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 :: 2002
DIRECTOR :: David Jacobson


The real-life terrors of Jeffrey Dahmer’s bizarre, cannibalistic psycho-sexual murders are almost too horrific to comprehend. We have all heard so much about the gore involved in the case that it would be tempting to go “Hostel” with a film like this.

Director David Jacobson makes a different choice. He eschews the “severed head in the icebox” styled tale for something more psychological. It makes the film more of a mood piece in an interesting way. We see Dahmer working up to his first kill, intercut with encounters with specific victims. The non-linear storytelling adds interest while the intimacy in the encounters, juxtaposed with Dahmer’s psychopathic detachment brings tension and drama.

The real star of the show here is Jeremy Renner in the title role. His Dahmer provides some real creeps through subtlety and nuance. VERY well acted. No caricature here, just true acting talent portraying the terrible manipulations of the psychotic mind. It’s a tough role to embody, but Renner does so with realism and pathology. Artel Great and Dion Basco play a duo of the killer’s intended victims with real emotion and empathy. The rest of the cast is quite solid as well.

The beef I have is that the film stops a bit short. Though I applaud Jacobson’s desire to create something that focused on more than the gore in this story, it does leave the viewer feeling a little unfulfilled. The film would have benefitted from a GLIMPSE, just a glimpse, of how far Dahmer went eventually when his psychotic fantasies became reality.

In all, a very well-acted psycho drama about one of the darkest real-life examples of a human predator with very solid cinematography. For those interested in serial killers or true crime psychodrama, this is definitely something to catch. Renner fans should NOT miss this one, either.


RATING ………………. 3.5 STARS



To follow up on my first film review post and this one: I’m taking these first three posts to catch up with reviews of what I have watched so far in 2013 from the world of horror. Whether older films through a more mature pair of eyes or new movies from the genre, I’ll be capturing it all here moving forward.

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. )

Here are four more I have watched in 2013 so far… This catches me up…


YEAR :: 1975
DIRECTOR :: Alfredo Rizzo

Ummmm… Yeah… What can I say? This was bad. Like really bad. Simply awful writing, terrible dubs, wooden performances and thoroughly confusing plot all add up to one abominable film. Even a bevy of really gorgeous 70’s italian ingenues regularly au naturel in classic gothic settings throughout the movie can’t save this one. Films like this CAN be funny in how bad they are. There CAN be a charm to it. This film… Nope.

Want a taste? Just check out the trailer. It really gives a sense of the godawful experience this is.


UGH! What a shambles.
RATING ………………. 0.5 STARS


YEAR :: 2002
DIRECTOR :: Chuck Comisky

I am a lover of all things cryptozoological. I always have been, even since the days of my youth. I think it’s the possibility of finding real-life “monsters” in the world around us that intrigues. A sort of a repudiation of the rational and a belief in something greater.

Unfortunately, this film captures none of that.

When a member of a scientific / reality TV expedition to Loch Ness dies in a “mysterious” diving accident, the legendarily unorthodox and ruggedly good looking expedition leader Blay comes to  handle things personally. More odd happenings and strange attacks plague the Loch.  Can Blay and his team succeed against a highlands “locals only” mentality and their fears to solve the riddle of the Loch? Do we care?

Unfortunately not. Nothing MAKES us care, here.

I LOVE a good monster movie in the classic sense and especially one with a crypto bent, but this sucker is flat, flat, flat. The script simply stinks and Comisky’s direction is totally uninspired. The actors have poor material to work with, but their performances do nothing to help us find any emotional resonance. It’s like everyone was aiming for a TV-quality movie from the 80’s and they still fell short.

I wouldn’t spend any time on this one. It reeks like bad haggis. If you’re searching for something in the Loch with more of a soul, go for 2007’s “The Water Horse.” That one isn’t perfect either and it’s somewhat geared for kids, but it’s damn good comparatively. That’s a far better bet than this sinker.

RATING ………………. 0.5 STARS


YEAR :: 2012
DIRECTOR :: Drew Goddard


FINALLY… Something different.

AWESOME concept with this one. I won’t share too much as almost anything would act as a spoiler. I think the summary on IMDB is a solid “interest piquer” ::

Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.

At first glance this would seem to be another de rigueur young, sexy sleepaway slasher pic. BUT, this film couldn’t be farther from that. Creative, self-aware and genuinely fun, writers Josh Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directs) give us so much more in “Cabin.”. In the process, the film both uses and lampoons horror genre clichés a la Wes Craven at his best, shifting the viewer’s perspective and giving us a laugh.

The cast is spot on, giving us sexy thrills, harrowing screams and classic horror bravado in turns. They evoke just enough pathos that we wince when the writers remind us we’re watching a horror movie by showing us just how disposable they are.

This is a great film for genre-heads and non-horror fans alike. It’s that good. Don’t miss it.


RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS


YEAR :: 2012
DIRECTOR :: Tim Burton


I am SUPER TEMPTED to give this a one word review…


But I love so much of Tim Burton’s other work that I think the film deserves a few more words to explain why.

It’s SUCH a shame that is is such a fail. There was so much to work with: truly classic source material, a very solid cast, a real budget, Tim Burton’s eye. But all of that just wasn’t enough to overcome a terribly weak script. Really, this is a perfect example of why there has to be some substance behind the style. Without deft, truly meaty writing, images (even the most compelling), fall flat.

I did want to give the movie SOME points for style. It is, at times, quite stylish: Great soundtrack, very nice cinematography, fun style nods to the original “Dark Shadows.” But even these have their detractors as they ultimately serve a flawed master in the story.

It’s worth a watch if you’re a die hard fan, but I feel that your time is MUCH better served by simply watching the original series.

RATING ………………. 2.5 STARS


Again, this catches me up. Stay tuned for more moving forward!



To follow up on my first film review post: I’m taking these first posts to catch up with reviews of what I have watched so far in 2013 from the world of horror. Whether older films through a more mature pair of eyes or new movies from the genre, I’ll be capturing it all here moving forward.

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. )

Here are three more I have watched in 2013 so far…


YEAR :: 1985
DIRECTOR :: Stuart Gordon


Where to start with this one? There is just so much awesomeness going on with this film — an HP Lovecraft story brought to life with absolute trash perfection.

This is a film about mad scientists, glowing secret formulas and reanimated body parts with anger issues. Really, it’s a perfect palette for director Stuart Gordon to play with and he handles it with just the right amount of reckless abandon. He treats the material with a deft blend of deadpan seriousness and hyperbolic craziness. The result is truly memorable with scene after scene of deliciously nutty drama soaked in blood, guts and adrenaline.

I absolutely love the cast on this film. Jeffrey Combs is flawless as Herbert West, the scientist with the formula and the grisly drive to raise the undead. David Gale plays the perfect foil to West as a perfectly evil rival scientist with a creeped-out sexual attraction to his colleague’s college daughter, the innocent but very sexy Barbara Crampton as Megan Halsey.  With Bruce Abbott as a reluctant partner to Herbert and lover to Megan and a fun supporting cast beyond.

The film with leave you in stitches and give you some unforgettable images to dream about afterwards. Buckle up. This is a wild ride.


RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS


YEAR :: 1986
DIRECTOR :: John McNaughton


Emotionally raw, brutally honest and indie in feel, “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” is the real deal.

Made for just $125,000 with an independent cast from Chicago’s Organic Theater Company, founded (in a bit of Jungian synchronicity for this post), by “Re-Animator” director Stuart Gordon, the film takes a work-a-day approach to the subject, giving it a true sense of the real. McNaughton deserves very high praise for this treatment. Stunning.

It is this true sense that gives the film its power. It is a gray, drab, water-stained portrait of a drifter who kills remorselessly to assuage the boredom in his life. Everyone who is a fan of Anthony Hopkins’ campy portrayal of Hannibal Lechter needs to watch Michael Rooker’s powerful, dull embodiment of psychopathy here in the title role. No camp. No comic relief. No mercy.

He is supported brilliantly by Tom Towles as the ultra-creepy Ottis and Tracy Arnold as his Ottis’s hapless sister who is fascinated and attracted to Henry’s raw power. All of the performances here are honest and give the film undeniable emotional electricity.

Though years have passed since the film was made, it has not blunted in any way. It still gives us an unrelenting peek at the life of a true psychopath at work.


RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS


YEAR :: 1986
DIRECTOR :: Richard Wenk


Holy 80’s. If this didn’t have the amazing Grace Jones in it, I would shudder to think of its value.

Goofy, sloppy, bad and only partially charmingly so, this film encapsulates the fun-but-scholcky side of the 80’s horror scene. This is part titillating (quite literally, I might add) frat-ready fantasy, part cornball comedy with a few plastic chills all wrapped up in the poor (think destitute) man’s version of Scorsese’s pitch perfect 1985 film “After Hours.”

Though it isn’t horror and unless you just want to glimpse the awesome Grace Jones at the height of her powers, just skip this and watch “After Hours.” You’ll be more frightened and a heck of a lot happier.


RATING ………………. 1.5 STARS


I will continue to post catch-up reviews as I march towards the new stuff. Stay tuned!



I wanted to start reviewing all of the horror films I am seeing sequentially on this blog, but thought a great place to start is to catch up with reviews of what I have watched so far in 2013 from the genre. Many are older, some new. Really… I just love exploring new-to-me films of any time period or re-experiencing films from my past that I may have seen and wanted to watch with a fresh (more mature) pair of eyes. I’ll capture all of that here through these reviews.

In a bit of convergence with another personal project I am working on, I will also share movie posters I have created for each film after watching it. For that project, I create a poster for every film I watch (every film… regardless of genre) of no more than three colors (black, red and white) and as few design elements as possible that captures the essence of the movie. You can see all of the posters at the project’s site here ::



The posters themselves have no critical aspect to them, but this blog will allow me to explore the films from the horror genre critically.

Again, for the next posts along these lines, I’ll be playing catch-up for 2013 so far. Without further ado, here are a few…


YEAR :: 1983
DIRECTOR :: David Croneneberg


Arguably the best of the Stephen King adaptations to film, this supernatural thriller does what so many don’t: it makes us care.

A high school teacher, Johnny Smith, in love and living a rewarding life is caught in a terrible accident, placing him in a coma for 5 years. When he awakens, he finds that he can see the future by touching the hands of others. The drama of the piece comes in Walken choosing to change that future and it’s implications for humanity or in ignoring it.

David Cronenberg, the man who has given us so many indelible horror images throughout his career shows great restraint with the material here, eschewing any gore for real storytelling.

The casting is top-flight, featuring the great Christopher Walken in the lead role with Brooke Adams, Martin Sheen, Herbert Lom and Tom Skerritt supporting. All provide honest, engaging performances that genuinely create real feelings for their individual characters.

Truly thrilling, this is definitely a gem from the early 80’s. Definitely worth a watch.


RATING ………………. 4 STARS


YEAR :: 1986
DIRECTOR :: Richard Haines & Lloyd Kaufmann


Pure trash. Pure fun. Thought I had seen this before, how cool was it to see this MANY years later as an “adult?”

Made by Troma, the studio that brought you “The Toxic Avenger,” the filmmakers had this to say about the film: “It’s like The Breakfast Club, only not as stupid, and really, really drunk.” I definitely agree that stupid and drunk should be in any description of this film. But uproarious, splattered and kitschy should be in there somewhere as well.

Welcome to Tromaville,  where square teachers, righteous dudes and violent surf punks fight for the school and life is one big nihilistic party. The local nuclear power plant is leeching green goo into just about everything. What happens when that goo gets in the water, or even more dire, the marijuana supply? Well, you might guess. The answer involves toilet monsters, zombie-like pregnancies, 4 foot long erections, man-eating slime-things and a whole host of low-budget 80’s incredible-ness.

The casting is fun all around. Gil Brenton anchors the male lead role well. Robert Pritchard plays a memorable arch-punk as the main villain with the support of a motley bunch of bizarre flunkys in his anarchic gang. Perhaps the most interesting is the fresh and radiantly sexy Janelle Brady as the ever-prissy Chrissy. As a 16-year-old male when this film came out, I can say that Chrissy made my horror-loving heart beat QUITE quickly. She’s truly gorgeous. It’s a shame that Brady’s career only lasted for three films.

This movie is the definition of trash. However, the film’s hilarious “badness” has an undeniable charm. Is this a good film? Not on any planet. Is it a cult-classic? Yes and awesomely so. See it, but ONLY if you’re up for what it has to offer.


RATING ………………. 3 STARS


YEAR :: 1958
DIRECTOR :: Bert I. Gordon


A deranged dollmaker with a consuming fear of being alone devises a way to shrink humans to keep them in his doll collection. Light and a bit goofy, this classic title from the late 50s relies on set pieces and trompe l’oeil effects to generate interest. Though the effects are fun and quite successful at times (for the era) and I do consider early technique-driven films like this classic matinee fare, the film remains tepid.

Worth watching for completists and early effects fans.


RATING ………………. 2 STARS


I will continue to post catch-up reviews as I go. Stay tuned!



As a young lad, I spent many hours in the dark and arcane environs of the Titus Avenue location of Rochester, New York’s Empire Comics. When I wasn’t in the arcade, I was drawn to the horror comics in the stacks, trying to pull together what money I had to take what I could home with me.

Among the most prized issues I did manage to bring home were the early issues of DC’s “Swamp Thing” and a new comic I had purchased; the first issue of “Berni Wrightson, Master of the Macabre.”  I was absolutely taken with the style of the art. Incredible brush work and absolutely STUNNING pen and ink pieces soared on the pages within. The perspective was always fascinating and the tension within the illustrations was unmatched. It kept me poring over those pages again and again. I must have read those hundreds of times.

The self-titled comic gathered stories from Wrightson’s past — work for “Eerie Magazine,” the legendary horror comic anthology. Look at these panels from “The Pepper Lake Monster.” The detail in the ink work and the perspective are simply amazing. As a fan of cryptozoology as well, I was in hog heaven when I saw this piece.


For Christmas that year, my parents got me “Creepshow,” the graphic novel. Wrightson at the helm again and for a young lad with dreams of being an artist and more than his fair share of a love of horror, I was completely in love. I remain in love to this day, only moreso as I understand more the true genius of his unique talent. I credit this early exposure as a direct inspiration for my career in the arts as a graphic designer.  On my best day, I don’t even have a thimbleful of Mr. Wrightson’s talent, but he drove me to dream.


Wrightson spent 10 years illustrating scenes from Mary Shelley’s classic “Frankenstein.” To say that the resulting collection of illustrations is gorgeous barely hints at the quality of this work. It is JAW-DROPPING. I remember a writer once saying “I’m pretty sure these illustrations have supernatural powers.” I agree. Look and wonder at a few samples from the collection ::


Wow. Just wow.

From early work for DC’s horror comic “House of Secrets,” through the game changing “Swamp Thing,” to “Eerie,” “Frankenstein” and the myriad other projects throughout a long and storied career, I personally want to nominate Bernie Wrightson (changed to “Berni” for some work to eliminate confusion with a US diver of the same name) to the great (yet to be built) Horror Hall of Fame. Thank you, Bernie, for the years of art, inspiration and chills. Those who say that comics aren’t “real art” clearly haven’t seen your work.



Though many bands may have darker, more overt horror-driven themes, I don’t think ANY have captured the essence of a gothic sense of horror better than Bauhaus.  From the angular, vampire’s strut and croon of Peter Murphy to the dark and often sparse artistic vistas of their instrumentation to the gothic thematics of their lyrics, it’s all here and it’s all awesome.


Sticking with yesterday’s Bela Lugosi theme…

Who can forget the band’s inclusion in Tony Scott’s lush vampire masterpiece “The Hunger?” An incredible example of the band’s power and one of my fave credit sequences of the era.

( PS — All of you haters of that film can go home, because I think very few films captured the vampire story in as interesting a way as “The Hunger.” RICH and stylish as hell. Tony Scott definitely had a look here and Stephen Goldblatt was DP on this as well. Awesome look.  )

Honestly, that legendary song, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” would be enough to earn them a permanent place in the annals of horrordom, but it was the total package here that carried so much appeal. All of it.

This is “Kingdom’s Coming,” another tour de force from the band that was included on the soundtrack album for “The Blair Witch Project.”

So gorgeous, so gothic with that dark sense of foreboding communicated in only the best works of horror of any kind.

I know the band might sigh at a tribute on a dark blog like this as so much of their output was about love and more hopeful themes (and I loved that work as well), but they have given lovers of the gothic a body of work that stands alone in so many ways. My only hope is that the youth of today will look back occasionally to see a band like Bauhaus for what it has given to shape the music of today’s dark edge.

(I found the above band pic on this blog about the goth scene of the golden age. Check it out. Really amazing site.)



The 19th century gave us some of the most indelible images and stories of the horror genre. The monsters and men set forth in the books of that era continue to haunt us today and form the basis for our modern scene.

As I have mentioned, I am a designer by trade and I love to play with personal projects. I thought I would share a concept that I have been working on to pay homage to the great horror masterworks of the 19th century. I’m calling the project “A Century of Horror Classics.” I have designed and illustrated shirts representing 7 incredibly seminal works from that era. Here a list of the works in chrono order ::

~ “Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus” :: Mary Shelley (1818)
~ “Melmoth the Wanderer” :: Charles Maturin (1820)
~ “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” :: Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
~ “The Picture of Dorian Gray” :: Oscar Wilde (1890)
~ “The Great God Pan” :: Arthur Machen (1894)
~ “Dracula” :: Bram Stoker (1897)
~ “The Turn of the Screw” :: Henry James (1898)

Annnd… Here are the designs in an order I thought presented well for the blog ::


Drop a line and let me know what you think of these. I know I will wear them in honor of the horror greats they represent.



What better way to kick this blog off than with a tribute to a true legend of imagination and movie monster magic?

May 7th of this year, we lost a true legend in Ray Harryhausen.


From the original Mighty Joe Young (1949) to his first color film, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) to the incomparable Jason and the Argonauts (1963) to his last film, Clash of the Titans (1981), he gave us so many truly memorable movie monsters. His work still inspires me as a digital artist today. I feel so strongly that for all of our capabilities in the digital space, Harryhausen’s work retains a tactile quality, a “realness” that remains absent in so much of what we see in today’s over-juiced CG blockbusters. In short, the scenes have SOUL because his hands were in everything he did.

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Mr. Harryhausen person here in St. Louis a few years ago at a special screening of Jason and the Argonauts with the Webster University Film Series. It was a magical night and  as a fan, it was so incredibly gratifying to see Ray get a standing ovation after each effects sequence in the film. He was humble, relatable and undeniably awesome.

Who can ever forget the work on Talos in the Argonauts? It still gives me chills.

Annnd, the work on the final skeleton fight scene in Argonauts is just incredible. I attended the evening with a good friend and talented animator who remarked that the all the scene needed was some motion blur and it would be completely viable as a contemporary effects scene. I couldn’t agree more. WATCH THE SCENE and think about the fact that they had to choreograph the actors and hand-animate to that action. Matching the two with that limited technology is simply astounding, yet it is done SEAMLESSLY in this scene. Truly amazing.

That wouldn’t be easy to do today, but he did it with models, one frame at a time. Multiple camera angles. Integration with very fast-live action. Variable terrain. All quite seamless. It really is almost a feat of true conjuring.

Ray, you will be missed. Thank God you have left us with so much work to continue to go back to for inspiration and wonder. I know I will always return with a child’s smile.