Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cross Bearer (Adam Ahlbrandt, 2012)

Most of what you have heard about Cross Bearer is probably false. If you go into it expecting a wall-to-wall smorgasbord of splatter and grue, you will be disappointed. If you go in expecting a campy gore flick, you will not be pleased. If you go into Cross Bearer expecting a smartly written and well acted horror flick that paints the world in a dark, sleazy, grimy, and violent tone, then you will be pleasantly surprised.

The plot is a simple one, but that does not mean the film is. Heather (played by Natalie Jean), a dancer at a strip club, and a group of her friends and co-workers are sent off to the empty warehouse where a cocaine dealer lives in order to make a deal for their sleazy, smarmy boss. Unbeknownst to anyone involved, a religious fanatic armed with a claw hammer has started bringing violent holy retribution to all in the building. Once our heroines and lone hero get there, all hell breaks loose. (Lame pun intended.)

Cross Bearer gives us a world populated with "bad" people. Drug dealers and users, strippers, amateur porn filmmakers; proud sinners. These are people making their way in the world, but their moral tone is gauged by how they treat people, not how they choose their free time. In the dark grimness of the real world, sometimes getting by involves delving into the sleaze; adaptability is the game. In this world, our real world, sometimes the most sick, violent, and repellent are the most "holy." Those who claim to be the moral arbiters are the most twisted.

This is Cross Bearer's main strength: It's smart. Ahlbrandt clearly knew what he was doing with the script. It deals with some fairly heavy themes in the context of a slasher flick without being heavy-handed, and he was wise in casting, as he found many capable actors who embodied their roles.. Natalie Jean is a strong lead and heroine, one the audience instantly roots for and sides with. The supporting cast is all great, too, which is honestly a rarity in the indie world. My favorite scene in the film is actually completely dialogue-driven and turns into a funny, poignant, and almost meta appraisal of filmmaking in general. A pleasant surprise to me right in the middle of the movie.

Which leads me back to one of my initial points, Cross Bearer just isn't a gore film. It is violent, yes, and there is definitely some quite graphic gore in some of the death scenes, but that is not the movies focus nor it's main draw. This is just a flat-out good horror movie, one of the more original and interesting slashers in a long time. Sadly, in the underground, only the most extreme and splattery get noticed. This is in no way meant to demean those films, many of the most extreme are also some of the most worthwhile and best going these days, but that doesn't mean they're the only good ones. 

There is still a place for more restrained filmmaking, especially when it's bolstered by such strong writing and acting like Cross Bearer is. I can see others being disappointed, which seems to be a hallmark in the age of internet hype, especially if they were expecting something else. Go into Cross Bearer expecting an original twist on the slasher drama with a dynamite script, fantastic performances, and a great visual and editing style. You WILL be entertained.

This film was my first exposure to Adam Ahlbrandt's work and you will be sure I will be checking out more in the future. Natalie Jean has also earned herself a fan for life, as she's a talented, engaging, and quite beautiful leading lady. Expect great things from both in the future.

         If you're a fan of slasher movies or solid, gruesome horror flicks, in general, I definitely recommend you give Cross Bearer a shot. There are multiple ways to do this. Toetag have just released a DVD edition limited to 1,666 copies signed by Adam Ahlbrandt and Natalie Jean, and this was the edition I reviewed. Massacre Video have a limited VHS release out soon, and there is also a German Blu-Ray available at Diabolik. The initial run of this flick sold out and was fetching high prices so the fact there are some affordable, available editions is something to be happy about. There is also a super deluxe limited edition coming soon from Toetag that fans should be aware of, and Cross Bearer merch is available from The Sleaze Palace

 If this even sounds remotely up your alley, check it out!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dead Nude Girls (Ryan Nicholson, 2014)

        Modern Roughie. That was the term Mr. Parka used in his video review of Ryan Nicholson's new sleaze flick Dead Nude Girls that initially piqued my interest in it. Roughie. That is a term notorious in the annals of exploitation film fandom, a realm that few fans venture into. Since the 1960's the least reputable subset of exploitation has always had it's fans and been popular, from the Olga films, to the films of the Findlays, Cresse, Campa and onward.

In the 1970's through the early-1980's the roughie ended up being a subgenre of the porn world as well as the trash film world, and this era gave us some of the most notorious examples. Films like Forced Entry and The Taming of Rebecca pushed the envelope and about every button imaginable, and they sure as hell weren't the only ones.

In the late 80's through today, the Japanese have carried the roughie torch. The Guinea Pig series, Merzbow's Seppuku series, and notorious smutty splatterfests like Mu Zan E and Niku Daruma are definitely heirs to the roughie throne in numerous ways.

Now, what does this admittedly rudimentary incomplete history of roughie films have to do with Ryan Nicholson's new flick? Yeah, there's a history and some examples, but what IS a roughie, anyway?

A roughie is a type of exploitation flick that was born in the pre-porn days of the 1960's. Graphic sex, even graphic implied sex, was a big no-no in this time period while nudity was still permissible on the grindhouse and drive-in circuit. Nudity was the selling point back then, but there had to be a narrative to package it in. Some went the nudist camp route, ho-hum. Some went the nudie cutie route and punctuated their nude sequences with comedy, but after a bit few ended up being funny. The bravest and/or sickest of the exploiteers went the roughie route; they capped their softcore scenes with violence. Sometimes graphic violence, and sometimes graphic sexual violence. This was the classic, archetypal 1960's template of a roughie but it morphed over time, taking on a flavor reflective of their era but at their core they were all films where sexuality was as woven into every frame as violence was.

Ryan Nicholson's Dead Nude Girls is in every way a continuation of this tradition, with more than a passing resemblance to it's 1960's counterparts. DNG is essentially three short films featuring a rapist/murderer played by director Ryan Nicholson. In each of the sequences women are kidnapped or duped into returning to the killer's home where they are sexually humiliated and then murdered. Sound simple? It is. Simple does not mean bad, not at all.

The simple, trashy premise is imminently watchable due to the quality cinematography for what was obviously a quickly-made affair, as well as competent acting from all involved. All of the women seem like actual, real people giving believable and at times harrowing performances, particularly in the last sequence. Nicholson is eerily restrained in his role as the killer, staying more calm and deliberate than frenzied. The effects aren't wall-to-wall, but when they do show up they are quite effective.

While watching the flick I found myself surprised at how often I was laughing. This was not due to any incompetence, cheesiness, or "so-bad-it's-good" type bullshit, this was due to the streak of jet-black, deadpan morbid humor that runs throughout the movie. The sequence where a potential caretaker is being interviewed is truly funny due to some great performances and a suitably awkward and bizarre situation. This is where Nicholson truly shines and I'd love to see him tackle a movie that is comedic yet played totally straight, as I think he would nail it.

At various times, DNG has moments that remind me of almost all of the classic roughies I named above, as well as a grimy tone similar to films like Henry, and I also noticed a definite nod to Fulci's Touch of Death which I appreciated highly. Needless to say, fans of exploitation and horror from throughout the years will find much to smile about in their viewing of this short and mean lil flick.

I truly had a lot of fun with this one, and recommend it highly to fans of all eras of sleazy horror. It is evident Nicholson is a fan of this stuff, and it comes through naturally in all of his work. This, in my opinion, results in his films being more honest tributes to the horror and exploitation films of the past than any number of studio-backed, "homages," we are force-fed endlessly.  If this movie sounds REMOTELY up your alley, check it out at your nearest possible convenience.

I have copy 95/100 signed by Director Ryan Nicholson, so if you want one of the signed ones I'd get over to Plotdigger Films and order a copy A.S.A.P.! Also be sure to pre-order your copy of More Dead Nude Girls, the upcoming collection of more exploits of our sleazy killer!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sella Turcica (2010, Fred Vogel. Toetag, Inc)

Simply put, Sella Turcica surprised the hell out of me. I have been a long-time fan of director Fred Vogel since I first saw the infamous August Underground films which thrust him to the top of the heap when it came to infamy in the independent horror underground. Brutal, unflinching, and sometimes all-too-real, the August Underground were pseudo-snuff flicks that rivaled (and at times, surpassed) the notorious Guinea Pig series out of Japan in terms of sheer brutality. "Found-footage" horror films have become the norm in the mainstream, but Vogel was one of the first really using the format to push his violent cinema forward, following in the footsteps of underground classics like Cannibal Holocaust and Man Bites Dog.

Needless to say I was quite excited to finally check out Vogel in a more scripted, traditional atmosphere. I love the chaotic, improvised-yet-effects-heavy style of his early work, so I was definitely curious to see how he fared in a more straight-forward narrative. Let me say up front that the ToeTag team do NOT disappoint. Sella Turcica is a hybrid character study, family drama, and slow-burn horror film that paces itself deliberately. Do not expect the non-stop barrage of shocks that you would receive from August Underground, oh no;  Sella Turcica takes it's time to worm it's way under your skin and into your brain before it kicks you in the stomach and spits in your face. Vogel is obviously a director that enjoys showmanship and messing with his audience, and it is definitely part of why we love him. Here his mischievous nature is still at work, albeit in a much different style. In plain terms, he knows what the fuck he's doing.

Since the film takes a very relatable, tragically all-too-common situation and lets it unfold in a way you wouldn't expect, I'm not going to go into too many plot details. I'll let you know the basics, but Sella Turcica is a film that is best approached while knowing very little. Sit down, get comfortable, and just let it play out in front of you. It will surprise you. Trust me.

The film gives us the story of the Roback family in a rather difficult time. Karmen (Camille Keaton of I Spit on Your Grave), together with her offbeat and close-knit family, is trying to prepare things for the return of her son, Bradley; a Sargent in the Army who was in the Middle East. He's home for medical issues but details are hazy. The family, son Bruce (Sean P. McCarthy), and daughter Ashley (Jade Risser, all grown up from Murder-Set-Pieces) eagerly await, along with their significant others, the homecoming of their beloved brother. Brad's return and enigmatic health problems quickly start to disrupt the family and tensions start to slowly mount. That's all I will say, but just remember it IS a Fred Vogel movie, so you know wherever it is going is bloody.

No one can discuss this movie without discussing Damien Maruscak's brilliant turn as Brad. I had never seen this actor before (at least I don't think so), and I was blown away. He is able to switch between moods effortlessly; portraying true pain and eliciting intense sympathy one second, and can intimidate and frighten the next. There is no doubt that this is an exceptionally talented actor, and that's without mentioning the fact he had to do most of his performing through some level of makeup. Across the board, Vogel's approach to the characters and direction, overall, was one of sympathy, sensitivity, and honesty. He presents this family in a nonjudgmental light throughout everything, and allows the performances to speak truthfully to the audience what the characters are feeling. While there are some obvious flaws in the performances, what Vogel's cast are able to achieve on such a low budget is simply astounding.

The cast have a pretty damn good script to deal with, too. Written by Fred Vogel, Shelby Vogel, and Don Moore, the screenplay does not rush anything, and this is to it's advantage. While I can see some decrying the slow build up as, "boring," but these are also the same idiots who think Taxi Driver is boring. Sometimes non-stop splatter works, sometimes a more deliberate approach can create a very fantastic result, and this is one of those times. This film is all the more effective because of how much time we spend getting to know, like, and care about every single one of the characters. 

On a technical level, this is one of the better looking indies I've seen in a bit. Shot on either HD or high-end DV (I will be honest, I was watching on an old TV), the look is perfect for the small-town Americana warmth and feel generated by the home, lending a claustrophobic creepiness as the movie progresses. Vogel's direction and Gabe Spangler's cinematography unite to give the film a look that just fits the script perfectly. It's home, it's warm, it's loving, and that brings the horror home to an emotional level when it arrives. It should also go with out saying, especially to anyone who has seen ANY of Toetag's out put, but just in case; Jerami Cruise's makeup and special effects work is outstanding, and some of the best practical effects work in the business. Period.

Overall, I found Sella Turcica to be a well-crafted slice of independent horror that is honest and heartfelt. I was already a Vogel-fan due to the AU films, but this proves definitively that he is a force to be reckoned with when writing and directing in a traditional narrative structure, and I expect him to be getting some hardcore accolades from the critics whenever he makes more entries in this vein. It seems that from time to time his narrative films get overlooked in favor of his more balls-out gore films; I'm a prime example, this movie came out in 2010 and I just now saw it. His balls-out gorefests are without a doubt some of the best balls-out gorefests ever made, but horror fans need to pause and check out this meticulously crafted horror flick and be shocked in a very different way. Highly recommended.

- Ehren W.

If you would like to Purchase Sella Turcica or any other Toetag goodies, you need to head your ass on over to Toetag, Inc.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Snuff Perversions: Bizarre Cases of Death (1999)

Well, no picture to accompany my review this time. Why, you might ask? Well, because when I purchased the movie in question on eBay, I thought I was buying a legit DVD… I thought wrong. What I received was a bootleg DVD-R with shitty blurry artwork; not what I was expecting. Needless to say, that while eBay is the land of some kickass deals that sometimes if it seems too good to be true, it's because it is.

Anyway, the movie we're discussing is the late 90's slide of direct-to-video sleaze called Snuff Perversions: Bizarre Cases of Death. This was a Video Outlaw release consisting of a dozen faux-snuff films made by the likes of Marcus Koch, William Hellfire, and the wonderful perverts at W.A.V.E. The movie presents itself like a classic "death" tape of the period; meaning there is a very fake wraparound consisting of very fake "experts" attempting to make this seem redeemable or educational. In the case of this flick we have a cheesy cop who is a self-proclaimed expert on snuff films. He also looks curiously like disgraced former congressman and failed mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, but that is neither here nor there. Accompanying our poorly acted cop friend is an attractive female psychiatrist who offers insight into each clip and constantly rebuffs the advances of our man in uniform. Needless to say that these are some of the best segments in the movie.

The "snuff" segments obviously make up the bulk of the flick, themselves are obviously why anyone would get it in the first place. Frankly, they're all over the place. They run the gamut from atmospheric, creepy, realistic, and unsettling to flat-out laughably lame. Also, gorehounds and splatter junkies, take note; the emphasis in this is not on blood. This being a DTV independent title from the late 90's the focus is on a much more fetishistic bent. Bondage, verbal humiliation, and lots of strangulation. Strangulation, strangulation, strangulation. Why? Two reasons. First of all, there is a fetish for choking and that kind of shit, as multiple W.A.V.E and Factory 2000 products of the era show us. Second of all, strangulations are way cheaper to pull off than anything with special effects. You can make it look real with some practice and a few rehearsals, plus it's easy to do in one take to keep up the fake snuff appearances. So…yeah. Almost every scene is a strangulation with the exception of William Hellfire's segments where blades come into play. His are also among the best in the movie.

In terms of non-strangulation, aside from Hellfire's knife-play (one segment featuring an early Misty Mundae appearance), include a drowning in a pool, a very cheesy and fake autopsy of a supposed kidnapped kid (a mannequin), a quite funny sequence where some dumbass teenagers play Russian Roulette with a gun that isn't a revolver,  and a "Political Snuff" video in which a topless Tina Krause is electrocuted. The most effective sequence in the compilation, one directed by Marcus Koch, isn't really even a "snuff" scene per se, but a video suicide note. A young couple who have decided on suicide for a quite tragic reason say goodbye to the camera before hanging themselves. It is an eerily realistic scene made stronger by the fact that both of the performers involved are very, very good. 

Which leads me to the major downside of Snuff Perversions: the acting. The performers in most sequences are flat out not believable enough to make it appear convincing. The exceptions being the suicidal couple, as well as an art student serial killer who we see have necrophilic sex with a corpse in the tub while singing "Amazing Grace." While creepy the scene quickly turns hilarious as the actor slips on the floor and eats it rather hard getting out of the tub. A scene in which two teenagers strangle their friend merely for the thrill of it is another one strengthened by acting, being honestly chilling at times. The tension is broken at one point when the victim laughs while being strangled, however.  The sequence featuring the rape and murder of a young woman is quite harrowing in that her performance is very, very convincing, even though the scene is not graphic in the least.

Overall, this is an interesting snapshot of that very un-PC, sick, twisted, depraved, low-budget, and hilariously entertaining world of direct-to-video that was the late 90's. I saw this movie advertised all of the time in different magazines, especially Alternative Cinema, and right off the bat there were rumors about it. Nowadays, it's damn hard to find, and if you can find it it's pretty pricy. So is it worth it? Yeah, I think so.

This is trashy, sleazy, offensive, and well… weird. They don't make them like this anymore. While hovering somewhere between a parody of a 90's death tape and a series of 60's roughies which have been bred with 70's faux-snuff loops, this one manages to hit some sort of sick sweet spot. I can't deny it's entertaining. Maybe it's because i knew it was young filmmakers having a blast. Maybe it's because it's just so flat out sleazy. Maybe it's because I'm sick. Who knows? I just thought it was worth checking out.

Now I'm on the hunt for a legit, real deal VHS of this piece o' sleaze!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shreck (1990, Don Adams & Harry James Picardy) No Ogres, Here!

1990's Shreck is a movie that should not work at all. It's amateurish to the highest degree, it deals with subject matter that even handled delicately can rock boats, and... the list goes on. The fact of the matter is that the movie DOES work; it's exceedingly entertaining. The sheer love of moviemaking is evident throughout the flick, and the moments of intentional humor lead me to believe they knew they weren't making a classic here.

Shreck concerns a group of three teenagers, Roger, Mike, and Neal; three horror fans in a club called The Dogs of Gore. Roger lives in a house that once belonged to Nazi War Criminal, and prolific serial killer, Max Shreck. Through Roger's hilarious homemade documentary on the subject, we find out that this was an alias chosen from the name of the lead actor in the film Nosferatu. In 1958, Shreck had one last rampage until he was finally struck down, and guess what? It's the anniversary of his death, and Roger's mom is out of town. What are three horror fanatic teenagers to do? Why, have a seance in an attempt to resurrect Shreck in order to strike down their enemies, of course. Well, to everyone's surprise it works leading to a very alive, and very rampaging Max Shreck. Sound simple enough? Well it is and it isn't.

First off, there is no denying it; the movie is flat-out entertaining. It is in spite of itself, because it has a lot of strikes against it. I don't count the fact that it's shot on video or made by amateurs a strike against it, but even in the realm of SOV this movie looks like shit. This is mainly due to the video effects they use throughout to give the illusion of night in the outdoor scenes, a blue tint. Depending on the shots and the context this is alternately surreal and creepy or annoying.

This leads me to an interesting point, like numerous other SOV features the flaws and shortcomings become strengths in an odd way. The super lo-fi video picture, and primitive (to say the least) video effects to more often than not create a creepy, surreal atmosphere. I mentioned above them becoming annoying, and they can, simply because sometimes you can't tell what the hell is going on. The good outweighs the bad in this regard, however. The amateur quality of the acting and the whole production also help because it creates a kind of naive charm. This was obviously a group of 20-somethings (tops) who loved horror movies getting together and making this for the fun of it. It's quite obvious in every frame, and when they don't know what they're doing you smile and cheer their enthusiasm. The fact is, they're dealing with Nazi stuff here. Sensitive stuff by anybody's measure, and the subject matter isn't exactly handled maturely. Nazis are never glorified in any way shape or form, but tasteful this is not. We have christmas-light swastikas, swastika necklaces used as ninja stars, swastika pizzas, swastika fan-blades used in decapitations, etc etc. Obviously, this is all insane and beyond ridiculous, and if you're not looking for insane and ridiculous why are you checking out SOV horror flicks?

The movie is genuinely funny at times, and honestly engaging and entertaining for most of it's running time. It's never boring, and that's saying a lot. The gore is not as plentiful as it should have been given it's absurd premise, but it's there. The plot gets downright weird involving a timewarp back to his rampage in 1958, ghosts that are people wearing sheets (seriously), and other bizarre what-the-fuckness. Through it all, Shreck is an entertaining example of the American SOV flick. Offensive, ridiculous, ingenious, entertaining, weird, and pretty inept. I had a blast with it.

My clamshell release was put out by Video Outlaw, and my copy came from Ron Bonk and Sub Rosa. Contact him to see if he has anymore left!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Video Store Generation Manifesto

By Ehren W.

I'm calling this a manifesto for one simple reason; it sounds really cool. The fact of the matter is that this isn't a movement or anything, this is merely a passion. It's a spark that exists in a lot of people, but I thought sadly burned out around the time of my generation. Luckily,  I was straight up wrong on that one.

This is the first videostore I worked at. It's called Hollywood At Home Movies & Magazines. Not only was this first videostore that I worked at, it was also one of the first videostores in the entire area, if not the first. This videostore was also the first place that I rented and saw films such as Cannibal Holocaust, Deep Red, Blood Feast, Nekromantik, and local gore epics like Zombie Bloodbath. Needless to say, this place was responsible for a lot of firsts for a lot of people. (It was probably the place where a lot of people rented their first porno, or bought their first dirty magazine.)

That's the place. There was a Blockbuster right up the street from us. We outlasted it. That blue and yellow monstrosity shuttered when I still worked at Hollywood At Home. My store wasn't the only one in the area; there was another store called Video Library. That place had a waaaay bigger collection than us. Insanely big. But, we had stuff they didn't have and vice versa. So do you know what we two locally-owned indie stores would do? We'd recommend each other to customers. Help them track down the movie, because that was what was really important. Video Library closed when I worked at Hollywood At Home, too. They liquidated their stock, 10 VHS for $20 bucks. I don't remember how much their DVD's or Videogames were, because I didn't care. All I cared about was raiding their INSANE Horror section. They had so much great stuff, I used to love going in there and perusing the hundreds and hundreds (literally) of horror flicks. I'm glad many of those tapes are still in my collection, I've sold quite a few, but they went to good homes.

I love horror movies. They're what I collect, they're what I write about. Well, let me rephrase. Cult movies, trash movies, exploitation movies, bizarre movies, underground movies, horror movies, splatter movies, experimental movies, gothic movies, monster movies, etc. Usually, unless a videostore has a cult section (we did), all those flicks end up in the Horror section, so when I use the term "Horror" I'm using it as a rather all-encompassing term for many, many subgenres.

Almost every person I worked with at a videostore (I've worked at three, including Kim's Video in New York City) were the same way; we liked movies of all genres, from classic dramas, to arthouse and foreign favorites, but we always liked horror flicks. So did all of the regulars. Most casual renters hated horror flicks, most casual moviegoers still hate horror flicks, but videostore clerks and regulars all dug em. That's how it was and is. Maybe I'm just justifying my love, and trying to justify having a blog called Video Store Generation and only talking these kinds of flicks. Eh, whatever. Let's not overthink this.

You're probably wondering, what he hell does this have to do with a passion, and a spark, and this piece being called The Video Store Generation Manifesto? Well, everything and nothing I guess. I'm just sharing my story of fandom, and I am nowhere near unique in that regard. There has been a lot of talk about grindhouse films, and drive-in movies, and I don't mean Tarantino and Rodriguez. I mean the classic trash masterpieces of 42nd streets and the drive-ins of America. I love all those movies, and tons of us do. However, I was born in 1984 in Kansas City. We didn't have grindhouses, and by the time I was old enough to be able to go see cool movies, the cool movies were pretty much out of theaters and drive-ins anyway.

There's a lot of people older and younger than me whose grindhouse was the videostore, and the drive-in was our VCR. Independent cult, horror, exploitation, and trash filmmaking continued after the grindhouses and drive-ins closed in the form of direct to video releases. This, in my opinion, is a sadly neglected fact. 

Back when I was a teenager renting these movies at local videostores, I loved all the classics, but I also loved all of the shot-on-video and direct to video titles, too. It made me feel like I could do it, too. It was people like me, people who just loved horror and cult films not waiting for Hollywood and just going out and doing it themselves. You know what? I think these guys have ALWAYS done horror and exploitation filmmaking better than Hollywood, and they always will. Almost every summer blockbuster Hollywood movie these days once would have been the domain of Roger Corman, William Castle, or Lloyd Kaufman. Now they throw ridiculous budgets at it, take away the edge, and call it HIgh Concept. It's pathetic.

These shot on video and direct to video movies (and horror, cult, and exploitation films through history) are like the most classic punk rock and metal records. Yeah, they can have shitty production values. Yeah, the technical abilities may not be perfect, but you know what? It has more creativity, energy, passion, exuberance, originality, guts, and way more to say than anything the majors put out. It's that way in music for a lot of people, and it's that way for movies for a lot of people. Thankfully, cinema people seem to finally be giving some credit to these low budget auteurs, but in my opinion not enough. 

Companies like Troma, Tempe, Sub Rosa, Video Outlaw, W.A.V.E., Seduction Cinema, Shock-O-Rama, Burning Moon Home Video, Dead Alive Productions, Full Moon Entertainment; not to speak of the tons of classic distribution companies that are too numerous to name, but the collectors all know. Big boxes and clamshells. The good old days.

You had filmmakers like Fred Olen Ray, Jim Wynorski, Tim Ritter, Ron Bonk, The Polonia Brothers, Lloyd Kaufman, Brad Sykes, David DeCoteau, Leif Jonker, William Hellfire, Richard Gabai (I'm forgetting so many), and a special mention to the Prince of Gore, Todd Sheets. A now (deservedly) legendary Kansas City movie maker who gave me my first job on a set when I was 15. Like I said, this stuff made us feel like we could go out and do it, and tons of fans across the country and world did. I only named North American filmmakers above, but this phenomenon was worldwide, and I will mention these foreign contributions in another piece. There are numerous

This independent spirit is important, and it drives many of us. With advances in technology and internet funding and distribution, the "grindhouse" and "drive-in" spirit of filmmaking is still very much alive when it comes to fans making their films, and getting them seen. Streaming, OnDemand, PayPal, easy online store fronts, and I am so damn happy; VHS IS BACK,!

My goal is to have Videostore from here on out be mentioned in the same breath when describing this adventurous independent spirit of movie making (and movie watching) when one would mention the Grindhouse or the Drive-In. That is what I feel the Video Store Generation is all about. It's my blog, but it's not my spark. It belongs to a hell of a lot more people than me.

From here on out, the types of movies I've been mentioning are what I will be talking about, plus more rants like this. I've neglected this blog for a while and I'm pretty damn disappointed in myself that I did. I've felt a kick in the ass and I'm going to be doing more. I won't be doing reviews, however, I'll be doing write ups. I'm a Trash Advocate, not a critic. Back when I worked at videostores, it was my job to recommend things; if something sucked I didn't mention it to anyone. That's the way it will be here. I will talk about movies from the indie video days that I've seen and that I felt capture this spirit well. If I don't mention a movie, it's because I haven't seen it or I thought it wasn't very good. Always feel free to recommend things, I'm always down to see something new and crazy.

Many other people are doing a great job keeping the spirit alive by making movies, or distributing movies, or putting out fanzines, or just buying movies, or trading vintage VHS tapes, or even collecting the new limited run VHS special editions that are coming out from companies like Massacre Video, Vultra Video, Sub Rosa Sinema, Psycho Video, and many more. This blog is merely my contribution to this, and my sincere hope is that more and more people will embrace their passion for this kind of stuff. If I can help bring anyone to this, or help them discover a new favorite movie, I'm happy.


Hollywood at Home is closed now. I'm sad as hell to say it, but it's last day was December 31st, 2013. We started this new year with one less independent videostore, and that's just damn sad. I'm heartbroken it is gone, but I won't let that spirit die. In VHS collectors, and horror groups I see this spirit in new generations. It's not over.

Whether they exist in brick and mortar or not, The Drive-In, The Grindhouse, and The Videostore all still live. It lives in every fan who never lets it die within them.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Crypticon returns to KC in 2012, who am I going to see there?

    Last year Crypticon first showed up in Kansas City and it was a hell of a lot of fun. For a new convention in town it boasted a rather impressive guest list (Bill Moseley, Kane Hodder, Geretta Geretta, Barbara Magnolfi, Allan Kayser, Beverly Randolph, and my fanboy ass finally got to meet Linnea Quigley.), and the vendors had plenty of cool stuff for sale. These may have been the only two aspects of the convention that I took part in last year, but they definitely weren't the only ones. There were screenings, contests, music, and plenty of other going-ons in the convention hall.

    It looks like this year is no different, the guest list is once again quite impressive, boasting cult stars like Doug Bradley, Danielle Harris, Michael Berryman, Tom Savini, Dee Wallace, a Night of the Creeps Reunion (feat. Jason Lively, Jill Whitlow, Allen Kayser, and TOM FUCKING ATKINS!!) and many more. There is also going to be some all night movie showings, screenings with Q&A's with the stars, indie films, contests, music, and much more. 

    Personally, I'm going to try and be there all three days as I'm really looking forward to those all night screenings, and since this year it appears to be up North, I don't want to be driving back and forth. I urge all my fellow Kansas City cult film buffs, and fans all across the Midwest to head over to for details about the convention, and hopefully I will see you all there!