Shamrock Shakes

Happy Halloween, folks. If you’re in a different time zone or on a different continent maybe you’re already handing out candy. Maybe you’re in a costume yourself hitting the hard cider a little too hard for a weeknight. Either way, here’s to you and that poor man’s Savini makeup effect you’re touting.

I don’t have much today. Just wanted to say have a great All Hallow’s Eve. It’s kind of hard to when the 31st falls in the week. My favorite Halloweens were always the Friday and Saturday variety. There was nothing quite like hitting the streets like a prepubescent Frankenstein or C3-PO and snagging a paper grocery bag full of candy in a little over an hour. Then heading back home to count the loot. After giving all the candy I hated to my dad I’d enjoy a few confections and then figure out what was going to be playing that night. Hopefully something good like Motel Hell, Humanoids From The Deep, Blood Beach, or Howard Hawks’ The Thing. Occasionally I’d get lucky and Halloween would be on, but those ghoulish stars rarely aligned.

Speaking of Halloween, one of my least favorite in the Michael Myers canon was, not surprisingly, the one Michael Myers wasn’t even in. Halloween III : Season of  the Witch was the outlier in the collection as it had nothing to do with Michael Myers. It was instead about a mad scientist that created masks that would turn kids into maggot-infested corpses if they were wearing them just as a crazy commercial would play on TV as they sat and watched. The story was ludicrous and the acting was pretty bad. The mad scientist looked like Herbert Lom in full-on crazy Inspector Dreyfuss mode, while the protagonist was played by Tom Atkins in total “what the hell am I doing?” mode. Like he did in The Fog, he plays a 40-something year old man hooking up with a girl that is old enough to be his granddaughter, so the story relies on the heroism of a dirty, middle-aged man and his various stays in sleazy hotels.

I watched this not that long ago after not seeing it for over 30 years. I have to admit it holds a certain wacky charm that didn’t connect with me as a teenager looking for horny teens to die at the hands of a mentally challenged serial killer the size of a defensive lineman. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is just this quirky goofball of a movie that borders on something John Waters might’ve made. I can appreciate it for that. And really, who doesn’t love this goddamn Silver Shamrock commercial? The movie’s worth watching just for this. Happy Halloween.

Dark Tones : A Soundtrack For Halloween

We’re a mere day from Halloween. It’s time to have your costume figured out, the Fun Size candies bought for the trick-or-treaters, all the proper movies picked out to finish out the month with, and most importantly you need to be spinning all the appropriate Gothic-related albums to keep the eerie vibes humming along.

In honor of my favorite time of the year I thought I’d make a list of some of my favorite Gothic and generally dark mood records. Really, these records are spun by me year-round, but October benefits greatly from their maleficent vibes. Turn down the lights, light up some candles, and drop the needle(or hit play on the iPhone) and get a little weird with me.


Pentagram Home Video : The Satanic Path & Who’s Out There

I think one of my favorite musical finds in the last year or so has been the UK’s Pentagram Home Video. The band consists of one guy that makes hypnotic, dark songs that lie heavily in lo-fi electronic vibes. Synths that wail eerily over top simple dance beats. Most of his records are put together as “soundtrack & cues sourced from a parallel reality“. He’s a master of the imagined soundtrack. I picked up Who’s Out There last year, and earlier this year The Satanic Path was released. Both are very low key listens, but after they play in the background a bit you sort of feel yourself falling into those parallel realities. Who’s Out There soundtracks the tale of “a soldier sent back from a future war to 1986 to prevent an alien bounty hunter from tracking and destroying his target. A relentless pursuer emanating a powerful telekinetic wave of hallucinogen that frighteningly alters reality for anyone within its range. The story unfolds over the course of one night, across the streets & through the underground bars & clubs of New York.” It’s a very hypnotic record, full of old school synth tones of subtle beats. It’s a perfect listen for those cold, fall nights when you want to chill out or summon a demon.

The Satanic Path is a much more extroverted listen. It’s more bombastic, as a soundtrack that deals with the occult and the Prince of Darkness himself should be. There’s still the subtle beats and classic synth sounds, but the songs are more in your face. The story, if your interested, was interpreted by yours truly. Check it out right here, if you dare.

Both albums are exquisite and ooze dark moods and vibes. They’re the perfect spin for a dark and stormy night.

The Cure : Seventeen Seconds 

Sure, at a glance Pornography seems to be the ultimate Halloween spin. It’s dark, gloomy, the proto-Goth album, and even the opening line is “It doesn’t matter if we all die”. But for my money, Seventeen Seconds holds more darkness. It’s subtler, quieter, and it feels like more of an album that would be playing in your head as you walk a path lined with falling leaves and dark, overcast skies. Robert Smith hadn’t fully committed to all black attire and zombie makeup just yet. He was in manic-depressive ghoul transition, so Seventeen Seconds comes across more grounded in everyday horror. That existential dread was permeating songs like “A Forest”, “In Your House”, and “A Reflection”. “Play For Today” comes off like The B-52s going full Bauhaus. It also hints at what The Soft Moon would be up to in a couple decades.

Seventeen Seconds is really the ultimate doomed soul sadsack album.

The Night Terrors : Pavor Nocturnus

Miles Brown has taken the art of theremin playing to a new level. When he performs live or on records by his band The Night Terrors he truly emotes with the strange box with an antenna sticking out. He captures both the eerie vibes and melancholy sadness that comes from playing the instrument correctly. Three years ago he and The Night Terrors recorded a live album at the Melbourne Music Hall with one of the world’s largest pipe organs. That album is the Gothic and beautiful Pavor Nocturnus, an album that oozes with otherworldly vibes and doomed romanticism.

All you need to do is drop the needle or hit play on this record Halloween night to create the ultimate dark mood. It’s like Phantom of the Opera just ran headlong into Forbidden Planet. “Pavor Nocturnus” will make your blood go cold, while “Megafauna” sounds like Suspiria, had it taken place in a European discotheque. “Kuceli Woke Up In  Graveyard” makes good use of that giant pipe organ, as this song permeates with the melancholy of the undead.

Seriously, if you’re a fan of the creepy and a lover of Halloween then this record is a must.

Slayer : Reign In Blood

So if you were an adolescent in the 80s then “Satanic Panic” should’ve made some kind of impression on you. Not just the kids that went to church 3 times a week and twice on Sunday, but the kids that weren’t raised ultra-religious eggheads. It was also kids raised in a household that taught them good from bad, that being polite and having manners were attributes, and that true crime was far scarier than anything you’d watch on Creature Feature late on Friday night. It wasn’t the ghouls that hid under the basement stairs you should truly be afraid of, but those gangly punks with the studded dog collars, stringy mullets, and t-shirts that donned pentagrams, Iron Maiden’s “Eddie”, and nearly every cassette they owned had an “Explicit Lyrics -Parental Advisory” sticker. Kids that decided killing a suburban family would be cool because Rob Halford, Dave Mustaine, or Tom Araya told them to in a hidden message on a song. Those were the true monsters.

As it turns out, no heavy metal song ever made a half wit teen murder anyone. It was usually because said teen was already seriously damaged(usually by seriously damaged parents), but lousy adults needed a scapegoat for their lack of parental skills or empathy in general so Slayer seemed like as good as one as any. And let’s be honest, as far as bands go that really tried to walk the walk in the early days of thrash and speed metal, Slayer wore those shoes well. It took me many years to get into Slayer because of their reputation as Satan-worshipping psychopaths. Turns out they were just California punks that liked to incite people and drink themselvies into oblivion. They were happy to keep the whole Satan ruse going. Though, I do think there was a general interest in the dark side, at least as far as Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman were concerned, and Reign In Blood was their first true masterpiece.

It doesn’t matter where you hit play on this album, each song will take you on a journey into darkness and bloodshed. This is the ultimate boogeyman album. “Angel of Death”, “Necrophobic”, “Jesus Saves”, “Aggressive Perfector”, and “Raining Blood” all work their dark magic on you. This is the ultimate “Satanic Panic” album. Just don’t play it backwards, or Tom Araya will beckon you to watch The Golden Girls and double check your algebra homework.

Fabio Frizzi : City Of The Living Dead S/T

I think this is one of the great Italian horror film scores. Frizzi’s City Of The Living Dead S/T has all the eerie vibes, slow-churning dread, and melancholy feel you need to get in the mood for the witching hour. He’s done amazing work for decades(and continues to perform), but for me this album is a shining example of just how much was put into these old horror film scores. I think in many ways, these scores far outlive the films they were created for. This record is proof of that.

Turn the lights down low, have the candy at the door, and crank this on the home stereo. Those trick-or-treaters won’t know what hit ’em.

Walter Rizzati : House By The Cemetery S/T

Of all the great Italian horror film scores, Walter Rizzati’s House By The Cemetery is probably my favorite. It was the one that stuck in my head for over 20 years before I revisited it. It’s creepy, haunting, melancholy, and for me stands as an example of just how great the scores were and the passion put into these pieces of music. I think it also reminded me of the NES game Castlevania, with its baroque organ work. I think that helped to solidify it’s longevity in my sponge-y subconscious for so many years. Listening to it I could just as easily be fighting ghouls and vampire bats in a castle as I could be running from the undead in a Fulci film.

Rizzati went above and beyond with this score. It’s perfect and perfectly eerie.

Wojciech Golczewski : End of Transmission

Golczewski has been doing amazing film work in the last few years, but his own personal albums are where it’s at for me. Lots of intergalactic doom going on with albums like Reality Check and The Signal, but if you want true, old school space doom you can’t get any better than End of Transmission.

End of Transmission is an all analog affair that feels like Blade Runner on a budget. It’s like this little 30 minute album that takes you on a dark and mysterious journey into the graveyard of the milky way. Each “Transmission” is a heady exploration of analog synth and existential space doom. You can’t go wrong with this one blasting through your headphones on a cold, Halloween night.

The Soft Moon : Zeros

Luis Vasquez knows how to build Gothic doom. His work as the Soft Moon has always tip toed around both the dance floor and the dark corners we attempt to avoid. Imagine a cross between Bauhaus, NIN, and Depeche Mode, then mix in tribal elements and you’ve got a good idea of what’s happening. All of his records are great, but Zeros feels like the most October of them all.

From opening track “It Ends” on there’s a propulsive doom. Industrial at heart, but more singer/songwriter than anything Skinny Puppy or Ministry ever did, Zeros feels like a walk thru some dark and dilapidated house long since abandoned by the previous owners. “Machines” visits some old school Cure territory, while “Die Life” feels like Def Con 4 on the panic level.

You’d be remiss if you didn’t play this at least once on Halloween. Then hit up all of the Soft Moon’s discography and get lost in it the rest of the year.

John Carpenter : Halloween S/T

Of course this is on the list. Why wouldn’t it be?


So there’s a few to get your Spotify Halloween playlists started. There’s plenty of other great Halloween-appropriate albums out there for you, so if you don’t like my suggestions go find some for your own damn self.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

Countdown To Halloween : Indie Horror Films You Need To See

We’re knee deep in the month of October. Things are finally starting to cool down and the foliage is browning and withering like it’s supposed to. We’re also well into the season of horror. Here at the Hubner house there’s been lots of proper horror viewing going on. Some good, some not so good, but it’s always entertaining.

Are you wondering what are some good horror flicks to hit play on this Halloween season? Well let me throw a few your way if you don’t mind some suggestions.

The Void

Imagine a cross between The Thing, Hellraiser, The Beyond, and H.P. Lovecraft and you’re well on your way to falling for this low budget, practical effects smorgasbord of metaphysical horror. Plot is fairly simple: A group of people are trapped inside a rural hospital one gloomy evening when the whole place is surrounded by cloak-wearing weirdos with long daggers. They’re part of some cult that are of course trying to bring some ancient creature back from some other realm. It starts out as your typical jump scare fare with decent enough acting and mood and visuals for miles. Soon enough, though, things go from tense and brooding to just plain bizarre and transdimensional.

This is probably one of my favorite horror films in recent memory. Not because it’s perfect in every way and the effects are mind-blowing, or that the story is solid. It’s pretty much a hodge podge of ideas and cheaply put together practical effects. It’s that the filmmakers just fucking go for it. Who cares if the story makes complete sense, or that the effects are somewhat limited. The acting is done well and the effects look pretty damn good for a shoestring budget. This movie oozes mood and a general uneasiness. If you like your horror a little on the Lovecraftian side of things, look no further than The Void.

The Devil’s Candy

The Devil’s Candy is a disturbing film. There are far more disturbing movies for sure, but this one is pretty disturbing. The story involves a man, his wife, and their daughter buying an old farmhouse on the cheap and being overjoyed at their find that seems too good to be true. The man is a painter and the land has an outbuilding where he has his own workspace to paint commission paintings as well as his own work. He begins to start working on much darker pieces, as if he’s being possessed to do so. They’re upside down crosses, black voids where the faces of screaming children are coming through the darkness. He doesn’t even remember doing the paintings. Meanwhile a large, bald man appears at the house saying that it’s his home. Turns out he lived there with his parents and ended up murdering them both when he was told by him mom to turn down the metal guitar he was playing in his upstairs bedroom. The loud noise is the only way he can stop the voices from telling him to kill.

This film, despite being disturbing(our bald psychopath murders a little boy and dismembers him, though not seen), is so well made and the acting is perfect. Ethan Embry, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and F. Murray Abraham all do great work here, and the music is every metalhead’s dream. The score is pretty much crunchy guitar stabs mixed with some otherworldliness thanks to Sunn O))). There’s some occult vibes, as well as some 80s “Satanic Panic” feels. If you grew up in the 80s you would remember all the “metal is the devil music” talk, and this movie really goes a far way to prove those church ladies right.

Southbound

I’m a sucker for horror anthology films, especially when they’re done well. V/H/S and V/H/S 2 were done very well. The ABCs of Death? Ehh. Of course there’s the classics like Creepshow, Twilight Zone : The Movie, and Tales From The Darkside. Hell, I even liked Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye. Nightmares from 1983 was great, too. Southbound is another horror anthology well worth giving a shot.

So Southbound is 5 stories that sort of/sort of not intertwine. There’s two guys on the run from these floating black specters on some desert highway; three girls in a rock band get stranded on the same stretch of highway and are picked up by a strange couple in a station wagon; a man hits a girl in his car in the middle of the night on this same stretch of desolate road and ends up in the world’s most unhelpful ER; when a guy comes looking for the sister that went missing years before he finds more than what he was bargaining for and finally there’s a home invasion that goes horribly wrong and brings us back to where we started.

I’m not going to say this one was perfect because it wasn’t. But what it was was pretty entertaining with some interesting twists. Each story sort of bleeds(no pun intended) over into the next which gives the whole film a nice continuity. Each of our doomed characters are somehow or another heading south on this stretch of road that looks like Mad Max could show up any minute. Are they all heading to Hell? I don’t know. It may not be perfect, but it’s a fun ride regardless.

The House of the Devil

This is an older film by Ti West, but for me it’s an absolute classic.

A college girl recently gets a great apartment for herself and takes a babysitting job to help make some money in order to afford the sweet new living situation. When she arrives at the house where she’s babysitting she’s told by the man that hired her(the always excellent Tom Noonan) that in fact she would be watching his wife’s ailing mother. He tells her she shouldn’t be a problem as she’d probably just sleep all night. Of course, that’s not the case and weirdness ensues.

This film looks just like some creepy horror movie you’d come across late night while trying to find something to watch. It has the look of an early 80s film, though it was made in 2009. It pulls from slasher films, haunted house movies, occult, and that satanic panic I mentioned earlier. The cast is excellent, the score is brilliant, and the house it was filmed in evokes so much uneasiness that you can’t help but feel for this young woman stuck in the middle of nowhere with God knows what upstairs. It’s a classic in the genre of horror. Probably one of my favorite horror films that plays very well as an arthouse movie. Ti West has continued to make solid movies, but none as good as this. AJ Bowen, Greta Gerwig, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Dee Wallace, and Joceline Donahue all turn in incredible performances. There’s no “wink and a nod” irony here, either. They’re true to the times and the style and stick to it, which makes the film all the more enjoyable.

Okay, that’s it. You want more suggestions? Then let me know. I’m happy to blabber on about more films if you’d like. Until then, check these out and get ready to get weird.

I recently picked up the Southbound S/T, which was done by The Gifted. Great score done with all analog synths. Check it out if you get a chance.

 

Michael Myers and Trent Reznor

It’s Friday The 13th, so I should be talking about Jason Vorhees. But you know what, I don’t care. Michael Myers has always held a special, darkly-lit place in my heart. I can’t tell you how many times I watched Halloween growing up. It was on TV at least once a year(edited, of course) and I’d always watch it. Even prior to seeing the unedited version on videocassette, it was a very scary, visceral experience for me. The initial murder of Vorhees’ sister, the escape from the institution, stalking of Laurie Strode, and the murders at the end of the film all filled me with such dread that even the most goriest of films can’t come close to that angst I felt lying under a blanket on my parent’s couch in the living room as a sticky little kid.

Even years later that iconic theme music would stick with me, showing up in various forms(Halloween toys, plunking out the theme drunkenly on my best friend’s piano, and various viewings over the years), that I never thought someone covering this theme would affect me as much as the version I just heard today did. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross made a version of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme and released it today, on Friday the 13th, 2017.

It’s actually pretty amazing.

They take their time with it. They savor the nuances and tease the theme generously before going full Carpenter, with some generous Reznor/Ross vibes. They toy with the main theme with lots of distortion and chaos lurking in the background for a good 5 minutes before close to the end when a Reznor-approved beat comes crashing in to make Carpenter’s iconic theme become some sort of dark and sultry remix. It’s really rather stunning.

They haven’t rebuilt the Halloween theme more than they’ve reimagined it into something modern and dystopian. I think it’s genius. You may think it’s shite. That’s okay. Give it a shot and see what happens. I’m fanboying right now. I think Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are two of the most exciting film composers working today. The NIN stuff is still good to my ears as well(we can’t keep recreating the past now, can we dear?), but their film work is absolutely stunning. If John Carpenter decides to not score the new Halloween, I know two guys perfect for the job.

Happy Friday The 13th, lovelies.

Disintegration

Another season begins to wind down. Another set of ups and downs, highs and lows, “down low you’re too slows”. I’m not sure I’ve ever been a summer kind of guy so I’m okay with the endless summer coming to an end. I sweat too easily and don’t look all that good shirtless mowing the yard. Pasty white and love handles are never something you want to see walking in formation behind a lawn mower in the front yard. No, I’ve always been more of a Fall fella. Even as a kid I’d count down the days until I could break out the Chicago Bears jacket my mom bought both my brother and I at the Concord Mall. Way back when it wasn’t considered politically incorrect to worship two hillbillies driving around in a Dodge Challenger with the confederate flag painted on the hood. Back when Reagan was still in his first term and no one had yet succumbed to the cuteness of an adorable little orphan named Punky Brewster.

I longed for rosey cheeks and seeing my own breath as I walked to the bus stop. I looked forward to the grass crackling under my feet because of the frost. There was something quite grand about walking the aisle of 3D and looking for the Halloween costume that would up the ante at the inevitable night of trick-or-treating. When I was really young you could buy them in a box that contained a fragile plastic shell of a mask and a meat cutter’s apron fashioned into the body of Darth Vader, Strawberry Shortcake, or Michael from Knight Rider. As I got older I opted for the thick latex jobs that were formed into the bloody mug of an undead goon, a vampire with blood trickling from the side of his mouth, or some sort of alien creature with a severed human hand hanging from its extraterrestrial mouth(all of these were ones I’d owned.)

One year when I wasn’t quite small enough for the all-in-one box and waited too long to pick up the faux Rick Baker special I went as a robber. I wore an old ski mask, the aforementioned Chicago Bears jacket, and carried along my A-Team-certified M-16 toy rifle. This was the early to mid-80s, so this was acceptable. Nowadays that get-up would get you sent to jail or shot dead by some sweaty, trigger-happy cititzen. But at the time no one batted an eye.

“So what are you supposed to be, son?”

“A robber.”

“Oh my. Take two then.”

For me, both then and now, fall felt like the inevitable step towards an end. An end to summer, an end to another year, an end to green leaves and grass. For some that might be depressing, but in my head with an end there’s a beginning to something else just around the corner. A new year, a new chance to make your mark at school, and a new fall line-up on TV. The season of wither was open to so many possibilities. Brisk fall walks traipsing through the woods behind my house, Halloween decorations ornamenting nearby neighborhoods, and the smell of burning leaves and pine needles in the air that pushed me to some otherworldly level of childhood contentment. It was that feeling that though things were beginning to wither and die off, the windows could be opened and the ghosts of summer could escape. That touch of chill in the living room as you watch some old horror movie on late night TV…there’s nothing like it.

I welcome fall, and all the disintegration it brings.

The last week and a half have been trying times, for those of us here in the states and for those abroad that have been through this kind of social and political upheaval. I haven’t said much regarding what happened in Charlottesville and the reaction of President Trump. Mainly because I don’t know what to say. I’m appalled by the fact that there are American Nazis marching the streets of an American city in the year 2017 and by the fact that the President of the United States can’t even call them out for what they are. He stoops to straw man arguments about “Well the alt-left are just as bad”. How do you justify that? How do you say that there were some “fine folks” in that sea of sweating, swastika-toting Nazi ghouls? There’s no justification for that behavior and our President’s blase faire attitude towards it. I won’t say I’m ashamed to be an American, because I’m not. My grandfather liberated Jewish prisoners from concentration camps in 1945. My dad served in the Army Reserves in the late 60s, and I had two uncles that fought in Vietnam. I’m a man conflicted by the actions of my government(both with this administration and past ones), but I’m not conflicted about who I am and where I’m from. I don’t take for granted the opportunities allowed to me for being born and raised an American. I don’t think there’s a single nation that doesn’t have its share of nasty skeletons in its closet, and has not put its best foot forward in regards to electing officials from time to time.

I know that we’ll right the ship. Those that wore blinders to the voting booth will(hopefully) see what a mistake they made in voting in who they did. When “your guy” is emboldening men to take off the hoods and walk freely putting up Nazi salutes, carrying torches and yelling “BLOOD AND SOIL!!” and “JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US!!” in your average American city, things are coming off the rails. We’ll get it back on track. Not without some serious soul searching and looking this existential crisis right in the eyes, but we’ll do it. We’re not all blind to the insanity here. I promise you.

What am I getting at here? I don’t know. Fall is approaching. Things will start fading and withering. With endings come beginnings. Let’s hope for some new beginnings this season of wither. Let’s go for a brisk walk on the trail and say nothing because we don’t have to say anything. Let’s tell our loved ones we love them. Let’s teach our kids differences are strengths. Let’s walk through the fall afternoon and take the smell of burning leaves home with us in our jackets and hats.

Let’s go buy a goddamn Darth Vader Halloween mask and have some fun.

When there’s no more room in Hell…

It’s 11:35 pm on a Thursday night and I’m writing whilst listening to Tangerine Dream’s Rubycon. Normally I’d be fast asleep thanks to some Melantonin and general exhaustion but I’m currently on fall break holiday. Not that it’s a work holiday or anything, but the kids are off the last half of the week for fall break and I figured it’d be a good time to burn up some vacation days. Besides, the wife is in Pennsylvania for work-related reasons and it seemed to be a good idea to be home to make sure the kids don’t burn the place down while I’m hard at work…at work.

Today was the boy and I’s annual viewing of one of my all-time favorite movies, George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. It’s been a tradition since 2011 for us to sit and watch Romero’s classic zombie flick. Sure the make up is dated and the acting is spotty at times and characters sometimes do ridiculously stupid things, but none of those things really matter. You see, Romero captured something in his Pennsylvania-shot horror epic. You get the vibe that you could’ve known these people. You feel their angst as the beginning shots show a newsroom in chaos. Medical experts argue on air with local authorities about the situation as the camera crew, engineers, and producers scream at each other, chain smoke, and gobble down cup after cup of coffee. Racial tensions between cops and tenants at a housing project show race divisions are still alive and well, 10 years after the original Night of the Living Dead arrived. Our four main characters, a helicopter pilot, his pregnant news producer girlfriend, and two S.W.A.T. officers make it out of the crumbling Pittsburgh and find their way to “one of those indoor malls”. Inside they find the dead walking among the empty clothing stores, shoes stores, and candy shoppes. Despite death taking their ability to reason and think, they still shuffle along inside the indoor Monroeville Mall as if they were there to buy some shoes.

mallI’ve seen this movie several times in my life. You’d think once or twice would be enough, but I could watch it two or three times a year I think. It’s one of those films that not only has several layers of meaning to me, but it takes me back to when I first saw it over 30 years ago. I’d been at my aunt’s house for a week. It was fun going to my aunt Brenda’s house, as she had a son that was just a year younger than me so we had a blast playing together. They had a big two-story home in a neighborhood in Plymouth, Indiana, so there was plenty of room for us to get into trouble. But they were also very religious, so by the time I’d get to go back home I was ready to get back to my sinful ways of watching scary movies, listening to my hard rock, and just enjoying the general laid back attitude my parents had when it came to parenting. When my mom and I got back from her picking me up I stepped into the house and saw some videos from Video World on the kitchen counter. One of them was Dawn of the Dead. My dad had heard about the movie and picked it up before he came home. I remember we watched it after dinner that night and I was blown away. My dad rewound two or three scenes laughing out loud at the part where the zombie stood up onto the wood crates and the top of his head was sliced off by the copter blades(I think we even slow motioned that part.) We laughed at the blue-tinted Hare Krishna, the shirtless fat zombie, and the old man stumbling zombie that was on the escalator. The goofy mall music, the sales announcements(“Sales-a-poppin!”), and the store fronts; as well as the arcade, ice skating rink, and photobooth all went to create this timeless feeling for me.

glenbrookSeeing that mall our protagonists were trapped in reminded me of my own mall. It looked just like the Glenbrook Mall where my mom would take me clothes shopping for school. It was set up just like the mall in Dawn of the Dead, complete with fountain and ice skating rink. Every time I’d go there after seeing Romero’s film I’d look at the expressionless faces I’d pass and think these people weren’t far off from being undead themselves. Going through the motions, mindlessly performing the act of supporting the economy by spending money they had(and in some cases didn’t have.) Stalking through the mall was like this involuntary muscle movement. We knew it so well we didn’t really have to be there in our heads. We just shuffled along, dumping money at the Foot Locker, Musicland, and Chess King. Instead of dining on the flesh of the living we’d dine on hot pretzels and a cold drink from Hot Sam. We’d go blind at the arcade, thoughtlessly dropping quarter after quarter into arcade games like Asteroids, Frogger, and Tron.

Where there’s no more room in Hell, the dead shall walk the mall.

goldmineI don’t know if George Romero knew what he was creating when he made Dawn of the Dead. While he went on to make many more films(some good, some not-so good), I don’t think he ever hit all the right buttons again like he did with Dawn. It was a mix of social commentary, horror/gore, dark humor, and nostalgia. It wasn’t nostalgia at the time the film was made, but given that most of those indoor malls have gone by the wayside and have been closed, in lieu of more trendy outdoor malls and the more convenient online shopping, Dawn of the Dead is showing something that most millenials these days probably wouldn’t understand. Even though I can’t stand going to the mall, there’s still a part of me that misses those days of walking the halls of Glenbrook as a teenager with my pals and gawking at girls I never had the nerve to talk to in person, or dropping coins at the Gold Mine arcade. Buying a slice of pizza in the food court and reading Fangoria zines at Waldenbooks. The mall was a rite of passage for the 80s American youth. It was ingrained in us. So much so that even in death we were searching for some great deals, an Orange Julius, and maybe a cute girl to take to the movies.

Or maybe we were just looking for some living flesh to devour. Either way, bring lots of coins.

 

Sounds of the Seethin’

I think it’s come to that point in my record-buying life that I need to look back and reflect a bit. This isn’t just a mere hobby to pass the time. This isn’t a phase I’m going through. Music has always been a part of my life, ever since my first music purchase back in 1984 with Ratt’s Out of the Cellar on cassette. Even before that, really. Spinning KISS records on my red, white, and blue-striped Fisher Price at 5 years old was maybe the point where music became an obsession for me. I’ve always needed a soundtrack to my days. There was always a couple of acoustic guitars at family get-togethers, and I can remember finding a beat up Tele in my uncle’s attic and picking it up and having this jolt of electricity go through me(it wasn’t plugged in, btw.) No, music has never been a sideline for me. It’s always been there, and that has continued well into my middle age years.

With my soundtrack collection growing ever so rapidly thanks to the voodoo spell those fine voodoo priests and priestesses over at Mondotees and Death Waltz have put on me I see no reason not to talk about my favorite soundtrack albums. With us being well into October I thought I’d talk about a few of my favorite horror soundtracks because…well, tis the seethin’.

House By The Cemetery by Walter Rizzati

houseIf this was going to be one of those lists that was numbered from 1 to 10, then House By The Cemetery would be in the top 5. Even as a kid this S/T always stuck in my head. There’s a baroque quality to the music that stays with you(as it did with me for over 25 years.) Regardless of how badly dubbed the dialogue was or how dated the effects can be, the one thing that remains steadfast in Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy was the music. You can throw this album on late at night and get that cold, eerie vibe running through the house.

For me, I instantly go back to when I first saw House By The Cemetery. Sitting in my parents living room on a oddly cool summer night I sat motionless on the couch and watched this grainy, sordid Italian horror film. Despite the gore and the relative cheesiness of what I was seeing on that old Betamax copy of the film, I was struck by the sad beauty in Rizzati’s score. A mix of piano, synth, and what kind of sounded harpsichord, the music masked a b-movie in a shroud of quality chamber music. There was a couple dated disco-ish spots on the score, but that’s to be expected when you’re wanting to add a touch of “modern” sound to a film. It’s not that bothersome, really. Overall, Fulci was smart enough to hire the right guys to turn his sordid Italian gore features into something more by way of a hell of a soundtrack.

Excavation by The Haxan Cloak

haxanThe Haxan Cloak’s Excavation is not a horror soundtrack but it should be. It sounds like cold, dead air escaping a dilapidated, rotting domicile. It creaks and beats like a black heart pumping foul dreck through the body of the undead. It’s the sound of synthetic blood running through a metallic death machine. Electronic music for the end of the world. Bobby Krlic’s musical world is a dark one. One that could easily score a night of demonic delights, or a walk through skull-lined catacombs. Excavation is an intense musical vision. If you want something to play for a late night tryst with a Succubus or Incubus, look no further than this 2013 record.

Phantasm by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave

phantasmDon Coscarelli’s Phantasm has to be one of the most bizarre horror films I remember seeing as a kid. Staying up late one night with my dad watching it till nearly 1am when it played as the late late show on WSBT channel 22, I can remember thinking it all just felt so dream-like. It was also really creepy, thanks to the estute scoring work of Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave. The electric piano work mixed with the nightmare sounds of synth and organ really went far to make the film’s hallucinatory vibe go the distance. The film was made in 1979, so the score can be dated at times. But if you’re like me, then you know this music is never out of fashion. The electric piano holds a very nostalgic place for me, and it’s used very well here. Plus, there’s some honestly eerie passages here that will make your Halloween season all the better.

The Fog by John Carpenter

fogIf there is a legitimate horror soundtrack masterpiece then I think Carpenter’s The Fog could be it. The mood, vibe, and overall frigid fear of the film wouldn’t be nearly as effective if it weren’t for this masterful score. The piano motif shadowed by the synth; the heavy, looming bass notes; the distant electronic moans and baroque feel are immediate and never let go. The film is a masterpiece itself, but no other piece of cinematic music has ever felt so right in a film as this. John Carpenter was the real deal filmmaker. He had an overall vision in his films and music was one of the key elements.

As a side note, about two weeks ago my wife and I along with our two younger children were on our way back from going to see our oldest perform in her first band concert of the year. We were about 10 miles from home when we ran into some seriously dense fog, just after sundown. The fog bellowed over the valleys in the recently harvested cornfields we drove through. In typical fashion, I knew what needed to soundtrack this last stretch of road home so I grabbed my iPod and brought up John Carpenter’s “The Fog Theme” from his recently released single series from Sacred Bones. It was magnificent, and I got a good chuckle out of the wife.

It Follows by Disasterpeace

followsLast year’s It Follows was one of the most dividing film experiences in recent horror cinema history. You had one group saying it was one of the best horror films of the year while the other group said it was terrible. Most of the folks that said it was terrible were hardcore horror fans that found the film boring, confusing, and not the least bit scary. The folks that loved the movie considered it to be just as much an arthouse film as anything. They also saw a heavy David Lynch presence. For me, I didn’t think it was the best horror film of the year, mainly because I didn’t consider it a horror film. To me it was more like a psychological thriller. A f****d up coming-of-age story that was equal parts Halloween, Blue Velvet, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If you were looking for solid narrative, obvious antagonists, and an ending that wrapped everything up you were doomed from the start. What you got was a noir-ish hallucination of a film. Solid acting, dream-like mood, and a score that hit it out of the ballpark. Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace, is known for creating some pretty iconic video game scores. He mainly deals in indie games and in the chiptune variety of music. With It Follows he creates a moody set of pieces that bring Carpenter to mind, as well as many other 70s horror films. In my opinion, Disasterpeace has created a modern classic with the It Follows S/T.

The House Of The Devil by Jeff Grace

devilOne of my favorite horror films of the last 10 years was Ti West’s The House Of The Devil. There were so many tips of the hat to guys like Polanski, Hitchcock, Friedkin, and even some lesser guys that put out solid horror in the early 80s. West made a modern film look like it came out in 1981, and if you’d come across it late one night you’d think you’d found some lost classic. Jeff Grace’s score is restrained, eloquent, and utterly horrifying. He takes a more classic approach, putting the electronics aside and going for more of a chamber music feel. Piano and strings take up the bulk of this one(with the exception of the opening track being a rock instrumental that feels like it was born from an all night binge on The Cars’ “Moving In Stereo”.) The score stays peaceful with an undertone of dread, which if you’ve seen the film would know that’s the genius of Ti West’s ode to “things that go bump in the night”. This one is a brilliant late night listen, and will surely curdle the blood at just the right moments.

Maniac by Rob

maniacThink what you will of the film, but Maniac was a truly disturbing experience. The remake was prettied up and given a modern lean, taking away that late 70s street trash look of the original by William Lustig. Going from New York to Los Angeles Franck Khalfoun’s version of Maniac is a different beast altogether but seedy and disturbing nonetheless. I think the most riveting thing about the film was actually the score. Film composer Rob avoided the usual tropes of horror and stylized films by not filling the film with flashy tracks of disco and techno-heavy music. Instead he made a soundtrack that was overwhelmingly melancholy. Heavy synth score that, in my mind, reflects the serious illness and overall malaise of the lead character and psycho Frank Zito.

The movie overall is trashy(especially the original), but don’t ignore this soundtrack. It’s stunning, original, and something that can be enjoyed out of the context of the film.

So these are my desert island horror soundtracks. If I was stuck on some sandy patch in the middle of some Godforsaken stretch of blue these would be the records I’d have to have to play on my turntable made of coconut shells, bamboo, and hollowed out logs. These records, to me, define generations of music composers and their unique approach to scoring the movies that made us all look under our beds and check our closets before the light went out in our bedrooms. There are so many good horror scores out there, but these have been staples in my record listening diet. I hope you look into a few of them and see for yourself.

What? You want more? Well, then consider this part one. I’ll get started on part two immediately.