Wes Craven passes at age 76

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Wes Craven – dies at age 76 – August 30, 2015

He created two highly successful horror film series in Nightmare and Scream and one of the lasting Icons in Horror. As well known as Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolfman, Freddy Kruger is a name that will live on forever. Craven’s wonderful work as a director carried the horror genre through many decades. Thanks for your great films and dark visions…thanks for the scares.

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War of the Gargantuas (1966) – Movie review

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War of the Gargantuas (1966)

Toho Films

Directed by Ishiro Honda
special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya
Music Akira Ifukube

This is my favorite Toho Kaiju film that doesn’t feature Godzilla. It is the sequel to FCtW, but suddenly it seems Universal didn’t want Toho using the Frankenstein name in its US release. However, if you look at the monsters in this film, it’s clear they both resemble Frankenstein. Picking up from FCtW, the monsters flesh has undergone further mutation to the point where a very small piece can regenerate into a full organism. It’s several years from the death of the giant Frankenstein and war_gargantuas_dvdJapan is faced with this new threat. The film begins with a fantastic sequence. A nighttime storm batters a fishing vessel. The boatswain is trying to steer the vessel through the rough waters. A large tentacle creeps up behind him and grabs him. Then another enters the room. In a wide shot we can see a giant octopus overtaking the ship looking for a midnight snack. Just when it looks like the man will be ripped apart, the tentacles make a quick retreat. Cautiously, he moves to the windows. Outside we see a giant beast battling with the octopus (one of my fave visuals of the film). But this green hairy water beast is not a savior. After dispatching the octopus he sinks the boat.

This is a rare Kaiju film that shows the monster eating humans in gory (for the time) fashion. At the airport the Green Gargantua (Gaira) picks up a woman, chews on her, then spits out her war of the gargantuas screen shot 6bloody clothes. Gaira begins invading the Japanese mainland looking for more food. I love the scale of the Gargantuas in this film. They are bigger than the original King Kong but not as big as Godzilla, allowing for some good detail in the minatures. The military attacks the beast and does some major damage until another monster show up to save him. The Brown Gargantua (Sanda) lives in the mountains and was raised by the scientists. When Sanda discovers his brother is eating humans he tries to stop him and a battle ensues. The battle escalates into the city where the two throw each other into buildings, smash through the infrastructure and bash each other with ships in the harbor. It is one amazing Kaiju battle, one of my favorites in giant monster filmdom. This was also the first appearance of the mazor cannon mounted on military vehicles. They’re put to dramatic use cutting through forest trees in the assault on the green Gargantua. It’s really a great film for fans of the genre supported by a great cast that includes Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno and Kenji Sahara. Akira Ifukube’s bombastic score is more prominent in this film with dramatic horn blasts and powerful melodies. You don’t have to see FCtW to understand and enjoy this film. If you have enthusiasm for giant monster films and haven’t seen this, I would recommend seeing it. It’s one of my top giant monster flicks of all time.

Fun facts:
Guillermo del Toro has said in an interview that War of The Gargantuas is one of his favorite Kaiju films

Russ Tamblyn became famous for his starring role in the film version of West Side Story (1961)

Kumi Mizuno, who starred in War of the Gargantuas, also starred in Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965), and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966). She also returned for several millennium series Godzilla films (2000 – 2004).

 

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Kumi Mizuno

More Dinosaur and Giant Monster movie reviews – overview 

Devil (2010) – movie review

Parlor of Horror:

I’m re-posting this review as part of the IPC’s Devil Week feature. Click on the Devil Week image to see more Devilish reviews from co-bloggers :)
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Originally posted on parlor of horror:

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Devil (2010)

Yes, this is the movie that takes place in an elevator – not to be mistaken with Elevator, which is also on Netflix and suspiciously has almost the exact same poster art. Devil is based on a story written by M. Night Shyamalan, but directed by John Erick Dowdle. This is one fantastic horror thriller. Set in a Philadelphia high-rise, it feeds off the claustrophobic setting.

The film begins with an upside-down view of Philadelphia which is a stunning, beautiful shot. Naturally, the inverted image is to signify that something is wrong with the world but it is no less impressive in its skewed view. We enter a large office Devil_film_posterbuilding and witness the hustle and bustle of the work week. Five passengers enter an elevator which gets stuck on the 22nd floor. It isn’t long before they get on each others nerves and turn on one another…

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The Classic – The Wolfman – Aurora Model Kit

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The Classic – Wolfman

Aurora / Monogram Model Kit

This is the Monogram re-issue of the Classic Aurora Wolfman model-kit which I completed over the summer. I was probably 9 or 10 years old the last time I built this kit. It was originally released in 1962.

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There were a lot of seams that needed to be filled and sanded on this piece. Quite a bit of thin plastic remnants around the fingers and toes had to be cut away and scraped off. That’s to be expected as the molds to these old kits begin to wear out through the years and become less perfectly fitted.

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I painted a quick background on a piece of cardboard as an afterthought, then liked the way it came out. I built a small rocky base to hold the two silver background trees and the cardboard backdrop behind the kit to add atmosphere to the scene.

Stung (2015) – movie review

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Stung (2015)

Directed by Benni Diez

Jessica Cook
Matt O’Leary
Clifton Collins Jr.

Lance Henriksen

This is an ol’ fashioned monster bug flick that feels like it came straight from the 1980’s low-budget VHS bin. I love the (mostly) practical effects, gore and goop, and monster sized wasps, trampling our victims lives. It has a simple storyline that feels familiar but is peppered with modern dialogue. We’ve seen this type of film before but that’s no reason not to bask in the b-horror blight of this monster genre flick.

Julia, a young catering business owner sets up a high society party on the grounds of a large estate. She’s having trouble managing the business since her father passed away and sees this as an opportunity to make some good impressions with new stung posterclientele. Her lone worker, Paul seems a bit aloof but also interested in Julia on a romantic level. While setting up the affair, Paul is pestered by annoying wasps and swats the goop out of a few of them. As the night progresses, an elder gentleman is stung by one of these wasps. Several minutes later a human-sized wasp breaks through the shell of the man and goes on a rampage. The survivors hole up in the mansion where they are picked off one by one by the growing colony of deadly insects.

It’s good to see Lance Henriksen in a larger role than the bit parts he often takes in recent years. His abilities raise the bar of performance and all the actors rise to the occasion, providing moderate drama to a b-horror flick. However, Henriksen’s character feels like a bit part because, despite being in most of the film, it has very little importance or impact to the story. I think the film missed some great opportunities to be really camp and funny, which would have made the awkward relationship between our MC’s more like Ash’s hopeless romanticism from Evil Dead. The effects were circa 1980, Corman-style, amusing and all covered in goop. The strongest effects scenes were probably the larvae (white worm) segment, which provided a real gross out for the film, and the shared body experience of Sydney and the Wasp bust–I sure do miss those ol’ style animatronic FX.  Stung is a moderate monster flick that doesn’t aim for the fences but provides a base hit double for its fun effects. It’s traditional monster movie entertainment from three decades ago.

Don’t expect too much and you might enjoy some of the nifty effects gags.
I give it 2.3 warbling wasps on the icky insect invasion scale.

Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? – Part VIII – Story and Plot

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I haven’t done one of these posts in a while. This one is basic but important enough to be reminded about every so often.

Story and Plot

At the bare bones analysis of story and plot, every story has been told already. This determination has happened hundreds of years ago. Between Greek and Roman mythology, mythologies from native lands and counties, Fairy and Folk tales, famous Opera’s and Plays, and religious writings, every kind of struggle a human has to face has been told. The only thing that is going to make your story different and stand out is the way you deliver it. The garnish around the basic plot premise and the situation in which the basic plot unfolds will ‘trick’ the reader into thinking they have read something totally original.

The main component of a plot is a conflict.

Some common basic story plots, conflicts and archetypes include:

Man vs. Man – a character is trying to achieve something and another is trying to stop him

Man vs. Himself – this is the internal struggle of a man to change and the real enemy is within himself

The Quest – A man must obtain some sacred object and sets out into the world to get it. (‘sacred object’ is relative to the story and importance to the characters, not necessarily ‘sacred‘ ex: the toy in Jingle All the Way)

Man vs. Nature – a character is struggling to survive or make his family, community, comrades, safe against the forces of nature (weather, animals, natural phenomenon).

Man vs. Circumstance – a character struggles against his predictable fate or place in life and the world.

Man vs. Society – a character struggles against ideas, ideology, customs and beliefs of people that must be overcome to move forward. (these last two are almost the same but could have a few differences)

Most stories are based on these conflicts. Once you figure out which type of story you’re writing, it makes working on it easier. You can look at similar stories to gauge your plot, escalate conflict, and assess its originality.

A subplot involves a secondary conflict: ex. A person can be fighting against nature and also learning to trust him/herself to become a leader. – Or – A man can be on a quest but have another person trying to stop him, one that he must defeat.

Decide early on what type of story you’re writing and you will lead your characters to a logical conclusion.

You will notice that the Storyline Plot is often different than the ‘Character Arc’ Plot of your Main Character.

If you take Clash of the Titans for instance, Perseus is searching for a way to save Andromeda (Quest – story plot) and fighting Calibos  (Man vs. Man – story plot), but is also learning about himself and trying to find his unique place in the scheme of life (Man vs. Himself – Character Plot).

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another quick note on Plot
You should try to keep it realistic but find a way to make it feel fresh.

I find it amazing when I watch those documentary crime shows on TV (Lt. Joe Kenda is one of my current faves) that people are still being murdered for the same reasons we’ve always read about: Love Triangles, Insurance Policies, Money (as little as a few hundred dollars), and Jealousy. That makes it extra difficult to write crime drama or murder mysteries. However, good writers find a way to make it feel fresh to their readers.
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 “The question is not what you look at, but how you see it”
– Thoreau

“The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.”
– William Faulkner

“Writers fish for the right words like fishermen fish for, um, whatever those aquatic creatures with fins and gills are called.”
― Jarod Kintz

Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) – movie review

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Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
Aka: Frankenstein vs. Baragon

Directed by Ishiro Honda
special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya
Music Akira Ifukube

FCtW begins with movement in time portrayed with wonderful visuals. 1945 Germany, over a snow covered mountainside, we see a German scientist in a unique piece of Toho Gothic. He’s experimenting with the Frankenstein Monster’s heart which continues to beat despite the destruction of the Monster’s body. The heart is then being transported in the Pacific Theater frankenstein conquers dvd coverduring WW II, a naval waterfront of battleships and submarines. Next it’s In Japan at that moment of the Atomic blast that ended WW II.

Several years later, scientists are working with a Frankenstein feral boy. He continues to grow to giant size and eventually breaks free from his cages. When destruction occurs in the nearby villages, they authorities want to blame Frankie, much to the dismay of scientist, Sueko, who helped raise him like a son. It turns out the destruction is being caused by another Kaiju, Baragon. The two eventually duke it out in an action packed battle as Frankie uses his speed and smarts to defeat the bigger Baragon. The battle and military assault causes an earthquake and Frankie sinks into the earth with a defeated Baragon lying at his feet.

The film stars Nick Adams who had been lending his talents to various science fiction films of the time. It also stars familiar Toho actors, Kumi Mizuno, Tadao Takashima Takashi Shimura, Kenji Sahara, and Yoshio Tsuchiya. There’s some good ol’ time rock n roll in this film especially in the dance hall that is destroyed by Baragon. Awesome dancing! Haruo Nakajima the famed costumed Godzilla actor plays Baragon, and Koji Furuhata plays Frankenstein.

Lets face it, if you were not indoctrinated into the world of Toho films as a kid then you will find faults with the film. The flat-frankenstein-conquers-the-world-still_33-1966head prosthetic doesn’t transition smoothly into the face, you can sometimes see the wires and mechanics of the effects, especially nowadays with HD TVs and big screens. Not to mention the horse that looks like a little puppet on a stick, but if you can overlook some of these small inconsistencies, you may be entertained by the simple story and visual dynamics.

The American release partner, Harry G. Saperstein, was impressed with the octopus battle in King Kong vs Godzilla and urged Honda to film a similar sequence for the Frankenstein film. It was shot but ultimately not used because Honda didn’t feel it fit the storyline. It was re-shot as the opening scene in War of the Gargantuas with Gaira doing battle in the ocean.

However, the Rare Flix/Tokyo Shock DVD has the complete octopus battle in the special features listed under International Extended Scenes. It starts with the full (longer) main battle with Baragon and goes right into the battle with the Octopus.