Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for August, 2011

The Exorcist – Desktop BG

Ed Gein

Edward Theodore “Ed” Gein (August 27, 1906– July 26, 1984) was an American murderer. His crimes, which he committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, garnered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered Gein had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin.

After police found body parts in his house in 1957, Gein confessed to killing two women: tavern owner Mary Hogan in 1954, and a Plainfield hardware store owner, Bernice Worden, in 1957. Initially found unfit to stand trial, following confinement in a mental health facility, he was tried in 1968 for the murder of Worden and sentenced to life imprisonment, which he spent in a mental hospitals, the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. The body of Bernice Worden was found in Gein’s shed; her head and the head of Mary Hogan were found inside his house. Robert H. Gollmar, the judge in the Gein case, wrote: “Due to prohibitive costs, Gein was tried for only one murder — that of Mrs. Worden.”

With fewer than three murders attributed, Gein does not meet the traditional definition of a serial killer. However it is the insane collection of human body parts that has given rise to the Ed Geinmythology. Searching the house, authorities found:

  • Four noses
  • Whole human bones and fragments
  • Nine masks of human skin
  • Bowls made from human skulls
  • Ten female heads with the tops sawn off
  • Human skin covering several chair seats
  • Mary Hogan’s head in a paper bag
  • Bernice Worden’s head in a burlap sack
  • Nine vulvas in a shoe box
  • A belt made from human female nipples
  • Skulls on his bedposts
  • Organs in the refrigerator
  • A pair of lips on a draw string for a windowshade
  • A lampshade made from the skin from a human face

These artifacts were photographed at the crime lab and then were properly destroyed.

Regardless, according to the creators Robert Bloch, Tobe Hooper and Thomas Harris, his real-life case influenced the creation of fictional serial killers Norman Bates from ‘Psycho’, Leatherface from ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, and Jame Gumb from ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. 

The story of Ed Gein has had a lasting impact on western popular culture as evidenced by its numerous appearances in movies, music and literature. Apart from influencing 3 of the horror genres most iconic movies, Gein’s story was adapted into a number of movies, including ‘Deranged’ (1974), ‘In the Light of the Moon’ (2000) released in the U.S. as ‘Ed Gein’ (2001), and ‘Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield’ (2007). Deranged is disturbingly creepy, the others, as is usual with this fare, are awful. A biographical musical titled ‘Ed Gein: the Musical’ premiered on January 2, 2010 in Menasha, Wisconsin. Haven’t seen it…

On July 26, 1984, Gein died of respiratory and heart failure due to cancer in Stovall Hall at the Mendota Mental Health Institute. His grave site in the Plainfield cemetery was frequently vandalized over the years; souvenir seekers chipped off pieces of his gravestone before the bulk of it was stolen in 2000. The gravestone was recovered in June 2001 near Seattle and is now in a museum in Waushara County. Rot in Hell.

Ghostbusters 3

Ghostbusters 3 has been in developmental limbo for years, held up in large part by the studio’s inability to get leading man Bill Murray to commit, or for that matter even read a script. Yesterday, franchise co-star Dan Aykroyd said the film will shoot next year, even if Murray’s not in. “That is our hope. We have an excellent script,” he said on radio’s The Dennis Miller Show. ”What we have to remember is that Ghostbusters is bigger than any one component, although Billy was absolutely the lead and contributed to it in a massive way, as was the director and Harold (Ramis), myself and Sigourney (Weaver). The concept is much larger than any individual role and the promise of Ghostbusters 3 is that we get to hand the equipment and the franchise down to new blood.” Somebody better tell the execs at Sony, where it’s still no movie. And for that matter, Murray.

Frankenstein Update

How many remakes, reboots and reimaginings are currently being shot, written or ‘brain-stormed’ by various studios? I love the Mary Shelley novel, the old Universal classics, the Hammer versions form the 60’s and Kenneth Branaghs more faithful, shirt-ripping tale from 1994. However, the majority of movies based on the popular tale are generally awful… apparently there are as many as 8 versions in the works at various stages.

It appears that Shawn Levy is about to helm a version for Fox. For those wondering who the hell is Shawn Levy, he made Date Night, Night at the Museum 1 & 2, Pink Panther remake and Cheaper by the Dozen… Wow… an obvious choice! I just don’t get it. Max Landis has written the script, described as a new take on the novel..

There was National Theatre version, directed by Danny Boyle and screened around the world.

NBC are planning a version written by ‘House’ executive producers Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner. At least they have a bit of form…

In some good news on the subject, Guillermo Del Toro is working on his own version of which it has been previsouly reported that actor Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy films) would play the creature, and it would be based on Bernie Wrightson’s art. That’ the version we want to see!

Oh, and Bruce Campbell is planning to appear in Bruce Vs Frankenstein, a sequel to 2007’s My Name is Bruce. It was announced in January and described then as “The Expendables of horror.” So is Bruce Vs Frankenstein still on the cards? Campbell reveals: “It is if the script is shootable, as they say. “One thing I’ve learned over the years is that a bad script will equal a bad movie, so we’re trying to get it to be a good script so it’ll be a good movie.”

We’ve had so many variations on the Frankenstein theme it’s hard to keep up: ‘House of Frankenstein’, ‘Revenge of Frankenstein’, ‘Curse of Frankenstein’, ‘Horror of Frankenstein’, ‘The Evil of Frankenstein’, ‘Tales of Frankenstein’, ‘Ghost of Frankenstein’, ‘Son of Frankenstein’, ‘Lady Frankenstein’, ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’, ‘Frankenstein Vs. the Wolfman’, ‘Dracula Vs. Frankenstein’, ‘Frankenstein Created Woman’, ‘Mistress Frankenstein’, ‘I Was A Teenage Frankenstein’, ‘Young Frankenstein’, ‘Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell’, ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’, ‘Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein’, ‘Alvin & The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein’, ‘Frankenstein Conquers the World’, ‘Andy Warhols Frankenstein’, a slew of TV adaptations and something called ‘Bikini Frankenstein’. 

I think I should go home and watch ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ from my old Universal Classic DVD.

The Gerber Syndrome

Contagion has it all, big budget, quality director and big name cast… The Gerber Syndrome has a similar story but the similarities end there. Still, it might be an interesting independent movie.

SYNOPSIS: We all know how easy it is to get infected by a virus. But this time its not just any virus. It’s the Gerber syndrome, a new pathology that doesnt look like a normal flu. A TV crew is making a documentary about this new pathology. It’s the Gerber syndrome, a highly contagious virus with devastating effects. Through the testimony of three people that are directly involved with the disease (a doctor, an infected girl, a young security agent) the truth is revelead, and it is way more terrifing than what the authorities want us to believe.Because the Gerber syndrome is already between us. And it’s very, very contagious…


An international traveler reaches into the snack bowl at an airport bar before passing her credit card to a waiter. A business meeting begins with a round of handshakes. A man coughs on a crowded bus… One contact. One instant. And a lethal virus is transmitted. When Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns to Minneapolis from business in Hong Kong, what she thought was jet lag takes a virulent turn. Two days later, she’s dead in the ER and the doctors tell her shocked and grieving husband (Matt Damon) they have no idea why. Soon, others exhibit the same mysterious symptoms: hacking coughs and fever, followed by seizure, brain hemorrhage…and ultimately, death. In Minneapolis, Chicago, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, the numbers quickly multiply: one case becomes four, then sixteen, then hundreds, thousands, as the contagion sweeps across all borders, fueled by the countless human interactions that make up the course of an average day. A global pandemic explodes.

At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers mobilize to break the code of a unique biological pathogen as it continues to mutate. Deputy Director Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) tries to allay the growing panic despite his own personal concerns, and must send a brave young doctor (Kate Winslet) into harm’s way. At the same time, amid a rising tide of suspicion over a potential vaccine—and who gets it first—Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) of the World Health Organization works through the network of connections that could lead back to the source of what they’re dealing with. As the death toll escalates and people struggle to protect themselves and their loved ones in a society breaking down, one activist blogger (Jude Law) claims the public isn’t getting the truth about what’s really going on, and sets off an epidemic of paranoia and fear as infectious as the virus itself. 

Academy Award® winner Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”) directs the global thriller “Contagion,” in what appears to be a more mature and thoughtful look at global meltdown after the spread of a deadly virus. In the vein of the UK Television series ‘Survivors’. Soderbergh has brought together a stellar international ensemble cast led by Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard; Academy Award® winner Matt Damon; Academy Award® nominee Laurence Fishburne; Academy Award® nominee Jude Law; Academy Award® winner Gwyneth Paltrow; and Academy Award® winner Kate Winslet. Entertainment company.

Night of the Living Dead *****

Second review in a short series of five, featuring one of the five major groundbreaking horror movies of the late 60’s through early 80’s. The movies on the list are: The Night of the Living Dead (1968); The Last House on the Left (1972); The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974); Halloween (1978) and ‘The Evil Dead’ (1981). These movies set the templates that have been used to make and remake hundreds of horror movies of varying quality for the last 30+ years.

Barbara ((Judith O’Dea) and her annoying brother Johnny are visiting their father’s grave. They see a man stumbling towards them as Johnny tries to scare her, making lame jokes: “They’re coming to get you Barbara”, when suddenly the man attacks her. Johnny comes to her rescue and is killed; Barbara escapes and pursued by the undead assailant, makes it to an apparently abandoned farmhouse.

Shocked by the discovery of a dead body she tries to leave and encounters Ben (Duane Jones) whose truck has run out of gas. Ben fights off 3 undead attackers and before realising that the farmhouse is surrounded by dozens of them. He sets to work boarding up the windows while relating his story to Barbara of the carnage he’s see; at the same time informing the audience of the scale of the situation. This is driven further home by the doom laden news reports from the ever present radio: “Attacks by the undead”, “Partially devoured by their attackers”, “The killers are eating the flesh of the people they kill”; then television news break announcing that a radioactive satellite, the Venus probe, is responsible for the dead returning to life .

Joined by Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman), his wife Helen (Marilyn Eastman) and their sick child, and young couple Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley), who have been hiding in the cellar; the group make a stand.

Taking a brilliantly simple idea, which obviously draws inspiration from ‘Rio Bravo’ and ‘The Birds’, throwing a disparate group of strangers together and made us care for them; and using the limitations of the budget to his advantage by restricting the group to one confined set, George Romero has crafted the prototype zombie movie; the template for all that followed it.

The real strength of the film is in the human drama within the house; the group are fractured, argumentative and divisive, building tension throughout. The characters are believable, displaying their fears, prejudice and vulnerability. As viewers we’re initially apprehensive about them, but as the film unfolds we’re willing them to survive, and Romero being a realist, he kills them off unceremoniously, family members literally ‘eating their own’.

The cast of unknowns inhabit their roles well, delivering believable depictions of fear, cowardice, stupidity and uncertainty. However this is Romero’s film, his script, his politics, his direction, and he delivers on all fronts. The use of gore must also have been quite shocking; having the zombies eating actual meat lends the cannibalistic scenes some realism and although not as graphic as the gore thrown onto the screens with the relentless ‘torture porn’ movies, it still holds up today.

A lot has been made of Romero’s social commentary within the film, made at the height of the Civil Rights movement and Americas involvement in Vietnam. Making a black man the more heroic figure within the group, then dispatching him so callously at the hands of the ‘good old boys’ can’t have been missed by m any viewers at the original time of release.

This is an exceptional film, a real classic of the horror genre, bettered only by Romero’s own follow up, the superlative ‘Dawn of the Dead’. Avoid the 30th Anniversary Edition DVD; it contains some awful new footage shot by alleged fans of the original. Also avoid the colourised version and the 1990 remake, which although not abysmal is pointless when you can watch this.

Turn out the lights, board up the windows, sit back and enjoy.

5 out of 5 stars