in implementing Klingon control throughout the newly discovered galaxy. 

In the midst of this intrigue, "Primate Directive" not only pays homage to "Errand of Mercy", but adapts an "Enterprise Incident", "Private, Little War" and "Omega Glory" feel, setting sides against each other. This element has always worked for both franchises and exceeds expectations in this merger. 

Since the Klingons intend to give the apes greater leverage toward achieving human genocide, Kirk must intervene. However, with dealings between Kor and the militant General Marius (General Ursus's more belligerent counterpart) have already formed, one can only ponder the damage incurred. Fortunately, lost astronaut Colonel George Taylor is there to offer insight (with Charlton Heston's features aptly captured, I might add), as well as gracious Cornelius and Zira. 

The script, by Scott and David Tipton, flows naturally. For example, the early phases of the adventure, which center on Sulu and Uhura in Klingon disguises, could have been culled from any classic "Trek" episode (though most likely with Kirk and Spock in those given spots), and the Marius prologue feels not only like something yanked from one of the original "Apes" movies, but even more so the underrated television series. Also, a later-down-the-line, physical confrontation between Kirk and Taylor snaps of historic intensity, with sharp dialogue and fighting action that deftly suits each opponent.

The artwork by Rachel Stott, with vibrant coloring by Charlie Kirchoff, recalls the look and atmosphere of both mythologies, bridging them well with character renderings that flatter the actors who own them. 

Above all, the Tiptons' tale nails the best philosophical tones of each series, concentrating on the implications of human interference on an otherwise paved timeline. Few franchises have dealt with this concept as well as these two, and "Primate Directive" succeeds in presenting the pros and cons. In truth, the social ramifications involved hit a new level of depth and insight: quite an accomplishment, considering the quality these series have previously offered. 

In less capable hands, this experiment could have devolved into an unintentional parody, but because of its careful construction, we're blessed with a tribute that honors both sources (and fills a number of gaps among the first three "Apes" movies, with one helluva an ending, to boot). Can't recommend it enough and sure hope the concept receives a deserved (and most logical) revisit. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Collectible Time #35: Gordon Archer Weetabix Star Trek--TMP and Sergio Grisanti Pacific Rim Posters

Now here's a rarity: a Weetabix Cereal, U.K. promotional poster by Gordon Archer for..."Star Trek--The Motion Picture"!!!

I obtained the '79 reproduction from Archer's son, Jon, and it's even signed by his dad!!!

The poster measures approximately 23" by 33" and offers stunning likenesses of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Stephen Collins and Persis Khambatta. I also like the detailed inclusions of the Enterprise, the Klingon Cruiser and Kirk-occupied Shuttlecraft, from the scene where Scotty grants him ample view of their refurbished lady. 

What a color!!! What a tribute!!!  (BTW: for more info on this superb print, visit...STAR TREK POSTER on FACEBOOK.)

And speaking of rare posters, my dear Facebook friend, A-jay Sphinx recently gifted me a wonderful "Pacific Rim" 14" x 20" commemoration by artist Sergio Grisanti, limited to a 1,000-run IMAX FANFIX promotion. 

The brawling image unleashes a distinct graphic-novel feel, while faithfully capturing the monster-melee majesty of Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece. (Gosh, the raw, visual thrust sure gets me psyched for the promised sequel!!!) 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

I saw U.N.C.L.E. (Reborn)...

In the mid-sixties there was no spy phenomenon as big as "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.", except of course, James Bond and let's not forget "The Avengers" (John Steed/Emma Peel, that is). "U.N.C.L.E.", however, went through the roof during its early phases, making Robert Vaughn and David McCallum household names, as well as their characters, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin pop-cultural icons. Incidentally, though the series was developed by the innovative Sam Rolfe, it was conceptually influenced by Bond's daddy, Ian Fleming.

U.N.C.L.E., which stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement,  took a stand against the chaotic command of T.H.R.U.S.H.: Tech Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity (how's that for a mouthful?). U.N.C.L.E. was a combined agency effort: though Solo was American bred, Kuryakin was KGB connected. Kuryakin was still faithful to Solo, who like Bond, was every inch the suave, lady's man. Their boss (i.e., their version of "M"), was Alexander Waverly, portrayed by renown character-actor Leo G. Carroll: the series' sentimental, supporting lead. 

"U.N.C.L.E." spawned several films (episodes shown theatrically in color during a time when black-and-white television was the norm, with added, sensual footage not seen on the home screen). The films were profitable worldwide, and though "Return of the Man from Uncle" premiered as a high-profile movie-of-the-week in '83, it's odd that a theatrical relaunch of the franchise has taken this long. 

Nevertheless, the "U.N.C.L.E" revival has surfaced: big-budgeted and directed by hipster Guy Ritchie, who co-scripted with Lionel Wigram. It stars Henry Cavill as Solo and Armie Hammer as Kuryakin: yep, Superman and the Lone Ranger together at last (well, sorta). Affable Hugh Grant portrays Waverly, with Jared Harris on hand as C.I.A. agent Sanders, who  keeps us properly cautious in the good ol' fashioned Cold War way. 

Joining the boys is the lovely, mechanically inclined East German, Gaby Teller (Alicia "Ex Machina" Vikander). She's not in the least timid about throwing herself into the action and remains a constant sight-for-sore-eyes: for all intents and purposes, this story's "Girl From U.N.C.L.E.".

The sinister lead is the cool Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), who's as fiendish as she is statuesque: a veritable Satan cloaked. Her sadistic motivation is pure T.H.R.U.SH., with a desire to tear down the world via nuclear destruction (and with an connection to Teller's physicist dad, no less). In this regard, she's much like any aspiring terrorist (only lots prettier) and to Solo, far more treacherous than even the most skilled KGB agent could be. After all, Kuryakin is on his side (albeit reluctantly), and together our heroes face a series of outlandish obstacles to defeat their foe.

The circumstances churn lots of comical bickering and sincere camaraderie, making this U.N.C.L.E. more of a buddy movie than a typical, spy/espionage flick. Then again, the principles were always tight-nit on the series, and considering the third season's shameless levity, the film's shenanigans may not be so out of place. 

In other ways, Ritchie's version mirrors his revisionist Sherlock Holmes adventures: a sea-sawing of high-flying danger and unabashed superheroics. Thank goodness the flow never feels awkward, perhaps because its underlying unevenness is charged by movie-serial thrills, quick wit and exotic visuals. Let's face it: for this sort of adventure, that's essentially all one needs.

Also to the remake's benefit, it's an unapologetic nostalgic piece, with a Daniel Pemberton throwback score, which often invokes Ennio Morricone, constantly accompanied by cool cars and colorful clothing. The overall package is an indisputable gift to older fans, but hopefully the film will inspire youngsters to seek out the original, so they might see what all the hub-bub was (and still is) about. Indeed, what was old is new again, and in either case, it's all good fun.