Bone Tomahawk -- The dissection of Deputy Nick 

To ask "What is scary?" is like asking "What is funny?" Not only can you not point to one definable thing, but you can't even define the emotion itself. A jump-scare can be a real shot in the arm, while spooky vibes can be a dull ache that lasts for weeks. And then, of course, there are those moments that leave scars. 

Let's do this.

For about... let's say 30 years, I was on an artistic quest to expose my eyes & brain to the most vile, grotesque, upsetting images that Cinema had to offer. (This is a craving I won't bother exploring because most of you already understand it in your own intellectual terms.) Once I conquered the initial hurtle of most mainstream Horror, I heightened my awareness of language like "Extreme," "Unrated," "Banned in 80 countries," and other selling points aimed directly at kids like me. And it took me a few decades to finally stomach the terrible truth: that while most of these movies may've succeeded in upsetting me for whatever period of time, a lot of 'em weren't particularly good - or they simply didn't have the stamina to work their way into my 'rewatch' rotation. Every movie has its flaws, but what I think it boiled down to was that the majority of these abusive 'nasties' were mostly empty of fun; not that everything has to be particularly thrilling, or funny even, but if a movie has one or two notorious moments to hang its jacket on, that is, for me, not enough to sustain a love affair; To avoid fainting, just keep repeating, "It's only a coat rack..." 
And in those instances, once you've seen the 'horrific acts,' the inital shock tends to fade -- and then so does the movie.

Bone Tomahawk, on the other hand, is a miracle of Art & Science; it is thrilling, and it is funny, and it does feature an act so horrific that it compromises all of its other 'rewatchability' criteria.

That's right folks: I'd seen the movie once, and I was too afraid to watch it a second time. And I can say without hesitation that that is the only instance in my lifetime when that is what kept me from seeing a movie - let alone revisiting one. Conversely, in the past, the promise of such a cathartic roller coaster would have been like a magnet, and I would be steel - but I truly think that's the difference between this film and the ones I'd seen up to that point: it succeeds not only under the heading of "Great Horror," but also as "Extreme Horror"; it's a movie I'd watch all the time, but I can't stomach it.

So maybe we should talk about it.

I have a morbid, apprehensive fascination with cannibals - a phobic interest that I'm not gonna waste time examining. But I will say that, though it's a Horror subgenre that I've clung to, roughly none of the movies I'd seen had ever really explored the properties of its chilling yuckiness in a way that lined up with what I'd always felt in my heart and my bowels. None - until Bone Tomahawk

If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about, and if you haven't seen it, you must've at least read about it, as it depicts one of the most powerful scenes of shock and gore ever put on screen. It caused me to break into a cold sweat that I wasn't prepared for. Robert Englund has called it "the scariest movie of all time." It's that level of stomach-churning intensity that makes it as upsetting as it does exhilarating. 

I don't wanna undermine the A+ performances from the A-list actors, or the traditional-but-enjoyable search-and-rescue Western premise - because it's these elements that contribute to the sting of the left hook that the movie throws at you in the final act. 

So what is That Moment that I'm talking about? Well, like I said, if you know the movie, you know the moment - and I'd love it if we could leave it there, because if it hasn't already become apparent, I've been putting it off even in the context of this write-up. That's how deep the cuts are. But I will say that finally, finally, after nearly 5 years, I've watched the film a second time - specifically for the purposes of discussing it for Spooky Pussy - and I gotta say that the top-notch enjoyability of the movie is only very slightly overshadowed by the severity of... that moment.

And that moment is this: the town's deputy has been kidnapped by cannibalistic cave dwellers, and without warning, they drag him out of the cage in which they'd imprisoned him, strip him of his clothing, and thoroughly scalp him. They then force his bloody scalp into his screaming mouth, further advancing it into his throat with the aid of a wooden stake. Next, they hold him upside down by his feet and proceed to wield the dreaded bone tomahawk by chopping him down the middle - from crotch to gut - while simultaneously pulling his legs wider apart like a wishbone, until the entirety of his innards spill onto the ground. The mute monsters don't make a sound during this process, and there's no film score -- just the sounds of screaming, tearing, and organs hitting the floor.

It's a tough scene. And despite its provocative nature, it's successful because it's not gratuitous. The film is a "slow burn" (which is the phrase you can read in every review that's been written about it), and the story periodically reminds us that something uncommonly terrible is awaiting us. And so, the movie actively earns whatever gruesome event you could imagine - except you couldn't have imagined this.

And I earned it too - after years and years of watching native savages castrating foreign devils and eating their eyeballs, I've now finally found something with the serious tone and existential horror that I'd always thought the subgenre deserves.

- Paul


What We Discover Could Destroy The World

We know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Finally! Bennett Media is tackling the 1999 direct-to-video magnum opus Alien Arsenal, directed by David DeCoteau!" Well, yeah - hard to believe it took this long, but here we are.

Seriously though, here's the deal: we ordered some stuff from Full Moon a few months ago during one of their sales - and, as a sidenote, the sale was ridiculous: 50% off blu rays, added to a Buy One Get One Free deal. So it really shouldn't have come as any surprise that, additionally, Charlie and the crew extended their predictable generosity to sending us a free movie -- one we didn't ask for, and never heard of.

Now, if y'all heard of Alien Arsenal or have even seen it, our pants are off to you - but we went into it with a spirit of adventure and experimentation. So, is it a hidden gem, or something considerably less than? Here's what we thought:

Paul's take:
We went into this knowing director David DeCoteau best from his earlier Linnea Quigley epics (Creepozoids, Nightmare Sisters, Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama), but also being peripherally aware of his 150+ filmmaking credits for Full Moon, SyFy, Hallmark, and Lifetime. So, not surprisingly, this movie was a little bit of all those things - but more.

Supposedly, Alien Arsenal is a "loose remake" of the 1978 Full Moon feature Laserblast - which is fair but inconsequential, seeing as how the premise feels pretty common: a couple high school outcasts stumble upon a poorly-hidden pantry of various other-worldly weapons (ray guns, x-ray binoculars, invincible suits of armor) and then use said weapons to right the wrongs of the world (which is mostly just teaching lessons to bullies).
Predictably, the weapons' original owners fly in from outer space to retrieve them - disguised as humans and posing as foreign exchange students (which translates into broad Ace of Base-type complexions in Rammstein attire). 
Make no mistake, this movie is an assertive time capsule of 1999 - not just through cultural references, but through style, fashion, and flavor, it's a charming celebration of its moment without any irony or self-awareness. You know, just like I like it. 
It should also be noted that this is an extremely family-friendly PG-13 kid caper, which is a major strength - if not its only strength - as it allows any details that seem too silly or not as believable to be regarded simply as "fun." And man, lemme tell you, it is fun; if this was sold to me as Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Movie, I wouldn't have had too many complaints, because 1.) the entire setup and how it's executed falls in line with the TV show every step of the way, and 2.) I liked it very much.

Jess's take:
I really can't tell you very much about the film - if you can even call this a film: the SciFi epic Alien Arsenel. But I can definitely share about our first recent viewing. And I've got to say, it was definitely one of the best times I've had in this otherwise chode of a year.  
We are the honored recipients of a free DVD copy, direct from Full Moon Features. It accompanied our recent blu-ray purchases of Meridian and Trancers directly from the company that produced them. Trancers was important to replace for us, as we prematurely sold it in anticipation of a blu-ray upgrade. Trancers has become a very special Christmas movie for us, and the holiday will be here before we know it. I don't know why he bought Meridian. I feel like the VHS cover is nostalgic for me. But I digress. 
There in the box was our third, unknown freebie. The cover looked like someone's heresay interpretation of an acid trip, used to artistically allude to an alien invasion, in 1999.  The stills on the back looked like Andy Sidaris meets Tron. And apparently 'Ralph and Baxter' have to protect their stolen interstellar weaponry from its angry other-dimensional original owners. We're sold and grateful for our prize for staying positive this year. Thank you to the universe and to Charles Band.
The circumstances surrounding our acquisition of this DVD called for a feature write-up. Something for the site, but about the feature. This meant sitting and watch-watching it. Minimal lighting, maybe popcorn, but quiet. Theater-style. This allows for maximum absorption. But as soon as this movie started, our commentary began.
We are fans of Rifftrax and MST3K, and love putting on the commentary for Jason Goes to Hell, but that has just never been our thing to do ourselves. It took this very special movie, that feels like an extended episode of Roswell, to finally crack these old stodgy film critics. It felt so good to laugh like that. Now go get yourself a copy, forget your problems, and just have fun. Because fun is the best thing to have.



 We warned you there'd be more...

We were most impressed with the amount of correct answers left in the comments (which reminds us - don't DM your guesses cuz there's no way to prove your prowess). But between Dan and Luke, y'all pretty much finished each other's sentences. A few were missed as you can see in the comments -- but this new set should be a little... harder, actually. But that's only because we have faith in your single-frame-of-film knowledge. Besides, you've had the entire season to bone up on the blood & guts, so this should all be fresh in your mind!

Just keep off the moors, pal.






The Darkside is always there
waiting for us to enter,
waiting to enter us.
Until next time,
try to enjoy the daylight.



 I'm having another one of my... episodes!

   Watching shows in this house means we're eating dinner. And that also means we're winding down and creating a mood for our evening. This is always way more fun during holiday seasons. Mealtimes become an event, dwarfing the feature/sex combo that follows. We'll turn a cold shoulder to our standard sandwich or pasta night and fill our bodies with delicious oil dripping delivery. We'll message each other all day to try to pair the right meal with the right show, hopefully nailing that perfect episode. A longstanding tradition that we will pass on to our son.

   If I had to choose a Horror genre, after giving it an unreasonable amount of thought, I would I have to say it would be 'Anthology.' Horror is best when presented like little nightmares. After all, it's the tiniest cuts that are the most painful. And so I thank the universe for giving me The Horror Series. The bad dreams can weave in and out and change a hundred times, depending on the writers' imagination. A neverending compilation. These are this year's Top 5 meal-enhancing, nostalgia-inducing, monsters in my closet. Viewer discretion is advised.

- Babes 
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
"The Tale of the Dollmaker" (season 3)

  The night that I decided that I was much too old and sophisticated for this show, this episode aired, and I was sucked back in. I'd always been afraid of porcelain dolls, but this introduced the idea of an otherworldly dimension, where you actually become the creepy toy. I find the concept way scarier than the show's low-budget execution, but I always get right in the October spirit every year when we revisit.
The Twilight Zone
"Eye of the Beholder" (season 2)

  Though it may be hard to believe, I have not watched very much of The Twilight Zone. The series, which many believe paved the way and heavily influenced modern Horror Cinema, has eluded me for years. Though there were times throughout my life where I have caught some episodes during holiday related marathons, and due to extreme popularity, every time I would catch this one. 

  To say that I have a low self-image is a dramatic understatement. There were portions of my teen years especially that were very unkind. I would agonize in front of a mirror and long for a more socially accepted physique. What I always loved most about this particular installment was how body positive it was. The grotesque looked down upon great beauty with disgust, leaving the viewer not only creeped-out by their horrific reveal, but also to maybe think about the choices they make. Maybe they won't pick on little Dick or Jane tomorrow.

"Spooky Boo-tique" (season 2)

  Beetlejuice was a way of life for about three years. I watched the movie day-in and -out and wouldn't miss an episode of the equally-adorable tie-in cartoon. I had one small action figure toy, that I coveted above all other things. I would buckle tiny Michael Keaton into the seat next to me in the car for safe measure. And the Ghost With the Most was my imaginary friend. You could often catch me in quiet corners singing "Day-O" to him. 

  Growing up I wanted to be a million different things, all influenced by a million things that I loved. And added to the jar was to own and operate my very own Spooky Boutique. A goth store, or store of mysticism. I would sells gemstones, good quality black clothes, stinky herbs, and spider jewelry. I came close during my Hot Topic management years, but working for a huge corporation, where we don't choose what we sell, is very different. I do have to say, that every morning, when lifting that gate to open, I would hear Lydia's jingle for her store commercial. 

Buffy The Vampire Slayer
"Band Candy" (season 3)

  I unabashedly love Buffy and I make no apologies for it. It is my favorite soap opera. The first season laid the groundwork for Horror Drama fans alike, and with that established audience, we could start to character arc and strip personality layers. This would go on to be the show's greatest strength. 

  Bookish nerdy men with glasses are hot. I will probably think about getting in your pants. But if you add to that a repressed demon worshiper with a punk rock edge, and you hold my genitals in your hands. Any Halloween episode of any show is exciting, but watching a belligerent chain-smoking Giles trying to nail Buffy's Mom, and I'm wet. 

Tales From the Crypt
"Four-sided Triangle" (season 2)

   I like most Tales from the Crypt. In fact, I picked an entirely different segment for an earlier episodic entry. This year I am being more selective. I am making my choices based on how things make me feel. And this short film, with some of the best Horror acting out there, makes me feel genuinely unnerved. There's no monster, no evil doer, no bump in the night. A writer took a somewhat plausible and disturbing home-life scenario, and gave it a gory and heroic ending we were all hoping for, but weren't expecting.



 Newspapers, magazines; periodicals in general are the closest thing we have to time travel. Journalism is the only art form (because yes, we should call it that) that is traditionally and ideally objective -- a true account of a time & place without all those pesky abstractions you get with TV, books, music, etc.

You buy that? I sure-as-shit hope so because that was 100% more psychobabble than I wanted to include in a post about published pigs' blood from the past. (I'm just tryna make you part of my world.)

"Horror Magazines" have been around since before Christ - largely in the 'pulp fiction' kinda sense. But the kind I wanna talk about - the kind I like - are their own subgenre of infotainment: the Horror Movie magazine. Because of various fanzines and underground stuff, it's hard to be positive when such a thing was actually invented - but I think it's more-than-fair to place all the blame on Famous Monsters of Filmland. It started in 1958 and, more or less, is still kinda going today (look it up). If you've never perused, it's pretty much what you're used to: articles and interviews dealing with current and classic Horror films, complete with neat pictures and striking cover artwork -- and it was all for kids.
Suffice to say it was a 'pioneer' in this very, very specific little area of interest, as it spawned enough fans and imitators until the interest was not-so-little. Which (finally) brings me to me, and if you're anything like me (I know I am), you've spent your life "sampling" all these different versions of what has ultimately been the same thing.

I think we've pushed the big "F" enough that we can take a break for this round (but a short break, dammit) and focus on some of this other literature that's been trembling under the weight of obscurity for too long. Not that there's anything too unconventional here, but I'll definitely let you know which ones are worth eBaying the back issues and which you can stick next to the toilet so your guests can learn all about Maniac Cop III while they shit.

- Paul

This was 'the other red meat.' A "sister" magazine to Fangoria, it basically was Fangoria with very little variance between the two; it was "I Can't Believe It's Not Fango."

But still, the point of the magazine was - you guessed it - more gore -- or rather, specifically gore, as in it focused exclusively on the FX side of Cinema. All Cinema.

Issue no. 26 illustrates the far reaches of bloody films around this time with a refreshingly prophetic article/interview with talented new director Quentin Tarantino - discussing Dogs and his then-yet-to-be-produced vampire movie. 

It ran only 27 issues, but that was the timeframe (88-93) that it should've existed - that was peak carnage-in-movies time, and it was presented in these pages with the same confrontational color and gnarly eloquence as its big sister. Plus, that kickass logo is worthy of a tattoo! (or at least a t-shirt.)
Grade: A

You might already know this one, as it's the most popular on this list. It's also still in publication and distributed globally, so I'd hope you've at least seen it.

I discovered it in the mid 2000s, right around the time Fangoria was (I felt) circling the drain - so there was a bit of a rebound infatuation that came with it. Still though, it's incredibly dense and informative - even if it is a little drab. But I suppose the drabness goes along with the dark/gothic angle that the title implies.

If it specializes in anything specific, it's their exhaustive articles celebrating obscure and forgotten avenues of the macabre - so obscure that I'm guaranteed to walk away with some new knowledge from each issue.

If I had one mild complaint, it's that it's Canadian: and all that means is that various release dates and availabilities don't always line up with my geographical condition. 
Grade: A-

It's like Woman's Day, but for genre fans.

Not really, but as you've deduced, this magazine focuses on women in the industry - and by "focus," I mean, like, 100X magnification.

I suppose people classify it as a "Men's Magazine" (which is fair - it is pretty sexy to the heterosexual male), but it's especially sexy to a film fan. Granted, there are full-page publicity shots and pinup-style spreads of pretty girls, but these girls generally have extensive film & TV resumes, and the mag goes to meticulous lengths to discuss them all. And so, naughty pictures aside, I'd say this book isn't for lightweights. But if you're really ready to expand your knowledge of everything from Summer Blockbusters to Direct-to-Video features, dive head first into these babies - and there's plenty to look at along the way.
Grade: B+

This one is a bit of a question mark to me; I don't really know how long it ran or even what their 'gimmick' really was. But what I can tell you from its pages is that they were legitimately interested in 'monster news' more than 'slaughter porn.'

Not to say it was the toddlers' version of Fangoria (though this issue does hold the most in-depth article about Little Monsters that I've come across), because they do still cover all the big, gory headliners of the era - they just weren't keen on shots of eyeball paste and entrail art. So in hindsight it's easy to see why it didn't last while the competition was so dirty - but now, speaking for the old man that is myself, I'm quite capable of getting arousal outta this subject matter (even without the freaky stuff).
Grade: B+

I'll be honest: I bought this for the provocative Scout Taylor-Compton cover, but my expectations as far as content and character were already at the morgue; the comedy of "look how tasteless we are" holds no water with me.

So it was quite the pleasant surprise when it managed to stay in its seat and behave like the good piece of pulp that it is. The cheapness bleeds through (and not in a fun punk rock way, but more like a "we don't really understand graphic design" kinda way), but it made sense once I realized that the main job of the mag is to highlight and showcase otherwise-unknown artists in the Horror community; calling attention to all kindsa painting, photography, fiction, film, et al. There are some sporadic 'goth girl cheesecake' treats that are pretty tame and by-the-numbers, but the attractive stuff really is the generosity it extends to folks trying to make a name for themselves - in turn, entertaining us with an eclectic gallery showing.
Grade: B


This is the toughest one to describe - mostly because I think they didn't really know what they had -- and by "they," I mean the plucky publishers at Starlog. That's right: this is another one of Fango's "sisters" that popped in there at a peak pop culture era - literally sitting on the racks next to its siblings. I mean, it could totally hold its own in terms of style, but not substance; still with the big, splashy, colorful pages, but often the content of the articles (and even how they're placed within the structure of the book) manages to be disorienting (which is a notable failure for a teen trash rag with arrestingly simple subject matter).

When it covered movies, it was the same old pieces with the same old interviewees, but in between those were stuff like true crime accounts, tales of bizarre incidents, and dopey comic strips and short stories. I love the 'mixed bag' approach, but the execution was aimless and sloppy, and the focus was weak.
Grade: B-

This magazine, on the other hand, is very direct in its approach - even if the title is a little misleading.

Like Femme Fatales, it is scrupulous in detailing the careers of the featured actresses - but it quite often veers away from the agreed-upon definition of "Scream Queen." Granted, they make the most out of an interview/photoshoot with the likes of Michelle Bauer, Julie Strain, or Linnea, but the cream of each issue is the extensive career retrospectives of then-current stars of all low-budget cable and DTV entertainment - not just Horror.

So if any of you other elderly perverts are into full frontal photos of Lisa Boyle, Becky LeBeau, or Lorissa McComas, and you're as excited to learn more about them as I, then you're probably already reading it.
Grade: A-

I've saved the best for last. Like, the really really best.

When I discovered it back around '06, it single-handedly revived my waning interest in the genre -- and the way it did that was with up-to-the-minute news re. various areas of merchandise: specifically physical media and toys; basically the kinda information one could find on the internet if they actively searched for it - whereas this was all in its own concise mode of delivery. 

And so while it helped to further my quest for new/old Cinema, as well as amass material possessions that enflamed this 'reawakening,' it simultaneously celebrated all things Horror in a shamelessly nostalgic way: detailed retrospectives, lists, contests, quizes, and general esoteric musings that solidified the fact that this magazine was made by the people, for the people. 

All of this amounted to the book's only real blemish: they don't really dislike anything; there's no discretion or discrimination for them when it comes to "Horror" with a capital 'H.' They are shameless in their adoration of any & everything that exists under that very broad headline, so that even if something may not live up to any kind of standard, it's still solid, because if this were 1988, you'd slap that little green "HORROR" sticker on it. 

But that's ok. This is a brand of subjective objectivity that is in no way dangerous or harmful to others; to put it bluntly, this is the most happy & upbeat glorification of blood & guts that you're ever gonna find. And I think that is just aces. 
Grade: A+

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