Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

A bunch of horror fans spent part of this last weekend having a complete and total meltdown. Now, I don’t blame them for that. However, even as I suffered the same aggravations they did, I think they’re letting the thing that aggravated them cloud their vision a bit. Yes, what happened was annoying as hell when it was happening, and, yes, it was probably worse for the people who finagled the day off from work for a day-long event they were really looking forward to. But, guys and gals, there is a huge bit of great news out of last weekend’s aggravation that a lot of you need to open your eyes to and actually see for what it is.

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Harlan

That was a name you could say in many circles without having to add the last name, and no one wondered which Harlan you were talking about. If you brought up that name in literary circles, science fiction circles, or convention panels, almost everyone who had been around for longer than a cup of coffee knew you were talking about Harlan Ellison.

 

How do you describe someone like Harlan Ellison? I’ve already seen many attempting to do so by calling him one of the greatest science fiction writers of his time or simply the greatest science fiction writer of all time. But, honestly, that diminishes the man to a degree. Yes, he wrote some of the greatest and most well-known science fiction stories of a generation, but he was far more than just a science fiction writer. His work covered almost every genre and every medium of entertainment. Harlan Ellison, as he sometimes made very clear himself, was a writer– full stop.

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In between grumblings and observations on fandom and genre, I do a lot of promoting of other people’s works and passion projects. One thing I’ve really not done is promote anything I’ve been working on other than in the little bio bit at the bottom of the columns, and, let’s be honest, most people that read articles on websites tend to stop reading when they hit the first few words of those things.

However, if I learned nothing else during my years of being a professional wrestling fan and seeing Mick Foley on the television, I’ve learned that cheap pops work. Unfortunately, cheap pops of the Foley variety don’t really work all that well on a website like this. However, I also learned from the Foley years of WWE television that shameless self-promotion isn’t always a bad thing.  As such, this week I’m doing some shameless self-promotion. Think of it as my birthday gift to myself. Granted, my birthday is still five months away. However, I keep being told that procrastination is bad, so I’m getting it out of the way now.

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ConCarolinas is multi-genre, multi-media convention that has at this point been plugging away in North Carolina for the better part of the last two decades. I’ve been an on and off attendee since 2014, so I’ve seen some of the growth of the convention in recent years as well as seen a couple of nice locations for the event. Although, I have to admit, of the four ConCarolinas I’ve been to, this one was a little different in more ways than one. One reason was something everyone may have noticed. The other thing was a tad more personal.

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That may seem like an odd thing to say right now. A revival of the zombie film? For most people following horror, the zombie film hasn’t gone away. Cable television and the various streaming services are loaded with them; some old, some brand new. It wasn’t even that long ago that Brad Pitt was running around with zombies on the big screen screwing up a perfectly good book’s premise and talk of a follow-up film has been getting thrown around for a while now. As such, it may seem odd to some to say that we’re seeing a revival of the zombie movie. But the fact is, we are.   

The thing is, I’m not talking about seeing more zombie movies being made or seeing larger zombie movies being made. I’m talking about a revival in the form of seeing better and better zombie films starting to be made again.

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It’s #AlienDay

From time to time, the timeline of cinema history has giant red lines etched into it that separate eras. There are the way things were or were expected to be before that point in time/event and then the way things were or were expected to be after that point in time/event. For science fiction cinema, the 1970s had two huge red lines etched into its timeline that changed the way we expected big budget science fiction to look on screen.

One of those lines came in 1977 with Star Wars. Star Wars brought on entire new expectations with regards to what science fiction on the big screen would look like. But, for as much as some people talk about the dirty, used, lived in look of the technology in Star Wars, the real impact Star Wars had was the work ILM did with both the FX work and in how some of that FX work was shot. The world of Star Wars may have been dirtier and more dog-eared than the world of 2001: A Space Odyssey just shy of a decade before it, but many of the visuals of the one could have easily felt at home in the other. Then the other red line in cinema’s timeline came along in 1979, and that red line, the movie Alien, changed the way we expected science fiction on the big screen to look in more ways than one.

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The year was 1985, basic cable television in the form we now know it was still crawling towards its teenage years, and an eight-year-old USA Network decided to start the new year off with a new Saturday afternoon show. The USA Network had access to more quality films and programming than your average local UHF channel, but, despite this advantage, their access to films was still a wee bit higher on the ratio of the stinkers vs the great films out there. As such, the early day weekend blocks were often showcasing the not even close to being the best in science fiction and horror on the USA Network; a common thing with many early basic cable channels.

In order to make these less than stellar movies stand out from the crowd, the powers that be at the USA Network decided to take a page out of the broadcast channel playbook from years earlier and have the movies hosted by someone playing a character. The USA Network held a casting call in late 1984, and among the people that tried out for the role of the host was Jim Hendricks. Hendricks apparently had what they were looking for, and on January 5, 1985, the costumed persona of Commander USA strolled onto the TV screens of America to beam mostly so bad they were good films into American homes from his secret headquarters under a New Jersey shopping mall. By the time the show saw its last episode in 1989, it had seen more than 200 shows air, Commander USA had hosted a few events along the way, and an (unintentionally) one shot magazine, Commander USA’s World of Horror, had been produced.

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