Slasher genre-bender “You’re Next” opens nationwide today. I have very much been looking forward to this film. You can read my film preview here.

In that preview, I mentioned a very talented gent helming cinematography on the film, Andrew Droz Palermo. I caught up with Andrew this week and got his thoughts on “You’re Next,” working in the horror genre and cinematography at large.


Photo: Whitney Hayward


STRANGE FAR PLACES (SFP) :: How was it working on “You’re Next?”

ANDREW DROZ PALERMO (ADP) :: Shooting the film was an amazing experience. I’m forever grateful to the director Adam Wingard, and the producers Simon Barrett, Keith Calder and Jess Wu for even giving me the chance. Particularly for a first-time cinematographer.


SFP ::   I have always thought that working on a film like “You’re Next” (especially one so stylish and smart) from the horror genre would be a blast. What was the coolest thing about it?

ADP :: Shooting the kill scenes and jump scares were a blast. Adam was really specific about what he wanted and we were able to storyboard out key scenes to really make them sing. I loved seeing them edit together in my head, knowing we were getting all the pieces we wanted, and that it was going to make some really fun scenes. I also could just sit and listen to Joe Swanberg and A.J. Bowen riff for hours. Those guys are amazing actors, but also just so, so funny.


SFP ::   What was the toughest thing aboutworking on this production?

ADP :: The toughest for me was getting everything we needed within the time scheduled. With ten characters in a scene, there are a million things you want to shoot, and I wanted to give Adam enough coverage so he could edit it together in the way he imagined. Thankfully the camera, and G&E team was really hardworking and fast and that allowed us a lot of time shooting, with very little downtime in between setups. Plus, it was like 25 nights straight of shooting from 8 PM to 8 AM.


SFP :: You had some experience working in horror before with your work on “V/H/S.” Do you like working in the genre? Are you a horror fan at all? Will you do horror again?

ADP :: I love horror film, and have had a great time shooting it. I’m certainly not as versed in the genre as Adam and Simon, but I feel like I’m in the horror section of Netflix pretty often. I’d love to shoot some again, I’ll start reading scripts for 2014 in the next few months.


SFP :: What films were the most influential on you as a visual thinker and storyteller?

ADP :: For “You’re Next” Adam and I looked at a lot of action films. The film has more of that pedigree than it lets on, I guess. Or maybe it was what we wanted to brush up on the most, perhaps what we were most unfamiliar with making ourselves at that point. I think our biggest visual touch point for the film was “Michael Clayton.” It’s a weird one to pick, because it doesn’t seem related, but that lighting in that film is just so beautiful and dark, and the camera is always so deliberate. The Dardenne brothers are always a big touchpoint for me. I love their stories and the manor in which they tell them.


From Michael Clayton ::


From the Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne ::


SFP :: What else should we be watching out for from you?

ADP :: I’ve been co-directing a documentary for the last couple of years with my cousin Tracy Droz Tragos called “Rich Hill.” It follows three kids coming of age in rural Missouri. We’re really excited with the progress, getting ready to launch a Kickstarter, and are nearing picture lock – fingers crossed we’ll be premiering in early 2014.




A VERY special thank you to Andrew for his time. SEE THIS FILM!



Welcome to Part III of my tribute to hollywood (and hollywood horror) legend Roger Corman. I am creating an 8 poster series in tribute to Corman’s early-1960’s “Poe Cycle,” where he brought classic stories from the EA Poe cannon to film. You can read Part I here, with my actual article on Corman and view Posters I and II there as well. Part II can be found here.

Again, a big THANK YOU to Mr. Corman for all he has done for film and horror-lovers everywhere.

Without further delay… The Posters — V and VI ::




Another review from the world of dark cinema.

With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. (More on my film poster project at large, here. )


YEAR :: 1972
DIRECTOR :: Robert Young


“Vampire Circus” is Hammer Films at the studio’s most titillating.

Plagues… Check. Vampires and hunters… Check. Buckets of blood… Check. Heaving bosoms and beau-brummel beafcake… Check. Shape-shifting hotties dancing naked in only tiger striped body paint… Check. Yes, “shape-shifting hotties dancing naked in only tiger striped body paint.” Honestly, the scene has become rather legendary…

Cartooish? Yes.

A bit bizarre? Yes.

Fun? Unquestionably.

Made after the departure of William Hinds from Hammer and in a reaction to the more “edgy” content coming out of France and Italy (See my review of “The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance.”), the declining studio icon felt a need to bring more edge to their own output to reattain relevance. This film is a great example of that push.

For all of its supposed edginess, “Vampire Circus” is not without intelligence and artistry, though. Really, I consider it one of the last great films to come out of that era of the studio. You have got to hand it to director Robert Young, here. He shows a sure-handed skill for storytelling, but also gives us nods to au courant art-film fare for the era, making artful stylistic and cinematic choices that give the film a decidedly surrealistic flair.

Looking for something with real bite and worried about a vintage film in that regard? Fret not. Even modern audiences will be surprised by the gore in this film. Made in 1972 and the film is truly imaginative in its sanguineous machinations. A bloody classic.

Films like this are just a romp and this one is a hoot. In all, “Vampire Circus” is an archetypal “mondo-horror” piece that shouldn’t be forgotten.


RATING ………………. 4 STARS



This is the fifth installment in a continuing series calling out songs that should be in every horror fan’s running (or exercise) playlist. For this installment, it’s about everyone’s favorite crazies, those sociopaths that simply want to end your life.


On with the dark tuneage.  ::



“Lunatic Fringe” — Red Rider

This is PERFECT for that night run. Tom Cochrane actually wrote the song about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the 1970s. In a weird twist of fate, he recorded the demo for the tune on the evening of John Lennon’s murder. How apropos. From the 1981 album “As Far As Siam.”



“Psycho Killer” — Talking Heads

David Byrne said of this song :: “When I started writing this (I got help later), I imagined Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad. Both the Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies.” He did have help.. From bandmates Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz. An absolute late 70s classic!



“I’ve Committed Murder” — Macy Gray

I have always loved this one. A bit of island influence from the inimitable Macy Gray. A torrid tale of murder with a sociopathic disregard for the victim. This is the groove for distance miles.


Get out there and do it (he says more for his own benefit than anything)!

Here’s PART I.

Here’s PART II.

Here’s PART III.

Here’s PART IV.



As you may be able to tell, I love great poster art, but especially posters from the great horror movie cannon. Welcome to the first installment of my countdown of the best of the genre.

Here’s how I selected the list. I used three main criteria to shape my decisions ::


>> DESIGN / IMAGE — This is the baseline. As a designer by trade, I feel strongly that any great or effective poster HAS to start here. Is the poster effective as a piece of art? Is the poster is a strong representative of the art of graphic design? Did it capture a particular spirit or movement in design?

>> TITILLATION / PROMOTION — Though we tend to contextualize film and the associated collateral as “art,” it is ultimately a form of commerce. Any movie poster has to promote the film it supports either through a delicious tease or overt sales pitch. How effective is the poster at selling the film it is tied to?

>> IMPACT / LEGACY — Sometimes even mediocre films get truly great posters. Sometimes, we even remember the image of the poster far longer than the film itself. What was the lasting effect of the poster? Was it iconic or timeless in some way? Was a part of a larger context?


Every poster on this list is a cocktail of the above elements, mixed in different ways. All successful in their own right. Let’s jump in…
















Look for Part II, coming right up!

Special thanks to for many of the images in this countdown. AWESOME site.



Welcome to Part II of my tribute to hollywood (and hollywood horror) legend Roger Corman. I am creating an 8 poster series in tribute to Corman’s early-1960’s “Poe Cycle,” where he brought classic stories from the EA Poe cannon to film. You can read Part I here, with my actual article on Corman and view Posters I and II there as well.

Again, a big THANK YOU to Mr. Corman for all he has done for film and horror-lovers everywhere.

Without further delay… The Posters — III and IV ::




So much credit has been given to The Misfits over the years, that another band, equally important and also formed in the same period, is often overlooked for its contribution to the horror rock genre. There is absolutely no question that The Misfits were founding fathers of the “Horror Punk” scene as I detail in Part III of this series. But let’s take a moment to pay homage to a early progenitor of the “Psychobilly” scene who brought the horror in a highly influential way that puts them firmly as the other bookend to this four part series :: The Cramps.


Formed in the mid-1970’s (before The Misfits, actually) in Sacramento, California by Lux Interior (born Erick Lee Purkhiser) and Poison Ivy (born Kristy Marlana Wallace), The Cramps quickly relocated to find a home along side of legendary acts like The Ramones, Patti Smith and Television at iconic New York clubs like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City.

The Cramps struck their own profile among the emergent punk / alt scene, living at the intersection of trashy Americana, sexual fetishism and cheap, horror B-movie clichés. The result was a devilishly clever mix of humor and shock. The shuddering, strutting, cross-dressing Lux Interior cut the aspect of the perfect front man, backed by Ivy’s guitar, an important female icon on the early alt scene. These elements, coupled with songs like “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” “Zombie Dance,” “Human Fly,” “Aloha from Hell,” and “Surfin’ Dead” and imagery surrounding the band straight out of teenage horror film classics all added up to a potent cocktail of horror rock power.

As a creative professional with a focus on design and as someone who has ever-harbored a deep love for the trashier side of Americana, this collective image remains captivating today as much as it was when it was hatched. Though the band changed personnel over a long career, they never lost sight of their image.

What makes The Cramps is most interesting for me, however, is the music itself. More than any of the other acts on this list, The Cramps pushed stylistic boundaries. Early on, the band used a double-guitar-with-no-bass sound giving them something truly distinctive among their peers. Also, they were not defined simply as a punk artist, creating instead, a fusion of punk, surf and rockabilly that formed an early example of “psychobilly.” This fusion is what makes the band still so fascinating to me. Listen to these classics to get a sense of the sound ::

In 1978, the band gave a landmark free performance at the Napa California State Mental Hospital. What an idea! It takes Johnny Cash’s prison performances and actually one-ups them, transplanting the original idea into a decidedly proto-punk space. It’s TOTALLY worth watching the full performance. It’s a great setlist and you can see the band at the height of their electrifying powers ::

Look at these image materials as well. I am lucky enough to have the Alan Forbes piece featuring The Bride of Frankenstein (with the whip) shown below as a part of my personal art collection. I keep it in my office as a reminder to bring disruption to my creativity in the way The Cramps did.


Horror fans, join me and pay tribute to the glorious trash brilliance of The Cramps!

This also brings to a close my exploration of the founders of the horror rock genre. All of these artists are true mavericks who remain vital today. My hope is that you will explore each of them beyond this introduction. Turn it up and feel the chill!



I recently featured a series of paintings by master horror artist Les Edwards. I wanted to follow up with another showcase of his work featuring a particular project, his adaptation of “Rawhead Rex,” from Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood.” When bringing something to life that exists only in words and mental images, I feel the best adaptations bring the artist’s imagination to bear on the project in a fundamental way. Think of the iconic hockey mask for Jason Voorhees. Many people forget that the mask doesn’t make an appearance until 2/3 through “Friday the 13th Part III.” It was director Steve Miner who saw that the hockey mask originally had potential and asked his team to bring it to life on Jason himself. It would be impossible to now think of the character any other way, the mask choice so defined the image of Voorhees in our collective consciousness. Edwards has brought his vision to bear on the Rawhead Rex character in the same way in this graphic novel.

I LOVE the look of this adaptation. It was not influenced by the look of the 1986 film and the new ground it breaks is just perfect. Apart from the apparent masterful artistry of the illustrations themselves, there is a ghoulish delight in the approach here. I have always thought the concepts in the original story were very strong, and felt that the film was a very halting realization at best. This version really brings the story to life. I would absolutely love to see a new film based on this vision for the story. If the great film gods are listening, you would make one little horror blogger a very happy man, if you would oblige.

The Art ::




This is the fourth installment in a continuing series calling out songs that should be in every horror fan’s running (or exercise) playlist. For this edition, it’s about those blood-sucking “children of the night,” our vampire friends. I’m reaching past some of the more obvious vampire fare here for something hopefully a bit more unexpected.


On with the dark tuneage.  ::



“Omerta / The Vampire Lanois (Instrumental)” — The Afghan Whigs

Most underrated band of the 90s — The Afghan Whigs. This is from their brilliantly produced and composed swan song album release, “1965.” If any band could capture the swagger of the modern sense of the vampire, this band is it. Usually, I shun that modern view of the “sexy” vampire for something more “undead,” but there is an incredible self-awareness in Afghan songs that feels almost sociopathic at times and befits the mindset of one who feeds on humans. I love these guys.



“Walcott” — Vampire Weekend

This band takes its name from a college summer film project that frontman Koenig worked on after watching an 80’s vampire film. This song is another nod to that horror project directly, and it’s fun as all get-out. The film was to tell the story of a man named “Walcott” that was traveling to a small Cape Cod town to warn the mayor that vampires were attacking the U.S. You can see a bit of that in the lyrics :: “Lobster’s claw is sharp as knives / Evil feasts on human lives / The Holy Roman Empire roots for you…” This is an awesome tempo song, so pick up the pace!



“Dracula from Houston” — Butthole Surfers

This one is just a goof, but nothing keeps me going on a run more than a good laugh. I suppose vampires can come from anywhere, so why not Houston? From the album “Weird Revolution.” Put your fist in the air and laugh this one out.


Get out there and do it (he says more for his own benefit than anything)!

Here’s PART I.

Here’s PART II.

Here’s PART III.



From Tim Cahill’s “Buried Dreams” ::

“I ain’t into that,” the man says in the boy’s whining voice, “I ain’t good at that…”

“You do it right, maybe I’ll take the cuffs off.”

At Menard, John Wayne Gacy fumbles with the catch of his pants, then lets them drop around his ankles. On the outside, he wore sheer briefs, almost panties, in various colors. Now he is wearing prison-issue shorts, and under them is the hint of an erection. He glances down at himself.

This, he seems to be saying, is the proof. Here, between my legs, is the truth. I am Jack; I am the one who lives in John’s mind. I am out now and I make no apologies. I have no regrets, I feel no remorse. All those things goody-goody John consistently denied — all the atrocities, the very worst of them — really happened. I am Jack and Jack did it all. See my proud proof. Yes, I played the cop; yes, I hurt the boys; yes, I forced them to perform sex acts; and then, yes, I hurt them again and again and again. The proof that this, finally, is the way it all happened, the hard evidence of my sincerity is here. See, here!


“Buried Dreams” is harrowing. Plain and simple.

The original publisher’s book description from 1986 sums it up this way ::

This account examines the case of John Wayne Gacy, a successful and respected member of the community who cheered up sick children in hospital dressed as a clown, but who was also one of the most prolific serial killers in criminal history. Inside his scrupulously tidy suburban home, in 1978 police found the remains of 29 teenaged boys, all brutally tortured, violated and strangled. The author explores the complex personality, compulsions, inadequacies and torments of a profoundly disturbed human being.

In my review of “The Killer Inside Me,” I mentioned that it’s fascinating for me to see what makes a killer tick; to explore how their sociopathy or psychopathy manifests itself. It’s directly connected to my love of horror and with true crime books like this, the reality of the story makes it all the more horrifying. Cahill gives us that glimpse in a truly unique way.

The book explores Gacy’s experiences largely from Gacy’s own viewpoint. The detail and immediacy of this approach gives the book its strength, but it was no easy task for the author to complete this piece. Cahill said this of the experience of writing the book, “My first book was called ‘Buried Dreams,’ about a serial-killer, which was probably about ten years ahead of the serial-killer curve. It was a national bestseller, but it was three years of living in the sewer of this guy’s mind.”

As difficult as that three year slog through Gacy’s mind must have been for Cahill, it pays off in spades for the reader as we take that trip with the author in “Buried Dreams,” experiencing first-hand the truly chilling center of Gacy’s dysfunctional mind.

Some have leveled criticism that this “from the horse’s mouth” approach engenders affinity or gives too much of a soapbox to the killer himself. I fundamentally disagree with this. At no point in the read did I ever feel a sense of sympathy for Gacy, nor did I feel that Cahill was asking for it for his subject. Often times, the most damming way to present a subject like a serial killer is from his or her own perspective, knowing that we, the readers, understand the deeply disturbed mind at work in someone like Gacy. Cahill keeps handing Gacy more rope throughout the book, aware that he will hang himself. He does and it’s captivating to watch through these pages.

“Buried Dreams” is filled with grim scenes demonstrating Gacy’s bizarre pathology. They are deftly delineated with penetrating detail, transporting the reader. To that end, it is especially worth noting the chapters centered around Gacy’s prison re-enactment of a crime with a young teen. The above quote kicking this review off is from that section of the book. It is a truly unforgettable scene and, for me, forms one of the most wrenching and frighteningly fascinating passages in any book I have experienced.

NOT for the feint-of-heart, “Buried Dreams” really does take us into the twisted mind of John Wayne Gacy in a very primary way — a must-read for those that are ready for that dark journey.


RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS



I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Roger Corman, the living hollywood legend, in 2011 in a unique live opportunity as a part of “Vincentennial,” a month-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vincent Price here in St. Louis. The Corman event I attended was part of a two-night event at the Hi-Pointe, a local art house theatre with real history. I attended a screening of “Masque of the Red Death” and Corman followed the film with live musings about his career at large with some specific focus on his genre films. His long-running relationship with Vincent Price and his reputation as a Hollywood maverick / icon brought him to the celebration as a featured speaker.


It was really an amazing experience. Corman himself is the person that we all wish Hollywood was filled with — honest, talented, fun, hip and real with true talent. His stories were fascinating.

As someone who has directed over 55 films and produced more than 385, Corman’s influence is unmistakable. Many of today’s legendary directors got their start working for Corman, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Armondo Linus Acosta, Paul Bartel, Jonathan Demme, Donald G. Jackson, Gale Anne Hurd, Carl Colpaert, Joe Dante, James Cameron, John Sayles, Monte Hellman, George Armitage, Jonathan Kaplan, George Hickenlooper, Curtis Hanson, Jack Hill, Robert Towne, Michael Venzor and Timur Bekmambetov. So many legendary actors that we consider masters today got their break in Corman projects including Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, Sandra Bullock, and Robert De Niro.

Most importantly for this site, he has helped make many of the horror films we most associate with the cult side of the genre. “Monster from the Ocean Floor,” “Attack of the Crab Monsters,” “The Undead,” “The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent,” “A Bucket of Blood,” “The Little Shop of Horrors,” “Tower of London,” “X,” “Dementia 13,” “The Dunwich Horror,”  “Death Race 2000,” “Piranha,” “Galaxy of Terror” and “Frankenstein Unbound” are just a few of the cult classics Corman helped to make.

As a tribute to Mr. Corman and all he has done for both lovers of film and lovers of horror, I am creating a series of new posters dedicated to the eight emblematic films of the “Poe Cycle.” For Part I, I have created the posters for the first two films in the series,  “House of Usher” (1960), “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961). Keep watching for the remaining 6 posters.

Mr. Corman, on the VERY off-chance that you see this, THANK YOU for all you have done for film and horror-lovers everywhere.

The Posters — I and II ::




Building on today’s post about horror films ready to drop yet this year… I wanted to reach out with a request here at “The Strange, Far Places.”

I would be VERY grateful if you would vote for my submission to the Threadless “You’re Next” t-shirt design competition.


Here’s what Threadless says about this design challenge ::

Revered as one of the sharpest and most horrifying films in years, You’re Next reimagines the home invasion horror genre in a fresh, twisted light. When the Davison clan retreats to a remote vacation home in the woods, their family reunion takes a grisly turn. A team of ax-wielding, animal-masked psychopaths begins hunting down family members one by one, and the body count quickly rises until an unexpected houseguest fights back.

We’re stoked for this sure-to-be stellar summer slasher flick, described by reviewers as a mashup of Scream, Die Hard, and Home Alone. And we want you to take inspiration from its chilling creatures for your next design.

We challenge you to make a killer tee inspired by masked maniacs. Pull from the delightfully dark animal imagery of the masked mugs below, or imagine a dysfunctional family get-together gone gruesome. We encourage you to use imagery from the film, but we’ll also welcome any macabre masked madmen. Just steer clear of established baddies like Jason or Michael Myers.

Here are my thoughts on my design from the entry page ::

What makes “You’re Next” so cool to me is that it turns the home invasion slasher genre on its head. I love the creative twist there and that’s what I wanted this design to explore. I’m also a freak for depth of field and the interplay of positive and negative space. I think it makes for a really iconic and striking look.

Annnnd… here is the design ::