Welcome to the first post in an irregular series entitled “CASTING CALL.” For each entry in the series, I will pick a horror character and nominate the perfect celeb to play them on film.

THE CHARACTER :: The Zombie from “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?,” Episode 13, Season 1… “Which Witch is Which?”

THE CAST :: Vince Clarke


Vince Clarke is a true legend. To be a founding member in one truly seminal band is a triumph few can claim. Clarke can say that many times over. His work with Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure and The Assembly gave us some of the most memorable moments of the Synth-Pop movement. I had the pleasure of seeing Erasure in St. Louis in 2011. It was an awesome performance all the way ’round and a great evening. It is impossible, however, not to see the incredible resemblance to Scooby’s Zombie nemesis and that’s what makes him perfect for this casting call.

NOTE :: For this casting call, Casey Kasem would STILL provide the groaning grunts of the Zombie’s vocals. Don’t mess with Casey.



My last post was the 100th post here at “The Strange, Far Places.”


I know that’s a minor milestone to many and frankly, I had envisioned the blog at this landmark far sooner than today. However, life has taken me to some crazy and (sometimes) very difficult places since the inception of this blog, my love of the world of horror made manifest. In light of that, I suppose that even these 100 posts are worth celebrating in some small way and dammit, I’m going to.

AND NOW… Back to your regularly scheduled shivers…



As you may be able to tell, I love great poster art, but especially posters from the great horror movie cannon. This is the fifth 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 to 25 >> 21…
















Look for Part VII, coming right up!

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




This week, we’re bringing you a story of the proverbial “deal with the devil.” Going all the way back to classics like 1913’s “The Student of Prague,” FW Murnau’s GORGEOUS 1926 masterpiece, “Faust,” or 1941’s legendary “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” we have certainly seen that theme plumbed on film a whole lot. However, this short gives us a slightly different take and it really brings the film to life.

We’re sticking right here in the US of A for this installment entitled “Do You Believe in the Devil?” Filmmaker Alex Grybauskas effectively draws us into the film through classic storytelling devices and solid editing. There really isn’t a lot of fat here in just the right way. Just good ol’ fashioned narrative. When we are served the twist at the end of the film, it definitely brings a smile because he has quite skillfully brought us here.

Also, special props for the lighting in this piece… It’s quite well lit throughout.



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 :: 2014
DIRECTOR :: Gareth Edwards


As a young lad on Saturday afternoons in the 1970s, I would mount my metallic red Schwinn Sting Ray bicycle and pedal down to the Riviera Theater on Lake Avenue in Rochester, New York. For just 50 cents, I could see a Lone Ranger serial, and some cartoon shorts, but those weren’t what had my allowance money burning a hole in my pocket. No… I made that ride for the monsters.

Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan all of them filled the screen in the cool darkness of the Riviera. All monster royalty. But there was only one “King of the Monsters” for me. The great Godzilla. Though I was young, I can still remember those afternoons so clearly.


(The Riviera Theater in it’s heyday before my time, but it all remained into my youth.)

So… It was with a ton of nostalgia that I entered the theater for 2014’s version of the King of Monsters, “Godzilla.” Honestly, I left a little unsatisfied.

TO START :: There really is a lot to like about this film. Cranston and Binoche do an amazing job of drawing us in emotionally from frame one. The monsters are genuinely interesting and brilliantly executed. Annnnd that skydiving scene. Oh, that skydiving scene. That scene is a pitch-perfect piece of cinema. Pitch-perfect.

BUT… Unfortunately, that’s where the goodness stops for me.

We lose our loving couple in Cranston and Binoche very early and with them goes the emotional resonance of the film. The remaining family at the center of the story makes for a very attractive picture, but a wooden one. The performances were played for great emotion… We see their tears, but we don’t really FEEL anything. It really doesn’t stop with our central family, either. Everyone battling the monster leaves us with the same disconnected impression. It’s unfortunate, because you can tell that Edwards was striving for that emotional connection.

“BUT WAIT,” you say, “Classic campy “Kaiju” films like “Terror of Mechagodzilla” or “Destroy all Monsters” aren’t exactly replete with intelligent emotional reverberation.”

True that. But those films do deliver MONSTERS in spades (especially The King… Godzilla, himself). While the execution was amazing from a tech standpoint, we really didn’t get much in the way of screen time for our “Kaiju” friends. With the cocktail of today’s CG capabilities and recent hits like “Pacific Rim” in the collective consciousness, this should have felt like a monster version of the best “Rocky” fights all rolled into one. But, it just didn’t.

I think the film’s weakness spurs from that inability to deliver on either front — “emotional story” or “monster movie.” Frankly, I would have been very happy with either and I only got glimpses of both. With a lot of padding in between.

I eagerly look forward to the next time when Godzilla will rise from the depths. Maybe he’ll have just a bit more bite next time.


RATING ………………. 3 STARS



We lost a very unique talent recently in both the worlds of art and horror and I wanted to make sure that he was memorialized here at “The Strange, Far Places.”

H.R. Giger, Swiss master of the nightmarishly surreal has left this mortal coil.


To say that Giger’s work is unforgettable is an understatement. That’s no small feat for an artist in today’s over-exposed, disaffected, shellshocked cultural eyes, to be truly unique and imminently recognizable. Giger’s vision has always been at that edge.

Few artists can say that their style was so unique that they all-but invented a concept in the way that Giger did with “biomechanics.” This unparalleled style came directly from a nightmare he experienced while at school. In the dream, the walls of a Zürich bathroom erupted into a landscape of ravaged skin with demons (who he called “biomechanoids”) leering at him through the cracks in the walls. The artist had been plagued with night terrors since his youth and his art helped him deal with the dark nights.

His work for films from “Alien” to “Dune” to “Species” to “Prometheus” earned him an Oscar and seared his dark visions in the public mind. His album covers, posters, sculptures and interiors were legendary. But it was compendiums like his books of the dead, “Necronomicon” and “Necronomicon II,” that were perhaps his crowning glory, standing alone even today in the scope, strength and the madness of their fevered tactile expression. Many may want to pillory me, but these works form a sort of damnable version of Matisse’s masterwork “Jazz” for me, the dim hell to that colorful heaven. Brilliant.

I recently posted about one of his most iconic designs here.

What better way to pay tribute to Mr. Giger’s work than to show it? The video below takes many of his most interesting works into the 3-D space. Very interesting project (WARNING — NSFW) ::

Hans Rudolf, may you finally find peace from your nightmares. Godspeed.



In a special tribute to “Mother” in the broadest sense, we’re bringing you two reviews today uniquely suited to Mom’s Day.



Let’s start with 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 :: 1980

DIRECTOR :: Charles Kaufman


Ahhhhhh, Troma. The bizarre, the sensational, the “beyond the pale.” Always with Troma. This film is a textbook example of what the studio was best known for.

In many ways, “Mother’s Day” is a classic. Certainly, it’s an unforgettable ride. It tries to carry forward the schlocky fun of so many of the grindcore classics of the period, especially from the studio that brought you “The Toxic Avenger,” and on some level it succeeds in doing that. There are guilty laughs here. Overall, there is a strong sense of the ridiculous to the piece as a whole.

I mean, when the titular character, “Mother” is suffocated with an inflatable pair of fake boobs during the final “boss fight,” it’s hard not to think of this as a comedy of sorts.

That’s where the film succeeds, without question.

However, I honestly can’t think of the last comedy I watched where abduction, torture and rape were central to the plot. All of that is here in spades along with the ridiculous camp. This is the tough thing with “Mother’s Day” when fed through modern sensibilities. Grindcore just isn’t very often played for comedy anymore.

That’s where the film will run aground in the eyes of many.

So, where to net out on this film?

Personally, I have a soft spot for this type of fare. “Mother’s Day” and films like it, were what I cut my teeth on as I delved into more “adult” horror cinema as a young teen. There was something undeniably taboo about this strain of film and magnetic accordingly. I think it is that frame of mind that I can drift back into today when watching “Mother’s Day.” For that reason, I have to give it props.

Conversely. The film’s subject matter does have to take it down a peg or two. For the uninitiated, this would be a bit of an endurance test.

If you’re up for what Troma typically has to offer, this can be something quite fun. Bizzarre, grim and challenging, but fun. If you’re new to the studio or the style, I wouldn’t suggest starting here. Try “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” instead.


RATING ………………. 3.5 STARS



OK… This one’s a tough one. It’s funny to review this with “Mother’s Day,” as they do share some elements. What “Kin” does not share with “Mother’s Day,” however, is any sense of fun. This book is a blunt instrument, speckled with blood and crawling with maggots.

Here is how the publisher describes the story ::

On a scorching hot summer day in Elkwood, Alabama, Claire Lambert staggers naked, wounded, and half-blind away from the scene of an atrocity. She is the sole survivor of a nightmare that claimed her friends, and even as she prays for rescue, the killers — a family of cannibalistic lunatics — are closing in… A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder returns from Iraq to the news that his brother is among the murdered in Elkwood… In snowbound Detroit, a waitress trapped in an abusive relationship gets an unexpected visit that will lead to bloodshed and send her back on the road to a past she has spent years trying to outrun… And Claire, the only survivor of the Elkwood Massacre, haunted by her dead friends, dreams of vengeance… a dream which will be realized as grief and rage turn good people into cold-blooded murderers and force alliances among strangers… It’s time to return to Elkwood.

This description only provides the barest HINTS at the twisted craziness that is “Kin.” As someone who spends a LOT of time in this space, even I have to say “Holy crap, this one’s relentless.” NOT for the faint of heart.

The good :: Burke does create some images that sear into the brain. One in particular was nothing short of heart-stopping. I won’t put any sort of spoiler in this review, but it was truly a skin-crawling image and concept that has remained with me since I read it (that involves a mom). Kudos on that. On that front, the book offers some inventive stuff with a solid turn of phrase. This is the best part of “Kin.” Again, very challenging material, but unforgettable.

That’s really where the novel’s true wins stop, however. Beyond those select few chilling images and set pieces, the novel is a pastiche of things we have seen before.

I was immediately reminded of the notable X-Files episode “Home.” Here is a collection of scenes from the show ::

There ARE differences. Sure. But the similarities are SO numerous that it’s tough to think there wasn’t some pretty darn siginifant influence here. And there are many other pieces “out there” that act as direct parents to this novel. That was a shame, because it cheapened the book.

The other MAJOR issue I had with the book itself was the ending. I did like aspects of the final fight at the climax of “Kin,” but the neat, shiny bow placed on the dovetailing storylines as the novel comes to an end is… At best… Unrealistic… At worst… Just plain ridiculous. Honestly, it was one of the least plausible endings I have read in a very long time. It really felt as if Burke just got tired of writing and tried to end it all quickly, giving us something sweet to chase away all of the stomach-churning images he had created thus far.

I’m giving this one the same sort of treatment I did the film above. If you’re ready for something NUTS that will leave you with creative-but-indelible images of horror, this is something to explore. But this one is really only suited for the most hardened fans of horror and they should read it for those images, those set pieces that Burke creates. Beyond that, “Kin” unfortunately charts little new territory.


RATING ………………. 2.5 STARS



I don’t post often about myself here. I do on occasion, but I guess I feel that there are so many other things more interesting in the world. HOWEVER, very early this morning, I had a terrifying dream and I felt compelled to share it here.



As I mentioned recently, I’ve just relocated for a new job. Consequently, I’m living alone for the first time in over 20 years. It’s very different thing for me.

I’m staying in a lovely little bungalow on the east side of Austin, Texas. It’s a bright place and perfect for my needs. I’ve been thrilled to be here. That bungalow was the setting for my nightmare.

In the dream, I was aware that a malevolent force was trying to get into the house. The knob on the front door shook violently, dark hands rapped at all of the windows on the building, feeling for a way in. I even heard scuttling and scratching over the roof and looked up to see an indistinct face peering in at me, silhouetted against the stars through the blackened skylight.

Then, heavy footfalls on the wood of the balcony. I approached the curtain covering the large glass sliders hesitantly, stopping and just listening to the movement out on the deck. I put my hand on the fabric hiding what stood out beyond the glass doors and paused. Then, suddenly threw it back, showing my tormenter.

The person that stood facing me, laughing maniacally, was ME. At least it looked exactly like me, but I was aware that it wasn’t me, but rather some dark version of myself. One that I knew meant me nothing but harm.

I screamed in the nightmare and I am quite sure I did in the night here in real life as well. Just terrifying.

I was instantly reminded as I sat up in bed of the climactic finale of the disorienting and disarming 60’s Brit series, “The Prisoner.” The moment when Number 6 unmasks Number 1 is an absolutely iconic scene. The mask comes off to see a man with Number 6’s features roaring with the laughter of the mad. Unnerving.

Here’s a clip from the series that gives a glimpse of that unnerving disorientation. Added bonus: It features a Beatles track in a very rare example of a TV series licensing a real song for the time. Check it out ::

After I was fully awake and thinking about the nightmare (with the lights on), I thought of the classic “Twilight Zone” episode, “Mirror Image.” It tells the story of a woman who finds her doppelganger in a bus station only to realize that her double has come to steal her life away from her. The subtle creepiness of the look she gets when her double faintly smiles down at her from a bus, knowing that she will succeed in taking away a woman’s life still gives me a chill ::


Here’s a short clip from the episode ::

I have been thinking about the dream all day. There’s no question that it’s pregnant with meaning. I will, however, leave that analysis to the stars and the darkness. Here’s to better sleep tonight.




I know… I’ve been there.

You’ve just received yet another email from that coworker that just HAS to let you know they’re going to be out of the office, despite the fact that you can’t think of a SINGLE thing that they have ever truly contributed to things. What can you send in response that conveys the proper snarky tone, but allows you to avoid sending links to things like “Mean Girls” GIFs? What can you send that allows you to keep a sense of self-respect as a true fan of horror?

Enter Edward Woodward’s unnerving performance in the watershed 1973 Brit horror masterpiece “The Wicker Man…”

Thank me later by sending this out the next time you get that dreaded email…



HR Giger’s dark designs for the “Alien” film saga are among the most indelible creations we have in the great the horror cinema cannon. Truly, a nightmare made manifest in gleaming obsidian biomech beauty.

In my staggering wanderings around the interwebs, I stumbled some time back on this amazing “dental phantom” from the 1930’s. It is from 5HandsCuriosities‘ collection. He acquired it at the famed purveyors of the weird, Obscura, in NYC. It came to mind again and I thought I would share it here. It was used for dental students to practice their craft.

When I saw it, it was an immediate, visceral connection for me (and apparently so many others who see it), with Giger’s work. Imagine entering your dark bedroom hallway to see a creature with THAT noggin leering at you. Simply awesome.





In short, Mercedes McCambridge was a badass. A total badass.

When Orson Welles calls you “the world’s greatest living radio actress,” you could basically hang it up at that point. But why do that when you could go on to win a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for the classic “All the King’s Men” in addition to a nomination for the same category for her performance in the legendary “Giant.”

But honestly, none of those items are what modern audiences know her best for.

McCambridge gives the bone-chilling, absolutely unforgettable performance behind the performance in The Exorcist. She is the embodiment of Pazuzu, the demon that takes hold of Linda Blair’s possessed Regan McNeil.

There’s so often so much talk about method actors who give themselves over to a performance and yet we never hear about what went into McCambridge’s landmark performance. Watch this short piece on how incredible it really was ::

The end of that clip makes me laugh every time. “Finish your popcorn.” I love it. I’m telling you… Badass.

Watch this clip of the natural sound from the scene before McCambridge’s work was edited in. It’s a wonderful example of just how much she brings to not only the film, but also the lexicon of what we think of as “possession” ::

That is NOT to take anything away from what Blair brought to the role. That is nothing short of amazing in itself. Though there is an undeniable creepiness to the natural sound, it is the fusing of the two storied performances that creates the stuff of legend.

Here’s another excerpted clip showing her truly frightening skills. Very much worth a watch. It gives me chills ::

Here’s to you, Mercedes, you badass, you! We miss you.




This week, we’re bringing you the winner of the “Best Director” title in the Who’s There? Film Challenge. I will be bringing many of these winners your way over the coming weeks. There is some reallllllly interesting stuff here. TOTAL hats off to the folks that build these shorts. It’s no mean feat to complete one of these projects, let alone to bring the real magic of telling a compelling story in 3 minutes. Props to all!

We’re headed to Gothenburg, Sweden for this installment; a devilishly fun little film called “Lights Out.” Animator and filmmaker David Sandberg does an incredible job of involving the viewer immediately in the story with minimal elements and an very-simple-but-very-effective premise. This is wonderfully age-transcendent, too — Genuine chills, but doesn’t need shock and gore to achieve them. Big fun.

Special THANKS to John Seitz for mentioning this one! Big ups, brother.