Wednesday, October 26, 2011


JER: Greetings CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT readers… my counterpart, JOHNNY CHAZZ, has been feeling ‘under the weather’ this week… so I am picking up the pen and sallying forth with this week’s final entry for our October Halloween/ Horror topics!

I wanted to put the final nail into the coffin this month by touching on something fun and cultish! My ghoulish delights made me look into my vault of creepies and crawlies to have but one movie crawl up to the surface to reveal itself… this month I focus my attentions to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW!
Here is the original 1975 trailer!

Ebert & Siskel

The Soundtrack Album Cover
My curiosity and fascination with ROCKY HORROR started at approximately the age of 11 years old! I was a big fan of critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel’s PBS film review show “Sneak Previews” and I remember one episode was devoted to the growing cult phenomenon! The year had to have been 1981: the half hour focused on the music, clips from the movie and talks about the cult status and popularity amongst this low- budget flick. I had never heard of this ROCKY HORROR nor had its music or audience participation / cult building it had become. It was all very overwhelming to take in both the sights and sounds at that age. I was raised in a small town and wasn’t exposed to controversial or expressionistic art forms. Mind you, this was before internet and multi- channel cable or satellite television, so I had no idea of such sexual freedom of expression. I merely used “Sneak Previews” as a vehicle to keep myself updated of the latest films I needed to be schooled in. Without warning, songs like “Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite” and “I’m Coming Home” were just a few highlights I had seen on TV for the first time! Questions immediately flooded my naive mind...Why were men dressed as women? What was the purpose of the heavy make- up and scantily- clad costumes? What is a transvestite? I had to learn more about this…and learn I did!

Show Creator: O'Brien 
ORIGINS: Let’s ‘time warp” to the beginning: It was June 16, 1973 and writer Richard O’Brien debuts his musical play, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, at London’s Royal Court Theatre Upstairs. The premise of the storyline is simple… it was a tribute to B- films, the conservative dress fashions of the 50’s and 60’s, bad science fiction movies and iconic famous monsters with a touch of the good ol’ days of Elvis rock-n-roll music! The late 1950’s and early 1960’s presented a strong change in pop culture by movie, music and political viewpoints affecting all. The story is a simple yet twisted tale of the sanitized world of Nixon in the White House and the post FDR world of crew-cut hairdos and Frank Sinatra on the radio and the sudden crash into the neo- punk world of expressionism, gay pride and pop music on the jukebox that the 1970's would be known for. Almost a year later, March 19, 1974 to be exact, the show makes its first U.S. preview appearance at Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip… playing for a strong 9 months!

Patricia Quinn as The Usherette- 1973
The buzz was blazing through Hollywood and soon a network of old theatre friends would soon come together for the adaption and principal photography of the motion picture version of the musical comedy stage show. Jim Sharman would be named as director and co-screenwriter along with O’Brien. The two had been associates back in the Royal Court Theatre days and collaborated to bring this unique show to the silver screen. Casting would take some of its original stage actors to reprise their roles in the film version. Amongst them: Tim Curry, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, “Little” Nell Campbell and Jonathan Adams from the London production and Meatloaf from the Los Angeles shows at the Roxy.

An audience doing the "Time Warp!"
 THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW made its worldwide debut in August 1975 in London, shortly followed by its U.S. premiere on September 26, 1975 at the UA Westwood Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. After weak box office performances and hurtful critical responds, the film tries to continue to make its money by being placed as a midnight show for a more generalized crowd. The date is now September 1976 and audiences begin a run-on joke by heckling and yelling back to the offensively bad movie during certain bits. The rumor has it all  beginning when a scene in the general start of the film has the ‘narrator’ (The Criminologist- to the fans) inviting the audience “on a strange journey”… it was at this point that a patron yelled back, “how strange was it?” The rest, as they say, was history. Within a short period of time, various audiences tried topping each other with clever comebacks and yelling humorous replies back.

This was then followed by a strange assortment of various props used within the audience during the presentation. Specifically, these props are used at certain key moments of the film: these items most commonly used are water pistols (shot up in the air to assimilate rain), newspaper (to avoid the rainfall), rice (thrown during the opening wedding scene), toilet paper, party poppers, playing cards and so on and forth! 
Fans from the New York shows
 What could be left to do but take the next steps that have made this the experience to be experienced: dressing up as their favorite character in the film. Painstaking details in wardrobe, make- up, mannerisms, mimicking and karaoke- like singing and acting have taken on a life of its own and could no longer be contained within theater rows anymore! The final expression of love for the film has led performing groups onto the stage of the screen to reenact the movie in its entirety while it plays! Set props, backdrops, lighting effects and actors have taken over bringing the movie to a third and even forth dimension! ‘It’s astounding…’
Brad and Janet (awwwww)

The Crimiologist- An Expert!
 THE STORY: The Criminologist (Charles Gray) invites us to listen in on a bizarre case as he opens a book entitled The Denton Affair and begins to recall the events that took place in the little town of Denton, USA.  The story unfolds: Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon play Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, two ordinary young “square” adults living the American dream of college sweethearts planning a future marriage, kids and that house in the suburbs. After attending the marriage of one of their friends, Brad nervously pops the question as well with Janet’s enthusiastic approval. While driving on a ‘dark and stormy night’, a tire is blown- out to now have our stranded heroes walking to a castle close by in hopes of using their phone for assistance. Ignoring blatant warning signs (literally: “Enter At Your Own Risk”!) the soaked couple finally make it the doorsteps in hopes that someone is home. Upon awaiting reply to their plea, the door is eventually answered… expecting an upstart, well-to-do dressed in his smoke jacket and pipe… they are, instead, greeted by the castle’s ‘handyman’ Riff- Raff (played by creator Richard O’Brien).

"Let's do the Time Warp again!"
The couple are allowed into the castle’s foyer only to be informed that they had ‘arrived on a rather special night’. The housemaid Magenta (Patricia Quinn) agrees to how ‘lucky’ they are with their timing as the festivities are about to begin… this is where the point of no return is reached and Brad and Janet are taken into a world they would never have imagined! Their view of white- picket fences and moral values are quickly deconstructed as they are exposed to a world of perversion and sexual expression far beyond anything that their narrow- minded thoughts could ever be expected to perceive.
Let me show you how we do it in Transylvania!
"I see you shiver with antci----pation!"
The Master finally makes a grand entrance, as the evening’s celebration is in his honor! The appearance is both shocking and alluring, as we are introduced to the cross- dressed  Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), the ‘sweet transsexual from Transylvania.’ All are invited ‘up to the lab and see what’s on the slab’ as they ride an elevator to the castle’s laboratory. It is there that both the party’s guests and the uninvited couple are shown the reason for the occasion’s festivities… could the doctor have actually made a man just like Frankenstein’s monster? It seems as if he had, indeed, succeeded as the creature known as Rocky (Peter Hinwood) is brought to life before the eyes of the curious onlookers. Ah, but the good doctor has other ulterior motives for the creation of a man ‘with blonde hair and a tan’ as he would be best utilized for relieving the doctor’s ‘tension.’ The lesson learned from previous creations in such scenarios is that the beast can never be detained... as it takes on a liking to Janet, causing the doctor fuming jealousy. Columbia (Nell Campbell) is a ‘groupie’ hanging out with the odd group as her long- lost boyfriend, the motorcycle driving Eddie (Meatloaf) crashes the party. Unfortunately, the timing is all wrong and the Dr. does away with the party intruder as Columbia is left sobbing over her rebel boyfriend’s corpse.
Eddie crashes the party in "Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul"

"The Floor Show"
In all of this mayhem, Brad and Janet encounter their college professor, Dr. Everett Scott (Jonathan Adams) who, coincidentally, ends up at the castle in the midst of tracking down Frank-N-Furter and his house servants. The plot thickens as it is revealed that Frank, Riff- Raff and Columbia are from the planet of Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania and are on Earth to explore the humans' curious forms. Frank will not have his plans thwart with as he uses the lab’s Medusa Transducer, transforming Brad, Janet, Rocky, Columbia and Dr. Scott into statues! Once released from their statued state, the group awaken only to be forced to perform a cabaret show with Frank as the ring leader.

SPOILER ALERT:The performance is soon interrupted by Riff- Raff and his sister, Magenta, as they form a coup with plans to return to their home planet. In the rebellion, Columbia, Frank and Rocky are left dead as Brad, Janet and Dr. Scott are let free as the castle breaks from its grounds and takes off as one giant spacecraft back home… leaving the survivors ‘crawling on the planet’s face…some insects called the human race’.
Riff- Raff and Magenta
So, what would normally develop from a hit that isn't expected to be a hit? How about a sequel? Richard O'Brien was asked to pen down, what he called an "equal", to ROCKY HORROR and in 1981, SHOCK TREATMENT was released. The film would carry on with the further exploits of Brad and Janet, who are now married and live in the reality- TV world of Denton USA. Some ROCKY HORROR cast members returned, playing different rolls this time including O'Brien, Nell Campbell, Charles Gray and Patricia Quinn.
The original SHOCK TREATMENT trailer from 1981!

Both the musical play and film have been used as grounds to allow freedom of expression… both to the gay and straight community. People of all walks of life, with different backgrounds and cultures, sexual and political preferences… have all banded together to celebrate and enjoy a simple, if not silly, musical- comedy- horror show that, 36 years later, still packs the midnight shows or can be enjoyed at home with its DVD and Blu- Ray releases! ‘Don’t dream it…be it!'
As always, we welcome your comments and ideas! Please feel free to chime in as we always look forward to hearing from you! Until next week, when we say...SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011


JER: Cinema: Counterpoint tries to listen to its readers and we openly request any thoughts and suggestions for future blogs. An idea for an October/ Halloween- based page came by way of reader Jacqueline from Imperial Valley, CA, when she personally requested that we paid homage to one of her macabre icons, Mr. Vincent Price! The time is right, so sit back and relax as we visit the life and times of Mr. Vincent Price.

Born Vincent Leonard Price Jr in St. Louis, Missouri on May 27, 1911, Price had an eye for adventure when he began traveling through Europe at a very early age. During his travels, he discovered that he had a love for acting… in just a matter of a few short years, he made his screen debut in 1938 in SERVICE DE LUXE. The theme was that of a comedy… a completely different type of genre than the one he would best be recognized for!

Steady work would soon follow as Price would begin taking on more notable roles in such films as TOWER OF LONDON (1939), THE HOUSE OF SEVEN GABLES (1940) and THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943).

In 1948, Price would star in one of the biggest films from MGM of its time: THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Acting along side such Hollywood royalty like Gene Kelley and Lana Turner, Price would play the villainous Richelieu. An odd piece of trivia, as referred to in the original Dumas novel and in countless versions of the film as a Cardinal, MGM avoided the title as to not offend potential controversy with Catholics.

Countless roles, in both film and television, would give Price steady work. It would be 1953 that one of his most iconic characters would take shape as Prof. Henry Jarrod in HOUSE OF WAX. Originally released as a 3-D film in theaters with a cost of under $700,000.00 dollars, it was considered a big box office draw and would begin to shape Price into the roles within the macabre and thrillers that audiences would best attach him to…
 In what is considered in my opinion to be one of the best films ever made, Vincent Price would appear in the grand Cecil B DeMille epic, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. The character of Baka, a Hebrew- born who became an ally to the Egyptians during the time of Hebrew slavery, was played with shrewd and classic villainy. Yet again proving himself worthy amongst the ranks of classic actors like Edward G Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston… Price continually kept re- inventing himself. He was an actor ready to take on a multitude of various roles no matter what the character called for! The film won Best Picture in 1956.

THE FLY (1959)

1958: Francois Delambre, an industrialist living in Montreal, is drawn to a mysterious world straight out of the pages of a science- fiction novel. His brother Andre, has created a teleportation device that would change the methods of travel forever. Something is not right, however, Andre doesn’t seem to be himself… in fact, he takes on the mannerisms and appearances of THE FLY! The film would become one of a few that would be synonymous with Price in the realm of horror and thrillers. Both the storyline and Vincent Price would burn into the imagination and fears of a generation… so much so that Price would revisit his role in its sequel, RETURN OF THE FLY (1959).

The formation of an era into sci- fi and horror films was at the cusp for the late 1950’s and moving into a new decade within the 1960’s. Other films to follow would include HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, THE BAT and THE TINGLER: all released in 1959 (along with RETURN OF THE FLY). A banner year for Mr. Price, as he would be the face best recognized by screaming fans and thrill seekers alike!
The spine- tingling 1959 trailer for HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL!

HOUSE OF USHER would kick- off 1960. Directed by B- film aficionado Roger Corman, the story would be based on the classic novel by Edgar Allan Poe about a family curse that haunts the Usher family. Price would return to working with Corman again in 1961 for THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM… also yet another story by Edgar Allen Poe. This time, Price would be surrounded by the mysteries of Spain during the Inquisition days and foreboding castles that hide truths never to be seen. The Corman/ Price duo would go on to strike lightning again in their next effort, TOWER OF LONDON in 1962, this time playing Richard III as he is haunted by the spirits he did away with in order to be crowned King of England!

Karloff, Lorre and Price: THE RAVEN
1963 would bring one of the better known and more successful collaborations between director Roger Corman and his famed star, Vincent Price. THE RAVEN, loosely based on the poem by Edgar Allen Poe, melds this fantasy- horror film with the undertones of humor. Dr. Craven (Price) goes against fellow magician Dr. Scarabus (played with feverous delight by Boris Karloff) in an all- out battle for the respects of a helpless magician (Peter Lorre) and a beloved Leonore (Hazel Court) was thought to be dead! The film created quite a buzz with great box office numbers to boot.

Not missing a beat, Price worked again with favorite film director Corman in 1963’s THE HAUNTED PALACE based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft. Price would play Charles Dexter Ward who arrives within a small village to claim the inheritance of a house that his ancestor died in 100 years ago. Returning back to the original formula, Corman would base his next film from yet another Poe story and cast Price in the 1964 horror/ thrillers, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH and the lesser- known THE TOMB OF LIGEIA.

Egghead from TV's BATMAN
Moving into the late 1960’s proved to be another experimental journey for Price as he began doing more dated comedy- romp movies and a long string of television work with appearances in such shows as THE BRADY BUNCH, LOVE AMERICAN STYLE, GET SMART!, MOD SQUAD, THE BIONIC WOMAN, THE LOVE BOAT, F TROOP, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and the notable character “Egghead” in BATMAN! His focus on light films and heavy television is a strange twist for Price. Maybe he was tired of those long hours in front of a camera that can be more demanding for film than for television. Maybe he liked the idea of guest appearances in a variety of television shows rather than a movie. These are mere speculations with no real truth or known facts to these opinions.

Films were not too far behind him as he still made the occasional horror/ thriller from time to time. In 1972 he would star as the lead character in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN. He also performed in B- Movies like THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973) and MADHOUSE (1974).

Television and small films kept him busy well into the very early 1980’s, but a pivotal moment in his career would rejuvenate Mr. Price into the minds and hearts of an entirely new and different generation! A very young artist, who had recently been hired to work for the Walt Disney animation department, was curiously working on a short stop- motion animation project about Mr. Price. The writer and director of this interesting homage was Tim Burton and the project was aptly entitled VINCENT. Price would not only serve as the inspiration for the short, but provided the narration of this black and white cult favorite. Later on in Price’s life, when he was asked to reflect on VINCENT, he described it as: "the most gratifying thing that ever happened. It was immortality - better than a star on Hollywood Boulevard."
Here is the complete animated short: VINCENT!

Yet another interesting avenue traveled by the unpredictable Vincent Price was his ‘rap’ talk through the midpoint of Michael Jackson’s immortal classic hit song “Thriller.” His performance marked another defining turn for the actor in 1983.

VINCENT worked as a new opportunity to work with animation of various styles and types. He lend his voice and image in 1985’s THE 13 GHOSTS OF SCOOBY- DOO to which he played the character named Vincent VanGhoul! More prestigious was Price’s voice work as Professor Ratigan in Walt Disney’s 1986 adventure- animated feature, THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE. It is said that Price once said that the role of Ratigan was considered his most favorite… he even had two original songs written for him to perform!

What would almost convey as the perfect role for Price to play, director Tim Burton requested his appearance as The Inventor of 1990’s EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. At the time of actual production, Price was already very ill with emphysema and was suffering from Parkinson disease, which had prematurely shortened his originally intended lengthier role.

VINCENT PRICE 1911- 1993
I had the distinct honor and pleasure to be one of a select few who was present during an exclusive one- on- one interview at the 1990 presentation of “FANGORIA’S WEEKEND OF HORRORS” in Los Angeles, CA. The evening was hosted by film director Joe Dante (GREMLINS) who interviewed a very frail Vincent Price. The night provided many joys and memories for both Price and his fans as he reminisced about his life and the films he had worked on throughout his career.

Vincent Leonard Price was laid to rest on October 25, 1993 at the age of 82. His ashes were spread across the California coast of Malibu.

One of the last quotes given by Mr. Price was: “I hate being old and ill! Don't get old if you can avoid it!"

 JOHNNY CHAZZ: In response to our reader's request this week, we examine the life and times of Vincent Price. Having read what you have written here Jer, I will simply tack on a few "extras" to round out this weeks' blog.

"Song of Bernadette" (1943) may have been the film that kicked things off for Vincent Price, although it did not exactly make him a household name at the time. Still, his performance was spellbinding here and this film should be considered one of his best.

Now, other Vincent Price films worth honoring would include:

"House on Haunted Hill" (1958) - undoubtedly one of his most recognizable films in the genre of horror. The effects are a bit thin, but the storyline and the suspense factor make it a classic.

"The Fly" (1958) - memorable on all counts even though some of the scenes are almost a bit humorous when looking back.

"The Pit and the Pendulum" (1961): A creepy Poe work, but definitely a classic Vincent Price film.

"House of Wax" (1953): How can this not be included in the list? The film has a definite creep factor and the shock element reaches out to the audience on all levels. Price makes his debut in an all-out horror role here.

An interesting clip of Tim Burton hosting Price's HOUSE OF WAX

Earlier films of note also included: "The Raven", "The Tower of London" and "The Fall of the House of Usher".

In 1964, Price starred in the wonderful "Masque of the Red Death" which may have been one of the best films and performances of his career.

Price involved himself with primarily horror films in the 1950's and 1960's, only to reach the 1970's and become involved in films that almost cast him as a "spoof" per se. anything and everything. Later in the 1980's he would appear in Michael Jackson's MTV video "Thriller", and work a small role in Burton's "Edward Scissorhands". The bottom line is that Price's best years were during the 1940's - 1960's and proved that "horror" was what he was suited for best.
Have a listen to the uncut 'rap' by Price for Jackson's THRILLER!

Price's final major film role was actually a memorable one and a definite tangent from his earlier works. "The Whales of August" (1987) featured Price with Bette Davis and Lillian Gish in a film that was vastly underrated.

Price passed away in 1993 and we pay homage this week to his career, his lifetime achievements and his dedication and devotion to the horror genre.

JER: Thank you, JC, for catching some details on some missed points from my part. I felt I couldn’t completely handle it all myself and selfishly leave you nothing to talk about!

Tune in next week when we put the lid on the coffin of October/ Halloween/ Horror topics leaving the last nail to be hammered in by JOHNNY CHAZZ. SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


JOHNNY CHAZZ: Who isn't terrified of the dark? October is upon us now and shadows quickly transpose into 3-dimensional forms. But, what's crucial to remember is that Directors and Screenwriters are well aware that it is not so much the darkness that frightens us, but the possibility of what terrors lie within and beneath that frighten us to a cold chill.

Many of us film-goers are addicted, in a sense, to the dual nature of being scared (whether it be shock treatment or simply a matter of suspense) - a double edged sword per se. Being scared in a movie house or simply watching your DVD or Blu-Ray in the dark at home can be a riveting experience producing a real tangible rush. On the other hand, it can be enough to truly shock you to the point of becoming numb and having images planted in your mind during the journey home. Unlocking your door and taking that first step into your house or apartment can be a daunting task and is not advised for the faint of heart. Horror movies really do have this impact (as well as suspense films when properly executed).

There are so many classic films that play upon our inherent fears of the dark and the unknown. "Psycho" and "The Exorcist" are classics that should only be watched with friends. "Halloween" also plays on darkness and the sets never really offer the audience relief from this type of imagery. "Friday the 13th" plays upon the old slasher film with teens who blindly walk right into trouble without thinking of the possible repercussions. "Suspiria", "The Shining", "The Omen" and perhaps even the recent "Paranormal Activity" could also be among your list for this coming Halloween film viewing party.

It is human nature to want to control your surroundings. Horror films contradict that and keep us not only on our toes, but keep us off-balance as well fear the dark and what lies behind the next corner. Still, it is so important to remember that the idea of "shocking an audience" is short-lived and is quickly dissipated. Suspense, however, not only lingers on and on, but also builds character allowing us to grasp a further understanding of what this character is all about. The bottom line is that when ‘suspense’ is properly carried out (even in the horror genre) – “The Exorcist”, “Suspiria” and “The Shining” are probably prime examples of this, the audience reaction is all-together different and the impact that the film makes is 10X that of the effects of the ‘shock’ element.

This is the point of discussion for Cinema: Counterpoint this week. Which element of horror is desired by movie-goers today? Do they want the "shock" treatment leaving them in a constant state of anxiety during the film, or do audiences really prefer the inherent nature of the classic suspense-horror film that leaves them with a terror that lasts long after the film is over? Sounds obvious really, but the debate has long been bandied back and forth.

So, let's put this to the test: I will choose five (5) outstanding suspense/horror films and compare their ratings to five (5) outstanding shock/horror films and see where the total score falls. The winner will become my selection for the best type of sub-genre for horror films of the past, present and near future.


1. "The Exorcist" - Rating: 9.5/10

2. "The Shining" - Rating: 8.5/10

3. "Suspiria" - Rating: 8/10

4. "Silence of the Lambs" - Rating: 8/10

5. "Jaws" - Rating: 8/10

*** TOTAL = 42 points (Please note that films such as "Vertigo" and "Zodiac" and "Paranormal Activity" were also considered in this category.)

John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN

1. "Halloween" - Rating: 8.5/10

2. "House of 1,000 Corpses" - Rating: 8/10

3. "Saw Series" - Rating: 7.5/10

4. "Nightmare on Elm Street" - 7/10

5. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" - 6.5/10

*** TOTAL = 37.5 (Please note that films such as "Black Christmas" and "Candyman" were also considered in this category.)

Well, it looks like the suspense / horror films have the edge by an average rating of nearly a point for every movie. This of course is the opinion of one critic.

What does Jer have to say? Does he feel that the slasher-horror films gain the edge at this time of year? Does he prefer the focus on suspense over the shocker films? We shall wait in suspense...

JER: Wait no more, let me ‘kill’ the suspense right here and now and I’ll ‘slash’ any doubts one might have over which side may prevail.

To begin with, this is a very intriguing topic and a point of view that could be generally ignored by most…even though it is an obvious illustration of two definitive sides to the reflection of what makes an audience enjoy the sweaty palms and the quickening of a heartbeat!

I have had this very same discussion with many fans of the genre and I believe, JC, that we have had this talk as well once or twice before...

Horror: EVIL DEAD 2
“Horror,” as the word describes, is more about what can be visually seen on the screen to get a reaction out of an audience based of the level and graphic content of violence. This can be categorized by the amount of blood and/ or gore allowed as well as monstrous/ demonic displays by way of subject and/ or categorization on screen. 

“Suspense,” by my interpretation, is defined as the building up of events or situations that are either uncontrollable or unaware to our protagonist. At times, the audience might be invited to view that a murderer is waiting in a room while we follow the victim down the hall that will lead into the room a we anticipate the character’s fate. Another view would be the unsuspecting standpoint of not knowing what might await us and the victim around every corner…we are just as oblivious as the character is.

Now, at the risk of not sounding repetitive, I am purposely going to elect 5 different films to rank within each category. This will allow the reading audience a wider range of films to present as potential varieties to select and possibly view. I give you...


5. STAY ALIVE – 7/10: Released in 2006, the story involves 4 teens that play an interactive video game about murder within a haunted house… only to find that the characters they play could spell life or death for them in real life. A very creepy and entertaining film!

4. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – 7.5/10: In the vein of ‘realistic documentation,’ the audience becomes the voyeur into a young couple’s life as they use a video camera to record the possible haunting in their home.

3. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1973) – 8.5/10: The original Tobe Hooper directed chiller definitely follows the guidelines of ‘less is more’ when it comes to imagination as apposed to blood and gore. The ‘based on a true story’ liner follows a van full of 20- somethings as they drive through the back roads of Texas only to confront a family of flesh-eaters.

2. JEEPERS CREEPERS – 8/10: A well- crafted ‘edge of your seat’ thriller that follows a brother- sister road trip home from spring break that is interrupted by a menacing driver that may not be human! The ‘creeper’ feeds for a number of days every 23 years!

1. THE STRANGERS – 9/10: The definitive homage to the suspense- filled days of using sound effects like heavy door knocks, trash cans thrown against the outside wall, door creeks and other tricks of the trade to create a threatening environment. A young couple’s lives are threatened by three masked individuals that cause disruption with no explanation as to why! A true suspense film in every sense of the word!
*** TOTAL= 40 even points (note that my runner- ups would have included John Carpenter’s THE FOG)


5. HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II – 7.5/10: A true gore-fest from writer Clive Barker. A true sequel that picks up where the original HELLRAISER left off… this time, the evil and conniving Cenobites lure the puzzle box player into their world to play by their rules…which are non- existent.

Jer with Make-Up Artist: RICK BAKER
 4. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON – 8.5/10: The first ever horror film to win an Academy Award for Best Make- Up effects went to Rick Baker for his outstanding work within the werewolf transformation and other creature effects that spook- up this grim comedy. Two American college boys, back- packing their way through Europe, ignoring the remote tavern folks' warnings about sticking to the roads and bewaring the moors come face- to- face with their attacker leaving one of them ‘un-dead’ and the other anticipating what awaits him on the next full moon.

3. THE THING (1982) – 9/10: The John Carpenter re-make to the classic 1951 film centering on a group of scientists conducting research in the Antarctic are joined by a shape- shifting creature that can perfectly imitate anything it wants… even humans.

2. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) – 8/10: Although not something you will hear me say, this re-make proves to be worthy and done with great detail and exhausting amounts of tension and gore to appease anyone’s hardcore appetite! Bravo!

1. HOSTEL – 9/10: A nail- biting, slow tension- building, blood- drenched, R- rated film that lives up to the expectations of why the ratings system had a field day with categorizing and rating the film properly! A clincher of a film by maverick director/ writer Eric Roth brings us into the world of two college friends who befriend a third while traveling through Europe. Upon arriving at an inexpensive hostel in Slovak, they hear the tail of a small village where paradise awaits in the form of drugs, alcohol and women! Without hesitation, they arrive by metro train expecting Eden… only to find that a living hell of torture and suffering awaits them! In my opinion, a relentless and thought- provoking film that completely took me by surprise… even with the de-sanitation of horror films!

***TOTAL= 42 points (note that my runner- ups included 30 DAYS OF NIGHT and EVIL DEAD 2)

My results seemed to have favored ‘shock’ over ‘suspense,’ beating it by 2 points. As much as I love both genres of ‘horror,’ I think my points reflected my early love for make- up and special effects since the age of 13. I believe that I have been able to really appreciate all aspects of what goes into the making of a horror film. Timing is essential in regards to building up the suspense when creating a scene or simply timing with how much violence is either too much or too little.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Horror and Suspense are well defined here Jer and I must agree with your take on each. Now, in response to your selections for your top-5 horror / shock films: “Hostel” as a 9/10 is intriguing and it is interesting to see that it makes #1 on your list. 42 points to 40 is also worth noting which basically states that you slightly prefer the horror-shock sub genre to the suspense- based horror films. Still, I know that you are a fan of both especially with such titles as "The Strangers" and "Paranormal Activity" making your list. I also am well aware of your passion for make-up and special effects, but was surprised to see other films such as "The Exorcist" and "Jaws" not make your list.

Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW
 Suspense requires a bit more attention to details in writing, set design, character motivation, lighting and sound. They also require a solid foundation and footing in terms of plot with a story that leads to a meaningful and climactic finale. Films such as "Vertigo" and "Taxi Driver" as well as "Rear Window" are also outstanding examples of this suspense sub-genre done right. Classic scenes from "When a Stranger Calls", "Nosferatu" and "The Omen" are also types of films that offer a level of suspense that makes for a memorable, yet disturbing picture.

Perhaps this is why I prefer this type of sub-genre to the likes of the shock-horror segment. It simply seems to have more substance and requires the film-goer to actually become deeply involved with the characters and events on the screen.

Nonetheless, a fun topic this week and now we leave it to our readers to decide what element of the horror-genre they prefer. Until next week when Jer "shocks" us with another topic in the horror genre during this month of October on Cinema: Counterpoint. SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

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Saturday, October 1, 2011


JER: As we enter my favorite month of the year, October, I immediately begin to dive into my crypt through my vast collection of horror film goodies… so many creepy, freaky and offensive fright flicks to choose from, it saddens me to know that I am only given 31 measly days to enjoy them in. Oh well… I decided that this is the perfect time to release the demons from within and talk about the scary films that some thrive in and others are repelled by!
“Horror”, as a genre of movies defined, comes in many vague descriptions. Some would classify a great horror film by the levels of gore and blood that can be visibly seen. Others can define their tastes by the suspense in its story telling, while others believe it is all subjective and left to the imagination of the viewer. With many entries to choose from, the years have brought an audience many selections to choose from. Catagories would include: supernatural, midnight dwellers, demonic, extra- terrestrial, psychopaths, slashers, the walking dead, creatures, witchcraft, occult, blood suckers and anything else your ghoulish little mind can conceive of!

By using the unlucky number of 13, I wanted to create a list of the top 10 best horror films and finish it off by listing the top 3 worst films as well.

I really didn’t think compiling my list would be this difficult… but it was! I had a few runner- ups that I wish I had room for within my “Top 10.” Films like THE EVIL DEAD, JEEPERS CREEPERS, SAW, PHANTASM, DAWN OF THE DEAD, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT and FRIDAY THE 13th had to be placed within the ranks of honorable mentions.

So many to mention that I'll allow this to sum up some of the greatest moments caught in fear!

I understand that we are asking a lot from our readers. The lists are long and the read can be lengthy, however, seeing that CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT has never really touched on the genre of ‘horror’ films prior, I am definitely opening up the flood gates and letting the sewage (or guts) spill!

Here it is: my “TOP 10” Best Horror Films:

10. THE OMEN (1976): Not to be confused with that disastrous attempt of a re-make made in 2006. The original had great star appeal by pairing off actors Gregory Peck and Lee Remick as US Ambassador to Great Britain and his wife, the Thorns. When Mrs. Thorn, unaware of the outcome, delivers a stillborn child with hopes of beginning a family, Mr. Thorn is presented with a newborn baby boy whose mother passed away upon delivery. No family, no trace of any problems or issues, Mr. Thorn takes the child and presents it to his wife as their own. One slight problem, little Damien isn’t all they expected him to be… he is the arrival of evil incarnate with aspirations of world domination while destroying Christianity along the way.

The film represents that evil can take shape in any shape or form…or age! The innocence of a sweet- faced 6 year- old boy made this film even more intriguing. Director Richard Donner shaped a serious masterpiece with relentless tension and terror. The deaths of those that get in his way are complex and uncomfortable to witness. Highly imaginative and elaborate for its time, THE OMEN remains a classic!
A frightening video tribute including the theme by Jerry Goldsmith!

Robert Englund with Jer
9. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984): Sorry Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Englund will always be Freddy Krueger! Within the first few seconds of the film, we witness the horrific creation of the famous glove with knives. The attention to detail in making the claws to his satisfaction only sets you up that this going to be like nothing you had ever experienced before. If you have been living under a rock your whole life, it is difficult to describe the film’s premise. By way of dreams, a suspected child tormentor comes back to life to 'haunt' the lynch mob that took it upon themselves to place their own level of justice and set him on fire. The film that put director Wes Craven on the horror map, wrote an original story line of the crossing over of revenge and the power of dreams… or nightmares. Little did he know he was creating a new horror film icon with Freddy Krueger’s burnt face, the stripped red and green sweater, the fedora and that claw glove… it would raise the bar that anything is possible. How do you kill someone that is already dead? With minor punches of humor and a strong dose imaginary gore and violence… this film would be the best from all of its sequels to follow.

8. THE STRANGERS (2008): Taking a page from past horror films that presented more tension than blood, the film plays with your fears and makes the audience jump in reaction to things that go bump in the night. What makes this film more intense is that it was actually based on true events! A young couple decides to spend a romantic weekend in a country home away from civilization, only to be terrorized and tormented by three masked individuals with unknown intentions.

Despite doing very well in the box office, the film received mixed reviews. Gore- seekers expected more blood while others, like myself, felt that this film stayed true to its ingredients of ‘less is more.' A sequal is currently in pre- production at the time of this post.

7. DRACULA (1931): A tipping of respect to the Universal horror films must be made towards my favorite of them all, the original DRACULA with the incomparable Bela Lugosi. After his travels through the Carpathian Mountains and arriving in England, Count Dracula begins a bizarre feeding prey on human blood while followed by Dr. Van Helsing, the man determined to end his reign.

Although the film shot within the Universal Studios lot, the appearances of foreign locations and European flavors made this film a visual classic to bestow. The use of black and white photography adds another layer of suspense from its shadowing and candle- lit set designs. It sets an air of mystic and exotic intrigue that makes this film an original.
The classic 1931 trailer for the original DRACULA! Enjoy!

6. ALIEN (1979): Director Ridley Scott took a bold and historic step forward by making a very realistic and suspenseful sci- fi horror film that involved an alien as the creature in question. Earlier attempts at such films were the staple of Roger Corman B- films involving radioactive bugs or less- than- impressive interpretation of life outside of our own planet.

Somewhere in the near future, an intergalactic mining crew in space responds to an S.O.S. signal and closes in on a planet with a creature that waits to board the ship and destroy the crew… one member at a time. A classic “haunted house” storyline that weaves a twist by taking it to an outer space field. A true original for its time, has since been told redundantly far too many times. At post time, director Scott is working on a prequel.

5. THE SHINING (1980): Adapted from the best- selling novel by Stephen King, the story is about a Maine novelist who takes his family to assist him in caring for an isolated hotel during the snowed- in winter months. What the family is unaware of is its long history of the hotel’s existence and the number of haunts that have gathered there.

Controversial from its approach and the straying from most of the novel’s true story, director Stanley Kubrick presented a very surreal and maniacal film while keeping us enclosed within the suffocating walls of the Overlook Hotel. How can it remain well lit yet stay dark at the same time? The cinematography almost works as a character within the film while mingling into the lives of Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall and the scene- stealing moments of little Danny Lloyd!

4. THE EXORCIST (1973): How is it that this film remains, to this date, consistently on top of many lists and all- time favorites when it comes to the genre and what it represents? I mean, the film is over 35 years old! The techniques, photography, screenplay and special effects are very different than by today’s standards. What can it be? What if it was because the film represents a snap shot in time and that it made in the right year… meaning: the serious approach to film making, the no- nonsense use of special effects long before CGI would ruin what artists could create with their own two hands. Studios were mavericks and willing to take a chance on a film of its kind without trying to sell Happy Meals with toys inside them.

Based on true events, Ellen Burstyn plays a mother protecting her daughter’s undergoing demonic possession while seeking the advice and assistance of two priests.

3. PSYCHO (1960): After running away from her guilt of taking a substantial amount of money from her work place, Marion Crane finds solace in a lonely motel operated by an introverted Norman Bates. As mother Bates pears from the window of their nearby home, in the overprotective watching- over of her son, it may seem as if nothing will get between the love of a mother and her son… or any one!

Director Alfred Hitchcock weaved a sense of intrigue and mystery when he asked theater managers to not allow anyone in once the film started. He also asked that no one reveal the ending as well. PSYCHO continues to entertain and frighten viewers for over 50 years. Accompanied by the classic soundtrack created by Bernard Herrmann and the famous “shower scene”, the film presents a feel of horror mixed with whodunit results! A classic indeed.

2. THE LOST BOYS (1987): After a recent divorce, a mother and her two teenage sons move from Arizona to Santa Carla, CA to move in with her dad while readjusting her life. The boys soon find out that the nightlife around town takes on a whole different meaning than what they are used to. Sleep all day and party all night is the motto of a group of boys who will never grow old or die…but they must feed on blood to survive!

Jer and Alex Winter (Marco) THE LOST BOYS
  It was the summer of 1987 and I saw THE LOST BOYS at the Vogue Theater on Hollywood Blvd. during a midnight showing. I can say that I was officially ‘bitten’ and my vamp world began henceforth! Director Joel Schumacher mixes a blend of fashion, comedy and horror to make a hip vampire flick. Hey, it’s the 80’s, which means it also had a great soundtrack with music artists like INXS, Lou Gramm and Roger Daltrey lending songs to the film. With an MTV cinematography- like feel, mixed with So Cal ‘tude and teenage stars including Corey Feldman, Corey Haim and Kiefer Sutherland equal fun and fright!

Enjoy this truely remarkable video tribute to the tune of "Cry Little Sister" from the original soundtrack!

1. HALLOWEEN (1978): Fifteen years ago, young Michael Myers murdered his sister and was sent to a mental facility where he remained locked up under the care of his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis. Fifteen years later, Michael has waited for this day to arrive and plans his escape to return home and continue his senseless murdering rampage… his target is now aimed at three teenagers babysitting on the night of Halloween… the night that started it all.

By far, the first real film I saw that scared the crap out of me and made me appreciate the craft of true horror film making. Director John Carpenter would go on to make other classics like THE FOG and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, but he will always be recognized for creating the ‘slasher’ genre. Shortly thereafter, films like FRIDAY THE 13th, MY BLOODY VALENTINE and PROM NIGHT were released. Carpenter not only wrote and directed the film, but he also co- wrote, co- produced and performed the eerie soundtrack as well.
First Runner Up: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990): Here is a remake done right! Make-up artist virtuoso, Tom Savini (FRIDAY THE 13th, DAWN OF THE DEAD, CREEPSHOW) directs this revamp with original director’s George Romero’s blessing. It is the same storyline, punctuated with a little more intensity and drama… oh and plenty of gore, too! Who doesn’t like zombie films? Romero has been doing them since 1968. With recent films like SHAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIELAND, it seems as if the genre is not ready to die off just yet.

Whew! That was a workout! Now comes the easier part of the blog… determining the top 3 worst horror films. Moreover, please note that all of them are all re-makes that shouldn’t have been made. I give you…

The “Top 3” Worst Horror Films:

3. FRIDAY THE 13th (2009): What is the premise for re-making horror classics? Is it to show the alleged improvements in make- up and special effect to reveal more blood and gore? Maybe it’s to reshape and build on the storyline or maybe to give an intellectual approach to the psyche of a deranged individual and his forethought into his reasoning’s? Nah! It was to make money at any cost! Is today’s audience this gullible? Will they buy into anything and throw money out the window? In adding- in more violence, the removal of character development was evident. The original drew out a great twist of a story and the premise of using a camp site was creepy.  

2. PSYCHO (1998): A ridiculous and unnecessary remake if ever there was one. Can today’s audience not deal with the classic black and white to the point that we have to shoot the same film over again in color and with less- than talented actors? The answer is ‘yes.’ The story was the same, the photography was drawn from the same and the dialog is the same…hell, even the soundtrack is the same! What isn’t the same is the obvious absence of Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh and the direction and flare of Alfred Hitchcock!  

1. HALLOWEEN (2007): By far, the biggest crock of crap remade from a classic that didn’t need to be re-vamped. Director Rob Zombie made a huge ‘miss’ in his interpretation of the earlier exploits to help explain what may have caused Michael to become the murderer he would be. His vision is stereotypical in every case and misses the point entirely from what Carpenter’s vision was trying to create. The innocence of Michael’s middle- class upbringing in Carpenter’s film interprets as being more frightening because it just means that this could happen to anyone in any place. Zombie plays it off to a household enviornment plagued with a stripper mom, a drunken and abusive man living in home with them and a promiscuous sister. The home is a door- frame shy of a redneck trailer and the house is literally a target site for f-bombs dropped all too often.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Much agreed Jer - this is without a doubt the right time of the year to dive into the horror-film genre. I will try to respond with my top-10 here spanning a wide array of decades.

I will mention off the bat that "Nightmare on Elm Street” does not make my top-10 list and probably does not even reach my top-100 for a variety of reasons...primarily comprising a poor script, a dull pace and tone and performances that are sub-par to marginal at best.

Now for Chazz's Top-10:

10. "HALLOWEEN": This film is certainly a favorite running topic of my C.C. "Counterpart" Jer - and rightfully so. This perhaps ranks as one of the top American horror films ever made for so many reasons. The "teen" aspect of it hurts the ranking on my list however - and the plot is somewhat predictable. Still, the film is intense, graphic, horrifying and leaves you looking over your shoulders and around every corner on the way home. Also, how can we ever replace that chilling piano "melody" pieced together and holding the audience in a strangle for the duration of the film? The lighting is effective, the sets are purposeful and the performances and the script work for, well - for what the film stands for. Not rocket-science, but Carpenter developed a classic in 1978 for all ages and for many, many generations of film-makers and supporting cast to come...
A wonderful video tribute for HALLOWEEN

9. "BLACK SUNDAY"(1960): Another wonderful, yet amazingly horrifying Italian masterpiece. Bava directs this classic which most film students have either studied in class or without a doubt during their spare time. The film is disturbing as the cover-art and the direction, hues, sound and performances as well as the sparkling script work on a high level. I always thought that this film would play at Midnight somewhere in every big city with such a cult-like and chilling aspect to it.......perhaps one day. Imagery is crucial to this film and it's resonance: the blood, the mask with the spikes, the coffin and the crucifix are all prime examples of tools used to engage the audience into the very aspect of Italian cinema: symbolism, Catholicism, romanticism and eroticism......what a bizarre list, but how honest should I be here? Bava created a virtual masterpiece here and forced audiences to stare right into the eyes of a demon for nearly 2 hours......just incredible stuff here.

8. "THE RING": America's attempt at re-making "Ringu". Nicely done, but the film comes up short in virtually every aspect - but please do not confuse this with meaning that the film is not high-quality. Naomi Watts is outstanding as always and how fresh it was to see her in what was a new genre for her as well...

#7: "NOSFERATU": The original and classic film that began a genre that will never die. All film students should focus on this film as the primary inspirations for directors over the ages. The uses of shadow and light are what create the balance and relay the "creep" factor of the film. The performances are also genuine - almost to the point where they seem too real. A must see, and a tremendous film-study for those of you who are very serious about film.
Watch, if you dare, this disturbing preview to the classic!

#6. "JU-ON": So many similarities with #8 on my list, but this was the inspiration for #8. A must-see in this horrifying genre and certainly one of the best films to ever come out of Japanese Studios over the years. The performances and direction are so carefully crafted executed with a narrative and story-line that gives nothing away to the audience- no charity here. How wonderful and refreshing this concept is in a genre that unnervingly "dummied" audiences down in the 1970's and 1980's in America (sorry, Jer.....but the truth must be told). Director Shimizu creates perhaps one of the most chilling tales and inspiring works of art ever witnessed on screen in the horror genre - and this film is slowly creeping up my list into the top-5 as we speak.....

#5. "JAWS": Did any horror film have the impact on summer beach crowds more than this one? Nobody went near the water after such terror was placed on screen. The script is quite good - very underrated on numerous counts; the sound is classic; the performances are real and genuine and the story thickens and involves all generations and film-goers. Is it a great film or a great movie? Movie probably - but that does not keep it out of the top-5 on my list. Thumbs way, way up here.......

#4. "THE FLY" (1986) Here is remake (refer to previous C.C. blogs) that tops the original 30 years prior. Cronenberg (director) succeeds in creating a dark, hallowing (not Halloween....ahem) and creepy atmosphere through subtle and evasive touches of tone, sound, language, lighting, crisp editing, timing and camerawork. Davis (Geena...but maybe Bette would have worked too....ahem) and Goldblum are a perfect complement of one another and the film continues to fascinate this critic every 3-4 months upon a thorough viewing. Great horror flick and one of the top re-makes of all time in any genre.

JER: OK, I totally missed JAWS and THE FLY... I deserved to be flogged! Please continue, JC...

JOHNNY CHAZZ: #3. "SUSPIRIA": Haunting, creepy, bizarre, eerie, very 70's, hip, cultish, Italian, sexy, erotic, very Foreign a bit corny and disturbing. A must-see for any "to-be" horror-film director of the future.

#2. "THE SHINING": Kubrick amazed us with prior works during “Fahrenheit’ and “A Clockwork Orange”, but this was a step in another direction from Sci-Fi and to complete and utter Horror. Don't get me wrong - his prior films still had a haunting presence i.e.: (‘Hal’ in “2001: Space Odyssey” etc.). Still, Kubrick makes social statements through the film medium and tells his stories without hesitation or remorse. Why should Kubrick apologize for anything he throws at us? Thus, it should be expected that "horror" would be such an engaging genre for such a risk-taking and highly creative and cerebral director. Thus, Stephen King's adaptation of his novel "The Shining" was brilliant on all counts. The behind the scenes aspects of the "making" of this film and the weather / other conditions that were experienced by the film crew are riveting! I purchased this DVD many years ago and it is safe to say that I visit it roughly 3-5 times a year. This remains a strong #2 on my list.

#1: "THE EXORCIST": Beautifully and carefully filmed, edited with performances that remain the most fruitful part of the film. “The Exorcist” is honest, plot-focused, emotional, spiritual, passionate, freaky and flat-out phenomenal. The effects are simply amazing, not to mention the wonderful Director's Cut released a few years back. It is, beyond a doubt one of the best period pieces ever filmed in this genre (Georgetown and the college / church & priesthood atmosphere) during the late 60's and early 70's. Let's call this film what it really is - the Horror film of all-time.
 A very provoking tribute to one of the greatest!

JER: A very disturbing and interesting list, if I ever I saw one! We hope that you enjoyed our first “horror”- themed blog for the month of October! What do you think? Are there any films that you feel belong on the Top 10? Let us know what they could be… tune in next week when JOHNNY CHAZZ has a chance to unearth something wicked! Until then, rest well, boils and ghouls and we will SEE YOU NEXT

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!