Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fear not, Northwest Horror Fans! The spooky stuff keeps happening throughout the holiday season, and The Shadow Over Portland has all the details.

Oh, so October has passed and the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is now a fleeting memory.  Well, it doesn't have to be, as here at The Shadow Over Portland, I'm digging around the graveyard for horrific events that will put a shiver in your spine throughout this, the Sappiest Time of the Year.

So check out this week's horror update, as I've got some stuff that will chill your spine better than an arctic blast!


Friday, November 21



The Funhouse Lounge in Portland, OR, presents the only musical inspired by a Weekly World News headline, Bat Boy: The Musical.  A campy production concerning a half-boy, half-bat being, the score mixes rock, gospel and country into a dark, silly and charming musical mix.  It is an adult oriented show with mature themes, so keep the kids at home.  Tickets range for $15 to $25, depending on the day of the week and whether you purchase at the door or not.  The show runs Thursdays to Saturdays through November 29.  For more information, and advance ticket purchases, visit The Funhouse Lounge website.  



Karloff: A One Person Play will premiere at The Level B Theater Pub (445 High St SE in Salem, OR).  The performance starts at 8 pm on November 21 and 22.   Tickets are available at this link.  For more information on the production, check out the play's Facebook Page, or the Level B Facebook page.

Saturday, November 22



The Historic Capitol Theater in Olympia, WA, is screening How The Grinch Stole Christmas, along with Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas at 11 am today only.  Okay, I hate when Christmas comes too early, but I'll get behind any screening of the Chuck Jones holiday classic.  The screening is free for kids 12 and under (I'm assuming this refers to chronological age), and $8 for those older yet still young at heart.  Check out the link for more information.


Monday, December 1



It's official, V/H/S Viral will screen at The Hollywood Theatre December 1 through 3.  No showtimes have been announced, so keep checking back here or visit the theater's website. 

Thursday, December 4



Okay, I keep telling everyone that Keep Portland Weird isn't just a slogan taken up by the residents, but a way of life here in the Rose City.  And our film critics are weird too.

Yeah, okay, this critic certainly is.  But I'm not alone....

The Critic's Choice Film Series opens tonight at The Hollywood Theatre with Guillermo del Toro's feature debut, Cronos.  Chosen by the Portland Mercury's Erik Henrikson, this film is part vampire, part cursed device and all sorts of amazing.  Henrikson will present to introduce the screening, but we horror fans don't need any explanation for the inclusion of del Toro's first feature film on the list.  Admission is $8, and the film starts at 7:30 pm.  For more information, visit the link.



Roaring back into Portland at The Clinton Street Theater tonight only is the biker/horror/exploitation flick, All Hell Breaks Loose.  A man sets out the save the soul of his bride from the clutches of Satanic bikers, no matter how often he has to die.  And hey, the film was shot here in the Pacific Northwest.  The show starts at 9 pm, and the director will be present after the film for a Q and A session.

Follow these links to my review of the film, and my interview with the director and screenwriter.  The show starts at 9 pm, and you'll find more information on the screening at The Clinton Street Theater website.  

Friday, December 5



Tonight only, The Hollywood Theatre will screen the Tony Scott's vampire classic, The Hunger.  Presented by Portland's Project Records, the film stars David Bowie, Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve and will be presented in glorious 35mm.  The film starts at 9:30 pm and you can purchase advanced tickets at The Hollywood Theatre website.



The Fifth Annual Portland Krampus Lauf takes place tonight, the official date of the Krampus Nacht.  Revelers can gather at Sewal Crest Park (just west of Hawthrone and 32nd Ave SE), than travel the neighborhood while wassailing and indulging in other forms of merriment, before returning to the Park and taking part in other forms of festive fun.  You can visit the Facebook Event Page for more information on this celebration.

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And you know more horrific events are coming your way.  Check out the Horror Calendar, with events happening well into 2015, and keep checking back at The Shadow Over Portland for updates on all things eerie.

If you have an event you'd like listed here, email me at shadowoverportland@live.com and I'll be sure to included it on the Horror Calendar and in my weekly updates.

 And, should you attend any of these events, let the organizers know you read about it at The Shadow Over Portland!

The mystery of the missing Hollywood Theatre This Is Your Theater ballot has been solved!



You might remember my post earlier this week about checking my email link for The Hollywood Theatre's December This IsYour Theater ballot, only to find a new ballot, with new movies and a later date.  It was a bit of a surprise, but today, I found out The Hollywood is offering TWO This Is Your Theater screenings, which explains why the link for the old ballot led me to the new one.

And the winner of the first ballot is The Shop Around the Corner, with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.  Sorry, but neither Gremlins or Rare Exports couldn't overpower this comedy (which was remade as You've Got Mail a few years back).

Still, Northwest horror fans still can get Black Christmas into The Hollywood this year, but only if you follow this link and vote.

But you also have to ready to buy a ticket.  Once a film wins, at least 100 advanced tickets must be sold before the screening happens.

I have not received an email on the new ballot, so I don't know when voting will end.  It also might mean that not too many people know about the second ballot, so we might be able to sneak Black Christmas onto the schedule.  I'll try to get more information on the deadline this weekend, but for now, be sure to VOTE!  And keep checking The Shadow Over Portland, as I will announce the winner when the votes are counted.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Manster (1959)



Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”  If that is true, then one must assume Sam Raimi saw The Manster, as the final act contains sequences that feel lifted for Army of Darkness.  I’m not saying that‘s a bad thing.  But astute horror fans will watch this film and  not have to wonder where Raimi’s inspiration came from.

A US/Japan co-production, The Manster follows American news correspondent Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley), stationed in Japan, as he follows a lead about research that could hold the answer to the cause of evolution on Earth.

Too bad Larry doesn’t know that Dr. Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura) isn’t the most ethical scientist around.  Having subjected two family members to his enzyme treatment, with disastrous results, Dr. Suzuki decides Larry is the subject needed to prove his theory.  Doping the poor sap, Dr. Suzuki injects Larry with his serum, than proceeds to show Larry a good time around Japan, in order to monitor the results. 



Of course, the experiment will succeed with an American male as a subject.  
That doesn't sound too outdated, does it?

Which, of course, involves lots of sake, visits to geisha houses and a mineral bath with Suzuki’s lovely assistant Tara (Terri Zimmern).  But Larry’s wife, Linda (Jane Hylton, Dyneley’s real wife), isn’t happy with his sudden behavior change and flies to Japan to save their relationship. 

However, Larry has bigger problems.  He’s blacking out and committing murders, all while doing his best to kill off his liver and, oh yeah, growing an extra eye out of the injection site on his shoulder.
Soon, Larry’s grown an extra head, and yes, mayhem ensues.



Nope, never seen this before.  Especially not in a Sam Raimi movie!  

The funny thing about The Manster is it sounds like a horrible movie.  Just the title alone might turn some people away from this film.  But, I figure the title came from the same place that lead Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman’s character in Matinee) to title his movie Mant.  “Half man!  Half ant!  MANT!!”  The Manster feels more fitting than other titles for the film, including The Spilt (the UK title) and The Two-Headed Monster.

Seriously, that last one loses to The Manster by a wide margin.

Getting back to the film, it’s strangely watchable, even though the audience is left with no one to become invested in.  Suzuki isn’t portrayed as an evil scientist, just misguided, but his ethical lapses are quite villainous.  Tara claims to be emotionally scarred, unable to care for another person, which makes her the perfect choice as Suzuki’s assistant.  Yet she falls for Larry, despite his loutish behavior. 


Yeah, Larry is her only chance a love.  Right.....

As for Larry, it’s hard to feel sorry for the guy.  Not that he deserves to be experimented upon, but the character’s behavior is hard to dismiss.  He proclaims his love to his wife (in an overlong, saccharine-filled phone conversation that feels hollow), yet he’s off enjoying all the decadent pleasures of Japan just a few days later, ignoring his job and his spouse.  One could say it’s the enzyme treatment causing this change, but the script offers no hint that Larry wouldn’t have behaved any different had Suzuki exposed him to sake, geishas and Tara without the injection.   

Making it harder for a modern audience to empathize with Larry is the moment when he sexually assaults Tara at the bathhouse.  Sure, the scene fades to black as Larry is racing up to Tara from behind as she is getting into a bathrobe, but the implication is quite clear.  As fading to black often implied sex (just ask Jeff Daniels in The Purple Rose of Cairo), one is left with the uncomfortable fact that Larry rapes Tara.



Yep, just looking at my toes and paying no attention to the naked woman on the other side of the screen.
Nothing of interest back there.  Nope. 

Of course, the following scene is a montage of the pair enjoying all the nightlife Tokyo has to offer.  Again, a modern audience will strain to understand why Tara becomes infatuated with this doltish, sexually aggressive ass.  She claims she was traumatized as a child, implying her emotions were shaped by the events of World War II.  But these scars are healing, thanks to the behavior of an American taking in the exotic pleasures her country has to offer, yet showing no respect for her culture and history.

But the true subtext in the script becomes clear when Linda arrives in Japan.  She knows Larry is having an affair with Tara (again, never shown, but implied), yet she is going to fight for her man and the sanctity of their marriage.  And, aside from never allowing one’s self to be drugged and used as a guinea pig for a crazy scientist, I think The Manster is trying to be a warning to Americans about the dangers of exotic, overseas countries.    

Despite what the history books (and Happy Day reruns) imply, the 50’s were probably the start of the sexual revolution.  Playboy was outselling Esquire magazine, the Beatniks were doing drugs and calling for an end to sexual repression.  American soldiers returning from overseas during WW II were exposed to forms of art and literature that was not as suppressed as in the homeland.

And Americans were more likely to “seize the day” than previously suspected.  In a paper that reveled an increase in unwed pregnancies during the 40s and 50s.  In his paper, UF History Professor Alan Petigny suggests, “After 15 years of depression and war, there was also a desire on the part of Americans to live in the moment and enjoy life, and they were acting accordingly less likely to defer to traditional restraints on their behavior (see link for more  http://www.research.ufl.edu/publications/explore/v10n1/extract4.html). 

Given such a backdrop, The Manster can be viewed as a belated cautionary tale, attempting to guide Americans back to the morals of “good old days.”  Women, who were the backbone of the industrial machine in World War II a decade earlier, are now implored to be good, glamorous housewives (just look at Hylton’s poses during her first scene) and help their husbands resist the temptations of the more erotic influences from overseas.  As for men, well, the exotic countries are enticing, but beware, lest your other head takes control.



Yep, this is what it was like to be a woman back in the 50s.  
Please insert sarcastic tone at any time....

Okay, I was waiting to use that pun, but it feels appropriate, given Larry’s personality change once he’s immersed in a more hedonistic lifestyle by Suzuki .  Whether the filmmakers created a morality play or not. it’s hard not to see the film as anything other than a backlash against changing American values. 

And, on that front, the film fails.  Larry and Linda talk about their love over the phone, despite being separated for years, but it never rings true.  I’m not making a commentary on the relationship between the actors (as I mentioned, they were married at the time), but more on the script, which gives no sense of a believable relationship.  And, as Larry becomes such a drunken lout early in the film, the script doesn’t deliver a character the audience can sympathize with in any manner.  Larry is less the upstanding, moral American corrupted by foreign influences, but more a sexist jerk looking for the nearest outlet for his libido.  Again, this is more a modern viewer’s outlook, but it can make the moral tale within the script hard to swallow. 

And no, I have not forgotten my Sam Raimi reference.  But here lie SPOILERS!

Larry gains a third eye on his shoulder, the site of this unknowing injection, echoing Ash’s third eye after swallowing one of the mirror Deadite versions of himself.  And, though the special effects are understandably better in Army of Darkness, both protagonists separate into two beings, one good and the other evil, in scenes that are eerily similar.



Good, bad, I'm the one with....
Oh damn, wrong movie, no shotgun.


Again, I’m not saying this was a bad movie to rip off.  The Manster is a solid watch for B-movie fans, with some nice effects and some very creepy moments.  You just have to get past the idea that Caucasian women are virtuous and only concerned for a man’s well being, while foreign women will bring a man to ruin.  An outdated message, to be sure, but it's a nice little film as long as you don’t think too hard about the stereotypes and moral overtones. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

WTF happened? The Hollywood Theatre has changed the features on December's This Is Your Theater ballot!!


What, I have to vote again and the ballot's changed?


Um, I don't know what happened, but it appears The Hollywood Theatre's choices for December's  This Is Your Theater have changed.  I clicked on the email sent to me by The Hollywood to see how the vote was going, and everything CHANGED, including the screening date.

It could be a licensing issue, but EVERY SINGLE FILM?  Including Gremlins and Rare Exports?!?

Okay, I'm going to go a little conspiracy theorist here, as voting on the original ballot ended yesterday.  And my inner five year old can't help snickering at the thought of Rare Exports winning, leading to a meeting of The Hollywood Theatre programmers that led off with the line, "Well, we have a winner, but it's got too much wiener."

Okay, I snickered as I type that.  It's a day off and I'm drinking Brrr.  What do you expect?

However, I will call BS on myself.  First, Portland is weird enough to support a holiday screening of Rare Export, naked Santas and all.  And second, The Hollywood Theatre isn't afraid to take risks with the programming choices.

And, though the ballot is stacked with family friendly films featuring Muppets, Chevy Chase, Bing and Astaire, The Hollywood is offering up two rather morbid films to vote on.  One is the 80's comedy, Better Off Dead, with John Cusack deciding to off himself, rather than deal with being dumped during the holidays.  But the true choice for horror fans is.....



Yep, the ORIGINAL Black Christmas is on the ballot.  If you've never seen this one, I suggest you vote for it and see how Carpenter's Halloween took a few elements used by director Bob Clark (yeah, the guy who also directed A Christmas Story) to start up the slasher craze.  And, if you're like me and seen it several times, vote for it anyway and go see it on THE BIG SCREEN!  It should be all shades of AWESOME!

Now, I'm not discouraging people outside the Portland area to vote for Black Christmas, but I must remind you, the winning film needs to sell a set amount of advanced tickets before it will be screened.  But, as Portland has supported screenings of Silent Night, Deadly Night for years, I don't think this will be a problem (told you we're weird).

So vote for Black Christmas and be sure to help keep Portland SCARY during the Sappiest Time of the Year.  Just click on the link.  I don't know how long the poll will be open, but I was able to cast my vote at 2 pm on November 18.  Be sure and vote as soon as you can!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Portland Horror Fans have two choices in December's This is Your Theater vote at The Hollywood Theatre

Okay, I have to mention that just voting for a film isn't enough.  You have to be willing to purchase an advance ticket to the screening for the film to come to The Hollywood Theatre.  But local horror fans have two great choices to vote on.



In one corner is the Joe Dante holiday classic, Gremlins.  It's fun, pretty family friendly (if you can get past the AWESOME kitchen mayhem) and has a cuddly little critter the kids will love.

As long as you don't get him wet.  Just saying.



The other horrific offering is the Finnish movie, Rare Exports.  Not as kid friendly(due to violence and some naked "Santas"), this is still a fun take on the true meaning of Christmas (it's EVIL) and how it was sanitized by someone's version of a "jolly old elf."

Sure, you can vote for some other holiday feature, such as Elf, Trading Places or The Shop Around The Corner, but I know we can keep Portland weird and vote for the horror underdogs.  And, should either horrific offering be victorious, buy an advanced ticket and let The Hollywood know we want the strange, unusual and macabre.

Choose wisely and buy your advanced tickets when the horror winner is announced. The film will screen on December 5.  Visit the link to vote.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Universal Studios to take the Horror out of their Classic Monsters



You can't say I didn't warn you of this.  The Hollywood Reporter sat down with the heads of the major studios for a roundtable discussion of their future plans, and Universal announced the studio will turn their Classic Monster Universe into a realm of superheroes and villains.

If you don't want to scroll through the article, here's the message delivered by Universal Studio's Donna Langley....
Donna and Brad, how do you get into this game? Donna has said that Universal's monster movies are not competitive with the superheroes.
LANGLEY To Alan's point, we have to mine our resources. We don't have any capes [in our film library]. But what we do have is an incredible legacy and history with the monster characters. We've tried over the years to make monster movies — unsuccessfully, actually. So, we took a good, hard look at it, and we settled upon an idea, which is to take it out of the horror genre, put it more in the action-adventure genre and make it present day, bringing these incredibly rich and complex characters into present day and reimagine them and reintroduce them to a contemporary audience.

Yep, the studio failed to deliver decent horror films over the years, so rather than figure out how their previous attempts went astray, the studio heads have decided to turn their library of Classic Monsters into action heroes and villains.

And, giving the additional footage inserted into Dracula Untold, as well as the CGI heavy action sequences in the film, one can't help but feel the studio is banking on turning their creatures of the night into supernaturally powered versions of the characters they are competing with in the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universe.

And you can't say I didn't see this one coming.  I was writing about the problems Universal had translating it's Classic Monster franchise to modern audiences back in 2012, as a writer for Planet Fury.  And, although I can not find a link to my article, as the website is closed (I would have provided a link for this article, but it wasn't available.  You'll have to take my word on this.), here's a quote from my computer of the article I wrote back in July, 2012 concerning the studio's attempt to launch an online game filled with their Classic Monsters.


And this screen shot.
As to the game, I can’t comment on how it looks.  But I can say that I doubt the programmers and designers have never seen a Universal monster movie before, as the game’s objective is to, “Defeat your opponents – get the girl!”

Had the game designer had watched a film like Creature from the Black Lagoon, they’d understand why the Gill-Man shouldn’t get the girl.  Yes, he might be a misunderstood monster looking for a mate, but we know date rape would not be problem for him.  And the Frankenstein’s Monster doesn’t have a stellar track record with girls (though, judging by the site’s artwork, the damsel in the game is at least 18 years old).  The goal of having the monster return to their base with the girl ignores the simple fact that the monster has plans that aren’t in her best interest.


No, nothing nefarious going on here.

Besides, turning the monsters into heroic figures robs them of their power, the mix of sympathetic creature and terrifying beast that makes them special.  Instead, players will control another superhero with a set of special attacks and abilities, at least as long as you have your credit card handy (of course, Bigpoint is going to make a buck off this “free” game).

Fans shouldn’t be surprised that Universal is mismanaging their monster franchises.  The studio has a history of missteps and mistakes date back to the late 30s, and the most recent efforts to revitalize the monsters (Van Helsing and The Wolfman) were colossal flops.  Yet it’s surprising the studio can’t make the monsters work for a modern audience.  After all, the early films followed a similar game plan to Marvel Studio’s recent success with The Avengers.  All Universal need do is find talented filmmakers with an enthusiasm for the project, or the skill sets to make each creature shine, then produce a series of fun, successful solo outings before bringing all of them together for a big monster mash. 
Wow, can't say I didn't see this one coming.

As for their current plans, I think Universal is over thinking things.  Rather than try to make a blockbuster series right off the block, the studio should reintroduce their Classic Monsters in a series of more modestly budgeted films.  This approach, coupled with filmmakers who have an understanding of the Classic Monsters rather than those interested in generating a franchise, would introduce a new generation of filmgoers to what makes these monsters so special, while keeping the elements that resonate for older fans.  And a lower budget will allow the studio to up the budget for the following films while garnering audience interest into these characters, until they can release an all-out brawl worthy of the Universal name.

But no.  Rather than blazing a new trail, one more rooted in horror rather than super-heroics, delivering moviegoers something they haven't seen in a long while, Universal is intent on forging the monsters into the realm of superheroes.


After all, why tell a story when we can do this?

I guess it's easier to CGI a massive fist of bats than write a script that is scary or original.  I'm just glad to have the original films on DVD, so I don't have to watch this catastrophic mess in the making.
 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Karloff and the Blood Creek Woodsman headline this weekend's horror events, but I have breaking news about Portland's first proper HORROR CONVENTION!!!!!!!

Sure, you though Halloween was over under The Shadow Over Portland and Horror fans figured they'd spend the SAPPIEST TIME OF THE YEAR hiding from Black Friday ads and carolers.  Well, I've got news for you, the spooky goodies continue to pile up.


Friday, November 14 



Karloff: A One Person Play will premiere at The Level B Theater Pub (445 High St SE in Salem, OR).  The performance starts at 8 pm on November14, 15, 21 and 22.   Tickets are available at this link.  For more information on the production, check out the play's Facebook Page, or the Level B Facebook page.



The Funhouse Lounge in Portland, OR, presents the only musical inspired by a Weekly World News headline, Bat Boy: The Musical.  A campy production concerning a half-boy, half-bat being, the score mixes rock, gospel and country into a dark, silly and charming musical mix.  It is an adult oriented show with mature themes, so keep the kids at home.  Tickets range for $15 to $25, depending on the day of the week and whether you purchase at the door or not.  The show runs Thursdays to Saturdays through November 29.  For more information, and advance ticket purchases, visit The Funhouse Lounge website.



Freddy's back and heading to Tacoma!  Friday Night Frights presents A Nightmare on Elm Street for a one day only screening at The Blue Mouse Theatre (follow this link to the theatre's official website, or here for the theatre's Facebook page).  The show starts at 10 pm.  More information as it becomes available.



The Olympia Film Society in Olympia, WA, has a couple of features to whet your appetite.  First up is the horror/comedy, Eating Raoul, a story of fine dining and cannibalism.  And actress Mary Woronov will be in attendance!  Doors open at 7:30 pm, the film starts at 8 pm and you'll find more information and advanced ticket sales by clicking on the link and scrolling down to the film.



But if you're appetite isn't quite sated, The Olympia Film Society presents a Shock Theater! screening of one of the most controversial horror films ever made, Cannibal Holocaust.  I'm not going into details on this one, because whether you've seen it or not, most horror fans know about this one.  The film starts at 11:30 pm and you'll find more information by clicking on the link and scrolling one film down past Eating Raoul.

Saturday, November 15



Rocket Donuts presents the Rocket Sci-Fi Matinee screening of She Devil today at the Pickford Film Center.  A dying woman is treated with an injection that makes her nearly immortal, and incredibly evil!  The show starts at noon and you'll find more information at the link.

Sunday, November 16



Local horror filmmaker Joe Sherlock is bringing the World Theatrical Premiere of his latest film, Blood Creek Woodsman, to The Clinton Street Theater for one night only, at 4 pm.  Cast and crew will be present for a Q and A after the screening.  Okay, Portland horror fans, a WORLD PREMIERE and CAST AND CREW Q AND A?  What more can you ask for?!?!  Get your butts to The Clinton Street Theater!!   Admission is only $5 cash at the door, but bring a little extra to spend at the concession stand and to pick up some other Joe Sherlock DVDs.  Click here to read my interview with Joe Sherlock about the film, or visit The Clinton Street Theater website for more information.

November 13, 2015



Okay, it's a year away, but I have to announce the coming of Portland's first horror and paranormal convention!  Announced today by Living Dead Girl Magazine publisher Deanna Uutela, the Oregon Convention Center will be the site for the Living Dead's Horror Meets Paranormal Convention.  No other information is available at this time, but keep checking back at The Shadow Over Portland for updates as I get them!

And, let's be honest, how cool is the timing for this event, as it starts on FRIDAY THE 13TH?!?!  SIGN ME UP!!!!

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As always, I'm asking for the help of Northwest horror fans.  If you know of a horror event, or want yours listed, on The Shadow Over Portland Horror Calendar, please send me an email at shadowoverportland@live.com.  Any listing is FREE OF CHARGE!  All I ask is you keep me apprised of any updates or changes.


And, should you attend any of these events, tell the organizers you read about it at The Shadow Over Portland!  Let the promoters know this site exists, so I can get the information out in a more timely manner.