Fear and the Factor of Money

The questions usually come up during some sort of gathering like a slumber party, asking if you would be willing to eat something gross or perform an embarrassing stunt. If you say no, someone would bring up the hypothetical, “What if someone gave you a million dollars to do it?” Then eating a bug or running naked across a football field seems more tempting with the promise of great monetary payout. 

The early 2000s are such an outrageous time capsule of American television. We saw the start of shows like Survivor, Big Brother, American Idol, The Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, and too many reality dating shows to count. Notorious stunt-competition show Fear Factor premiered on NBC in 2001. It’s initial run was 2001-2006, then it was revived from 2011-2012, then it was brought back once again by MTV from 2017-2018, for a grand total of 188 episodes. Contestants were put to physical tests that came out of a Hollywood stunt person’s playbook and gross-out tests that ranged from eating animal parts to sitting in boxes of snakes and worms. If contestants were brave enough, they could win the grand prize of $50,000, with a few special episodes offering $100,000 and $1 million dollar grand prizes. The show also did some celebrity competition episodes where the prize money would go to a charity of the celebrity’s choice and each charity would get at least $10,000, no matter how far the celebrity made it in the challenges.

There’s been versions of Fear Factor in 39 countries around the world. A Fear Factor contestant has actually died from injuries sustained during a stunt. In 2005, 22 year old Thai pop star Vaikoon Boonthanom was hit in the head with a 20kg barrel after failing a stunt where he was hanging from a crane and had to hold onto said barrel. Boonthanom later died from the massive brain injuries caused by the impact. The stunt was being filmed at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition centre and Police Colonel Satjapong Woranantrakul told reporters, “From the evidence obtained so far it looks like the accident was caused by the carelessness of the crane operator.”

In the early 2010s, the U.S. saw a bit of a trend in movies resembling the core of Fear Factor- Would You Rather, Cheap Thrills, and 13 Sins. All of these movies start off with the theme of “desperate times”; the full statement being, “desperate times call for desperate measures”. Medical expenses, losing a job, facing eviction, any sort of stressful financial uncertainty. Not having money to cover basic living needs can cause a person to feel shame, stress, and anxiety. 

These are psychological horror black comedy thrillers that resonate with Fear Factor and the Saw franchise in asking their audiences, “What would you be willing to do?”  

Would You Rather was directed by David Guy Levy and released in 2012. It stars Brittany Snow as Iris, who is left to take care of her younger brother, Raleigh, after the death of their parents. Raleigh has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant and Iris is desperate for money to pay home and medical bills. During a meeting with Raleigh’s oncologist, Iris is introduced to Shepard Lambrick (Re-Animator’s Jefferey Combs), the wealthy creator of the Lambrick Foundation, who invites her to a dinner and night of parlour games where there’s the potential to have all of her financial troubles taken care of and a donor at-the-ready for her brother. 

Upon arrival, we’re introduced to the other dinner guests, including Amy (Sasha Gray), John Heard (our dad from Home Alone) as recovering alcoholic Conway, war veteran Travis (Charlie Hofheimer), gamling addict Peter (Robb Wells), an elderly paralyzed woman (June Squibb), and Lambrick’s affluent son, Julian (Robin Lord Taylor). 

For their fancy dinner, there’s an entree of steak and foie gras, which Iris politely pushes away and apologizes that she didn’t mention sooner that she was a vegetarian. Seeing a prime opportunity, Lambrick sets up an “appetizer” for the game to come and offers Iris $5,000 to eat the steak and foie gras. Iris doesn’t respond, bewildered by his offer. “I refuse to accept that you don’t have a price,” Lambrick continues, and offers her $10,000. Iris begins cutting up the steak and eats it as Lambrick laughs heartily, “A lifetime of discipline and a commitment to cause wiped away for a mere $10,000.” A mere $10,000 to Lambrick could be months of electric bills paid for Iris or it could take a chunk out of her brother’s medical bills. 

Following dinner, each guest is given a glass of wine, which Conway refuses. A recovering alcoholic who is sixteen sixteen years sober, Lambrick offers him $10,000 to drink a glass of wine then the offer jumps to $50,000 for drinking an entire decanter of scotch. Lambrick eggs him on, saying, “A momentary lapse to change your life.” If you’re living with any sort of addiction or you’re on the path of recovering from an addiction, then you know that recovery is not linear and relapses are a part of recovery. A single glass of wine or a shitload of scotch would be a big setback for anyone turning to a sober life. 

The game of the night is Would You Rather. “At its core, it’s just a children’s game,” Lambrick reminds his guests, being there’s books and websites dedicated to more “innocent” choices. 

When Lambrick is questioned about why he’s making them play a game rather than helping everyone in the room, because clearly he has the means, he responds with, 

“As simple as the game is, it’s all about decision making in its rawest form and there’s no better window into a person’s character than the decisions that they make and how they make them and how one applies rationale and ethics and reason while under duress.” 

Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) in Would You Rather

The game quickly escalates to blood and violence, with Conway being shot in the head as he attempts to escape and the first round involving electrocution. With Lambrick out of the room, Julian begins taunting the guests and tells them, ”You agreed to be here. You’re basically asking my family for a handout. The least you could do, pig, is show some fucking respect.” Average mindset of the 1% when the idea comes up of them helping others live, right? The one who argues back against him, Travis, gets targeted in the next round, where he receives lashes with a thick leather whip that eventually kills him. The nail who stuck out and stuck up for himself got hammered back down. 

Iris and Lucas (Enver Gjokaj) become the last two contestants standing. For the final round, Lambrick gives Iris the option of both her and Lucas leaving with their lives but with no more money or she shoots Lucas and wins the game, getting all of the money and help she was promised for her and her brother. As Lucas attempts to plead with Iris and garner sympathy with his family struggles, she shoots him in the chest before he can get out more than a few sentences. 

As Iris is leaving, Lambrick looks at her and says, “I believe a ‘thank you’ is in order.” After being electrocuted, stabbed, almost drowning, being sexually assaulted, and having to shoot someone, she is told she should be thankful for his help. 

When Iris returns home, she find Raleigh dead, having committed suicide by overdose. Raleigh had been open with Iris that he had been having nightmares about himself on a sinking ship and how guilty he felt about being sick and that she was stuck taking care of him, thinking that she would rather be off living her own life. The tragedy of it all is that it was all for nothing and it’s a giant slap in the face to Iris.

Cheap Thrills is the directorial debut of E.L. Katz that premiered at South By Southwest in 2013, with a home video release following in 2014. The poster advertises, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you richer.”

Facing eviction with his wife and baby and getting fired from his job as a mechanic, Craig (Pat Healy) retreats to a bar where he runs into an old friend, Vince (Ethan Embry from The Devil’s Candy). Vince asks him how his writing career is going and Craig admits to him that it wasn’t working out well so he became a mechanic and that he just got fired from said mechanic job. 

While in the bathroom, Craig sees a rolled up $50 bill in a toilet bowl and he pauses, debating. It’s at the edge of the water and there’s nothing else in the toilet bowl but the clean water. We don’t see whether or not he grabs the money though. 

Coming back out into the bar, Vince calls Craig over to a table, where he has made two new friends, husband and wife, Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton). Colin and Violet apparently have more money than they know what to do with and start dangling it in front of Craig and Vince, ordering a $300 bottle of tequila then offering $50 to the first person at the table to down a shot. Craig is befuddled and Vince takes the shot. Craig is still apprehensive but Vince is eager to see what the night has in store.

The four leave the bar and move on to a strip club. Vince “dares” one of them to smack a woman at a strip club on the ass for $200. Not exactly a humorous dare; more like an assault dare. Vince does it and the four run from the club. The bouncer catches up to them and targets Craig as the one who assaulted one of the dancers. From the safety of their car, Colin calls out to Craig that he’ll give him $500 to hit the bouncer first. Craig gives the best punch he can for someone who has obviously never punched someone before then gets knocked out in one hit from the bouncer.

When he wakes up, Craig finds himself at Colin and Violet’s house where the fun continues. Colin explains that their frivolous night had a plan all along, 

“Like a reality game show, you know? The game shows when they gobble, like, animal dicks or, ya know, like, put their head in a bucket of snakes or eat bugs, ya know, shit like that. Except this isn’t tv, right? That, and there’s $250,000 tax-free dollars.”

Colin (David Koechner) in Cheap Thrills

Vince makes it clear that, “no matter how much money is in there, I’m not sucking his dick.” Way to be homophobic because no one brought that up but you were quick on the draw to bring it up. How many times you see dude-bros wearing the shirt that says, “I’m not gay but $20 is $20”.

Once sex is brought into the mix, Colin offers Craig money to have sex with his wife because they’re in an open relationship. In fact, he offers him $4,500, the amount needed to pay off his back rent and avoid eviction, which Colin reminds him of because he looked in his wallet while he was still unconscious after being punched by the bouncer. Craig, very begrudgingly, cheats on his wife and has sex with Violet.

These two are throwing money into a wrestling ring and finding entertainment in watching these two guys fight over it.  The final challenge of the night- kill your friend for $250,000. Craig and Vince are each told this in secret. As a slideshow plays, showing photos that Violet took with a digital camera throughout the evening, Vince sees a photo of him and Craig sitting up at the bar together before Colin and Violet called them over. When Vince tries to call Craig’s attention to this so they can get the hell out of there, Craig shoots and kills him. 

The night comes to a close with Colin saying, “It’s been good partying with you,” and the audience learning that Colin and Violet had a bet over who would kill the other in the end, with Colin betting on Vince and Violet betting on Craig. 

The movie does get cool points for using the Agent Orange song “Bloodstains” as a theme.

“Well, I know they know the way I think,

I know they always will,

But someday I’m gonna change my mind,

Sometimes I’d rather kill,

Blood stains, speed kills,

Fast cars, cheap thrills”

13 Sins is a 2014 remake of a movie made in Thailand that was released in 2006, 13 Beloved (13: Game Of Death or 13 game sayawng), based off of the 13th Quiz Show episode in the My Mania comic-book series by Eakasit Thairaat. The American version stars Mark Webber as Elliot, Devon Graye as Elliot’s brother, Michael; Tom Bower as their father, Rutina Wesley as Elliot’s fiancee, Shelby; and Ron Perlman as Detective Chilcoat. Some of the “games” are similar in the remake such as swatting and eating a fly, making a child cry, and even stringing up a  wire across the road to decapitate motorcyclists. A few are different though, like eating a place of feces at a fancy restaurant.

The film opens in Perth, Australia, at a University of Perth dinner where Professor Solomon, opens with vulgar jokes at a fancy dinner then proceeds to cut off the finger off of the woman next to him. As he reaches for his ringing cell phone a cop shoots him, and the cell phone continues to play “Entry of the Gladiators” by Julius Fucik, the ringtone used by those playing the game and it’s quite the festive carnival tune. 

We’re introduced to our main character Elliot as he’s leaving for his job at an insurance agency. He’s going in confident that he’s going to get a promotion when he’s actually getting fired. He stands by his decisions of selling an elderly woman a policy that was more in her price range, rather than the most expensive one, but he’s not bold enough to stand up to his boss and tell him off and his boss knows it, calling him out on his passive nature. Elliot can’t stand up to his boss nor can he stand up to his vindictive racist of a father, who is less than pleased that Elliot is engaged to a Black woman. 

While stopped at a red light, and being annoyed by a fly in his car, Elliot receives a phone call giving him the opportunity to play a game with thirteen challenges with great monetary gain. Having just been fired and with a wedding and baby on the way, he plays along with the first challenge- swatting the fly that has been besting him for $1,000. The next challenge is for him to eat the fly he just killed and he is offered the exact amount that would pay off his fiancee’s credit card debt. The caller also reminds Elliot that he has student loans he’s still paying on and that his brother has outpatient medical bills that need to be paid. Upon seeing the money appear in his bank account, he agrees to play further and tells the mysterious caller, “I will dance with the golden toad.”

As the challenges progress, the public and the police catch on that there’s one (or more) persons causing mayhem throughout the day. The caller gives Elliot a heads up and tells him that if he wins, they will make all of these charges go away and that, “Losers, however, are on their own.” Elliot ends up being wanted for assault, arson, child abuse, grand theft, desecration of a corpse, and mayhem, and that’s before he’s even done with all thirteen challenges. These are all things people with power and money can get away with on a regular basis. 

Elliot gets a taste of the “rich life” after cutting off the arm of his middle school bully and clocking that guy’s brother with a chair in a hospital waiting room then steals his car. Music up and windows down, driving fast in a fancy car and running red lights. 

Detective Chilcoat is on the case, knowing that these recent cases of mayhem go deeper than just someone acting out. The film’s opening credits show points marked on a world map, tied together like a conspiracy theorist or cop’s investigation, with emphasis put on XIII. He tracks down a man who is paranoid about “the game” after his wife killed their dog and then herself. He tells Chilcoat that, “Anyone can be turned into a monster.”

This is further proven when we learn that there’s a generational loop within the game. As he approaches the end of the game, Elliot is led to his father’s apartment. As it turns out, Elliot’s brother has also been playing the game throughout the day, too, as his opponent and they have reached challenge 13 at the same time- kill a family member. Their father is well-aware as to why the two are there, as he confesses that the reason their mother is dead wasn’t because of a simple car accident but rather an intentional one that he caused to beat the 13th challenge and win the game. Their father slits his own throat to prevent them from winning, having guilt over his own actions and trying to spare them. Leaving the brothers standing there, they end up shooting and stabbing each other, crying and shouting as they’re doing it. 

In the end, Elliot kills his brother and then kills Chilcoat, who has arrived at the scene with a can of gas and matches to clean up and cover up everything. In killing Chilcoat, Elliot has interfered with the game and thus loses all of the money that he has won. He calls his wife from a payphone to tell her he’s coming home and he slouches over on the bench, leaving us unsure if he’s relieved to see his wife again or if he’s slouching because he’s dead or dying from his injuries.  

Maine To Colorado Road Trip Playlist- Songs Inspired By Stephen King

“The Carpet” He Is Legend

“Take a second to let it all sink in

That you only call me

when you’ve been drinking

I’ve gotta curb your way of thinking

I’m not gonna hurt you

I’m gonna bash your brains in.”

Severely underrated band He Is Legend released their fourth album, Heavy Fruit, in 2014, after coming back from a hiatus. The album has a few spooky-vibing songs, such as “Something, Something, Something Witchy” and “ABRACADABRA”, and He Is Legend gave The Shining the treatment with their signature groove/alternative/metal sound. 

“Enjoy Your Slay” Ice Nine Kills (feat. Sam Kubrick)

“Face down in the lap luxury

Fuck the comforts of reality

Turn the page, disengage and destroy

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

“Enjoy Your Slay” was released as a single in May 2017, marked as “The Final Chapter” of their 2015 literary concept album, Every Trick In The Book. Sam Kubrick, vocalist of the metal band Shields and grandson of The Shining director Stanley Kubrick, graces the track as a guest vocalist. The song got a spot on their 2018 horror movie concept album, The Silver Scream

Gaining extra cool points, in 2019, Ice Nine Kills performed an acoustic set at The Stanley Hotel, King’s inspiration for The Overlook. The five-song set was recorded and Undead & Unplugged At The Overlook Hotel was released in June 2020 and, yes, it features “Enjoy Your Slay” as the set-closing song. 

“IT Is The End” Ice Nine Kills (featuring Peter “JR” Wasilewski and Buddy Schaub of Less Than Jake and Will Salazar of Fenix TX)

“A carnival of carnage

That much you assume

But it’s more than just a costume

and red balloons

IT’s coming back around every 27 years

IT’s everything you know

IT’s everything you fear”

The song had two music videos released- one that’s more theatrical and is 14 minutes long as a part of their prose music videos for The Silver Scream and one that was a performance video featuring Matt Appleton and John Christianson from Reel Big Fish on stage playing the horns, recorded on their summer 2019 tour. “IT Is The End” became their encore song on tour with lead singer Spencer Charnas returning to the stage in the same clown outfit that he wears for the music video, complete with red balloons. (“99 luftballoons…”) 

“Hell In The Hallways” Ice Nine Kills

“When happily ever after

Came crashing from the rafters

She knew she wasn’t meant to wear

their crooked crown

But look who’s laughing now”

Yes, three Ice Nine Kills songs in a row, but that’s what happens when a bunch of horror fans come together in a metalcore band. And they’re not the only band with multiple songs on this list. 

In an interview with Metal Hammer, Charnas spoke of King’s Carrie as, “widely regarded as one of the best horror novels of the twentieth century. Its imagery will forever be embedded in the darkest recesses of pop culture. In our track ‘Hell In The Hallways’, our goal was to pay tribute to this legendary cautionary tale.” The actress who plays Carrie in the music video should been cast in a remake, in my opinion.

“Pet Sematary” The Ramones

“I don’t want to be buried in a Pet Sematary

I don’t want to live my life again

Follow Victor to the sacred place

This ain’t a dream, I can’t escape

Molars and fangs, the clicking of bones

Spirits moaning among the tombstones”

While it was nominated for the Worst Original Song at the 1989 Razzie Awards, “Pet Sematary” became one of the most well-known Ramones songs as it was one of the few that got radio play with the release of the movie of the same name. In the novel Pet Sematary, King brings up the Ramones a couple of times, even having Louis Creed check into a motel using “Ramone” as a false name.  

Potentially the most-covered Ramones song, it was covered by Starcrawler for the 2019 Pet Sematary remake (still used during the end credits), The Haxans, Plain White T’s, The Casualties, The Creepshow, Hawthorne Heights, and covered live by Rammstein, The Misfits, and Blondie. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie make cameos in the music video for “Pet Sematary”, too.  

“We All Float Down Here” Iwrestledabearonce

“Come closer dear so you can hear me.

Give me your name. I’ll speak it softly.

You will be consumed.

Let it seep right through.”

“We All Float Down Here” was released on the fourth, and final, Iwrestledabearonce album, Hail Mary. The shortest summation of Iwrestledabearonce’s sound is experimental metal, but their variety of sound has included djent, electronic, deathcore, mathcore, progressive metal, and, early on, grindcore. Hail Mary was the second IWABO album to feature Courtney LaPlante on vocals, growling lyrics like, “We’re still floating. We all float down here.” 

“Pennywise” Pennywise 

“He’s a monster, he’s not human

He’s more than just a figment

of your imagination

You can’t run, can’t hide

There’s no way to escape Pennywise”

“Pennywise” by Pennywise from their album Pennywise. 

The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 1991, five years after IT was published and one year after the television movie starring Tim Curry was released. Since then, Pennywise have released twelve studio albums, a live album, and a live DVD. 

“All Work No Play” Dr. Acula 

“There’s no excuse for it, this shit has got to end

All work no play has turned this dull boy

into a monster” 

Although the song takes its name from the repetitive, manic writing of Jack Torrence, “All Work No Play” opens with a sampling of Otis Driftwood from The Devil’s Rejects quoting Charles Manson. The song appears on the fourth studio album of deathcore band Dr. Acula, Slander. As you can tell by the use of Dracula for their name, Dr. Acula pepper in horror references throughout their songs, sampling horror movie dialogue and getting many of their earlier song titles from the titles of Goosebumps books. 

“Ride The Lightning” Metallica

“Guilty as charged

But damn it, it ain’t right

There is someone else controlling me

Death in the air

Strapped in the electric chair

This can’t be happening to me”

Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett is a huge horror fan, known for his incredibly large collection of horror and sci-fi posters, props, and other memorabilia, to the point that there’s a book called It’s Alive: Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Movie Posters From The Kirk Hammett Collection and even limited edition Pop Vinyls of him as Frankenstein’s monster and the Creature From The Black Lagoon. 

As Metallica were writing their second studio album, Hammett was reading King’s The Stand and recalled in an interview with Rolling Stone, “there was this one passage where this guy was on death row said he was waiting to ‘ride the lightning’. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, what a great song title.’ I told James (Hetfield), and it ended up being a song and the album title.”

“The Shining” Black Sabbath

“Oh  rise up, to the shining

Wise up they’re gonna steal your mind

Rise up, the house is gonna haunt you

No one laughed, no one cried

You stayed too long

You’re finally gonna stay”

The Eternal Idol is the thirteenth studio album from heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath and was the first album to feature Tony Martin as their vocalist, after a revolving door of replacement vocalists after Ozzy Osbourne. “The Shining” was the first single from the album and when it came time to make the music video, they didn’t have an official bassist so they pulled someone off the street, who happened to be a guitarist, to stand-in during the filming of the music video. 

“Disciples Of The Watch” Testament

“Your fate is all that you’ll see

I am the one

To show you the path

Salvation is in the fields

Listen up children and follow me

Or I’ll let you pay the price

Of Malachi!” 

Children Of The Corn was a short story that was first published in a 1977 issue of Penthouse and then in 1978 in King’s collection of short stories, Night Shift. The movie was released in 1984 and was followed by several sequels and re-imaginings. In 1988, thrash metal band Testament released their second album, The New Order, featuring “Disciples Of The Watch”, a song that remains one of Testament’s most played live songs. 

“Lone Justice” Anthrax

“Burn ’em, clear the streets

as he rides into the town

Cause the nameless one’s gonna have some fun

He’s gonna bring an outlaw down”

The five short stories that make up The Gunslinger were published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction between 1978 and 1981. The Gunslinger stories were collected and published in 1982 as the first volume in King’s The Dark Tower series. “Lone Justice”, Anthrax’s song about The Gunslinger appears on their second album, Spreading The Disease, that was released on October 30 (Devil’s Night),1985. 

“A Skeleton In The Closet” Anthrax

“It’s insanity, puppetmaster boy or Nazi

Apt pupil, he hears the screams”

Apt Pupil was a novella published in 1982 in King’s collection, Different Seasons. The story follows Todd Bowden, who believes his elderly German neighbor is a fugitive Nazi war criminal. The novella has two movie adaptations, a stage adaptation, and the Family Guy episode “German Guy” is based on the story. Among The Living was Anthrax’s third studio album. It was released in 1987 and the album was certified Gold in 1990.

The album also features the title track…

“Among The Living”  Anthrax 

“Spreading the disease.

With some help from Captain Trips,

He’ll bring the world down to his knees.”

In King’s epic novel the stant The Stand, “Captain Trips” is the nickname given to the virus that kills almost the entirety of the world’s population. Some believe that the man depicted on the album cover for Among The Living is Randall Flagg, the antagonist of King’s novel. 

“Misery Loves Company” Anthrax 

“Write for me, and only me

A really extra special story

Make it mine, every line

Don’t make me sorry”

Based on King’s novel, Misery, the song “Misery Loves Company” appears on Anthrax’s fourth album, State Of Euphoria. The album also has their cover of Trust’s song “Antisocial”, which was dropped in the 2017 reimagining of IT during the rock fight scene. 

Who Made Who album by AC/DC

“Who made who, who made you?

If you made them and they made you

Who picked up the bill, and who made who?”

In 1986, horror fans received the utterly campy treat that was Maximum Overdrive. King wrote the screenplay and directed the movie based off of his short story “Trucks” from his Night Shift collection of shorts. The movie was nominated for Worst Director and Worst Actor with Emilio Estevez at the Golden Raspberry Awards in 1987 (both lost to Under The Cherry Moon, directed by and starring Prince). The music for the movie was written by AC/DC, who then released the Who Made Who album as the “soundtrack” to the movie. The album also featured the singles “Hells Bells” and a re-issue of “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

We Are Ready For Scream 5

We are ready for a Scream 5 and have been ready for years now. 

In this essay I will…

Okay, I’m past the attempt at a witty introduction. 

We need to go back to the beginning.

In 1994, writer Kevin Williamson saw news reports on the trial of Danny Rolling AKA The Gainesville Ripper. Rolling had gone on a killing spree in August 1990 and savagely killed five college students over a period of three days, terrifying the city to the point that parents were urging their kids to leave campus and come home before classes had even begun. During the murder of University of Florida student Christa Hoyt, Rolling had cut off her head and displayed it on a bookshelf in an attempt at grotesque humor. Williamson was enthralled and terrified of the case.

Thus, Scream was born. 

The opening Marion Crane-esque kill of Drew Barrymore’s Casey shared in the shocking nature of Christa Hoyt’s murder, with Casey being gutted and her body displayed, hanging from a tree. 

As director Wes Craven was scouting locations for Woodsboro High, Santa Rosa High School looked to be the ideal American high school. The school board wanted to read the script before approving them filming there and promptly turned them down after reading the script, citing the violence involving teenagers and the cynical dialogue. Parents and newspaper articles drew comparisons to the kidnapping and murder of twelve year old Polly Klaas in 1993 in Petaluma, about a half hour drive away from Santa Rosa. Craven and crew were denied permission to film at the high school and “Woodsboro High” ended up being the Sonoma Community Center. Craven left the school a special note in the credits for Scream saying, “No thanks whatsoever to the Santa Rosa City School District Governing Board.”

With the wild success of Scream, Scream 2 began production right on its heels. The internet was still young at the time, but someone was still able to get a hold of the Scream 2 script and publish it online, complete with the ending revealing who the killers were. Williamson had to frantically work to rewrite the script as the movie was filming and the cast were not given the pages that revealed who the killers were until the days they were filming the scenes. At a point in Scream 3, it’s even mentioned that there were multiple scripts written in an attempt to keep the ending off of the internet. Subtle, right? 

Timothy Olyphant plays Sidney’s classmate, Mickey, who has been recruited by “Debbie Salt”/Mrs. Loomis/Billy’s Mother to torment and kill Sidney. After the opening kill at a movie theater that is showing a preview of Stab, his class gets into a discussion about violence in movie where Sarah Michelle Gellar argues that, “movies are not responsible for our actions,” and Mickey drops the bomb of, “it’s just another classic case of life imitating art imitating life”. After he reveals himself as one of the killers to Sidney, she compares him to one of the original killers, Billy, and he argues that he is different because he wanted to get caught because, “these days it’s all about the trial. Can you see it? The effects of cinema violence on society. I’ll get Dershowitz or Cochran to represent me. Bob Dole on the witness stand in my defense. Hell the Christian Coalition’ll pay my legal fees. It’s airtight Sid. I’m an innocent victim.” Dershowitz and Cochran defended O.J. Simpson during the vastly televised murder trial of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman where, ultimately, Simpson was found not guilty.  

Mrs. Loomis’ motive “isn’t as 90s as Mickey’s” and it’s just good, old-fashioned revenge a la Mrs. Voorhees. 

About two years after the release of Scream 2, two student gunmen massacred thirteen people at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado on April 20, 1999. The public was quick to circle with theories as to their motivations, with conservatives harshly pointing at the violent movies the pair were fans of, the violent video games they played, and musicians they were fans of- Marilyn Manson and KMFDM. Scream 3 was just about to begin production when the shooting occurred and it caused the studio to stop and think. Craven was pushed to focus more on the comedic elements of the franchise, move away from violence involving younger adults/teenagers, move away from the high school setting, and the studio was ready to push them to drastically cut down on the violence and gore to the point of not showing any blood or violence on screen. Craven pushed back and told the studio, “Either we make a Scream movie or we make a movie and call it something else. But if it’s a Scream movie, it’s going to have certain standards.” 

Scream 3 REALLY calls shit out directly. The script for the movie was written by Ehren Kruger (who later wrote the Transformers movies) based on pages and pages of notes from Williamson. When Sidney confronts Roman, she’s confronting everyone who turn and point the finger at violent movies or video games as the cause of violent acts among young adults.”Do you know why you kill people, Roman? Because you choose to. Why don’t you take some fucking repsonsibility?”

These arguments are nothing new and still flare up on occasion, even twenty years later. In July 2012, a gunman in a movie theater began shooting at patrons during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. People noted his dyed bright orange hair and how it “resembled” Batman villain, The Joker. In 2019, Warner Bros. released a solo Joker movie that was smothered in controversy. People worried it would cause violence, citing the Aurora theater shooting and families of the shooting victims wrote to Warner Bros. urging them to consider what could happen upon releasing the movie. We don’t hear about midnight movie releases anymore, either. Those have changed to Thursday evening showings typically at 7pm or 9pm. 

Scream 4 takes less jabs at societal trends and more at the genre trends. The opening scene hits audience with a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie and by the time we get to the actual opening kill, Jenny has a back and forth with the Killer of, “You’re the dumb blonde with the big tits- we’ll have some fun with you before you die.”

“I have a 4.0 GPA and 135 I.Q., asshole!”

During the killer climax (Part One), the Killer asks Kirby a question about remakes and before they can even finish the question, Kirby hysterically lists off about a dozen horror movie remakes that had come out within the last ten years, playing the odds that one of them was bound to be the answer. By the time she got to the fifth remake, the theater I was in was rolling with laughter. The loudest I ever heard a movie theater get was after Sidney says, with gusto, “You forgot the first rule of remakes, Jill- don’t fuck with the original.” And we can’t forget that Scream 4 was intended to be the start of a new trilogy, too, with Craven being vocal about hopes for at least a Scream 5 even before the theatrical release of Scream 4. 

And here we are in 2020…yeah, it’s some heavy bullshit. 

There have been a LOT of happenings in the nearly ten years since the release of Scream 4. 

“New decade, new rules,” might not even be enough to cover it now. 

The Scream movies have been the slasher equivalents of George Romero’s zombie movies. Romero said that his zombie movies were “snapshots of the time they were made” and this holds very true, looking back over the 41 year span that they were made. The Scream movies have timestamps all over them. We can see the progression of time between the movies between the evolving cell phone technology and the progression of Gale’s hair. 

Maybe there’s a true crime podcast, complete with Hello Fresh ads, and some more armchair sleuths, giving us our Randy homages. Maybe there’s more social media aspects or more attempts at copycats. Maybe we see even more of the movie-within-the-movie Stab, even that one that deals with time travel. Perhaps they’ll take jabs at the Scream television show. 

And for the love of all things holy and satanic can we PLEASE have Kirby be alive and well? 

It looks like we’re having our main players return to the franchise (with Courtney Cox and David Arquette confirmed at the time I’m typing this), but even after Jamie Lee Curtis signed on for the 2018 Halloween, fans were still having doubts and were vocal about them. The “success” of the movie is still up for debate amongst fans, but it brought it over $75 million its opening weekend and you can’t argue numbers so much. 

Personally, I’m about at the same point that I was after Saw V where I just felt like, “Fuck it, as long as I have fun.” Let’s not forget how much of a loopdeloop the throughline in Saw became. 

Will the Scream movies be the same without Wes Craven? No. 

We all miss him and the potential work he could have done.

And that’s all okay. 

Personally, I’m just going with faith from the past and to the future of the genre. We’ve seen how slashers go after their fourth or fifth entries. Jason, Michael, and Freddy still went to hell and back (literally in a couple cases), outer space, and there were supernatural children, gaining immortality through a cult we never learned anything about, and getting blown up at the end of the day only to come back a few years later in a new movie. 

I shared in the apprehension with the official announcement of a Scream 5 but upon hearing that Matt Bettinelli and Tyler Gillett, who directed the 2019 success Ready Or Not, I was on board. Ready Or Not was one of my favorites of last year with outstanding suspense and gore slathered over layers of a story. James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and Guy Busick (Ready Or Not) are coming on to write with Wiliamson moving to being a producer. 

Dare I used a Spongebob image to end this?

I’ll just say it.

I’m ready. 

Playlist Of The Living Dead

“Night Of The Living Dead” The Misfits 

Stumble in some ambulance so 

Pre-dawn corpses come to life 

Armies of the dead surviving 

Armies of the hungry ones”

The Misfits’ single “Night Of The Living Dead” was released at their Halloween show at Irving Plaza in 1979, with the B-sides “Where Eagles Dare” and a cover of Allan Sherman’s “Rat Fink”. The song was re-recorded for their debut album released in 1982, Walk Among Us. It’s almost odd to think that The Misfits were writing songs about the George Romero classic ten years after its release when it seems so long ago now.

“George Romero Will Be At Our Wedding” Showbread 

“Night turns to dawn, and dawn into day

And the land overflows with the dead

Where did I last hold you in my arms?  

What was the last thing that you said?

Some hide underground, others hide in a mall

I still drag myself through the streets.” 

If you know me, you know this song will often make an appearance on my Halloween playlists. “George Romero Will Be At Our Wedding” is on Showbread’s fifth studio album, 2006’s Age Of Reptiles, which was their only album to crack the Billboard Top 200, peaking at #198. 

“Living Dead Girl” Rob Zombie 

“Who is this irresistible creature

Who has an insatiable lust for the dead?

Living dead girl!”

A quintessential Halloween song, “Living Dead Girl” has been played in Bride Of Chucky, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake, and even an episode of Dawson’s Creek. The song samples the horror movies Lady Frankenstein, Wes Craven’s The Last House On The Left, and Daughters Of Darkness. Even the music video is an ode to the 1920 silent-horror film The Cabinet Of Dr.Caligari and 1932’s White Zombie. 

“Uneeda” Labadie House 

“A can of flesh lies in front of me.

Choking and gagging, smoke is all I see. 

What have I done to my society?

I feel a presence now surrounding me.

The pain of being dead

The only thing that numbs the pain

Is the thing inside my head.”

Hailing from Oklahoma, Labadie House is a medley of alternative horror stoner punk rock. Their latest release, the EP Labadie House I, was released in July 2020 and helps to make it feel like Halloween in July. The song “Uneeda” takes its name from Uneeda Medical Supply (*ba dum tss*), the warehouse that dooms humanity in the 1985 punk rock zombie flick, Return Of The Living Dead.

“Party Time” The Haxans

“They don’t know the acid rain

Is coming down to make them insane.

Do you want to party?

It’s party time.”

Let’s just hop right to another one about Return Of The Living Dead, shall we? 

The Haxans consists of singer Ash Costello from New Years Day and Matt Montgomery “Piggy D” from Rob Zombie’s band. They released their first full-length album, Party Monsters, in 2017. This song is a mix of an original and a cover, taking the intro and chorus from 45 Grave’s “Partytime” but mixing in original verses with lyrics about the movie in a more up-beat version of the song. 

“Zombies Ate Her Brain” The Creepshow

“We’ll once upon a time there was a sweetheart

A pretty girl with lips of red

She took a walk down by the graveyard

And out of nowhere something grabbed her head!

I heard that zombies ate her brains.”

A short but sweet song, clocking in at 1:29, Canadian psychobilly band The Creepshow unleashed this ripper on their debut album, Sell Your Soul, in 2006. The song was released as a single with a music video, complete with an RKO Pictures-esque opening production logo.  

“Zombies Ate My Neighbors” Single File

“Call the neighbor kids

The trash can lids

With buckets on their heads

‘Cause I’m telling you

We’re gonna need a little help tonight.”

Switching it up with something more pop-punk, Single File’s “Zombies Ate My Neighbors” is on their first, and only, full-length release, Common Struggles. The title comes from the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis game of the same name. The video game was released in 1993 and would still make a fun zombie movie, but it’s still stuck in development limbo for about the last ten years.  

“Kill Or Become” Cannibal Corpse 

“Viral contagion unleashed upon the earth

Billions of infected dead soon rise

Stalking the living to feast upon the flesh

It’s fight or flee to survive.”

Coming from Cannibal Corpse’s thirteenth studio album, A Skeletal Domain, “Kill Or Become” was released as a single with a music video. Known for their horrifically gore-filled song titles and lyrics, Cannibal Corpse has been attacked by conservative critics since the 90s to the point of their records being banned in Australia and Germany. 

“Zombie Ritual” Death 

“Drifting from the living, joining with the dead

Zombie dwelling maggots, now infest your head

Zombie ritual”

Considered by some to be the first death metal record, Death released their debut album Scream Bloody Gore in 1987. “Zombie Ritual” originally appeared on their Mutilation demo. The song was inspired by the Italian movie Zombie (or Zombi 2) directed by Lucio Fulci. 

“Dead As Fuck” and Not My Type: Dead As Fuck 2″ Motionless In White

“Pulled her from the dirt,

caught a look in her eyes

She’s got worms in her mouth,

spiderwebs in her hair

Yeah she may be fucking dead but I don’t care.”

Motionless In White have a song writing trend of doing a series of connected songs, sequels, if you will. “Dead As Fuck” was released on 2014’s Reincarnate and samples dialogue from Beetlejuice, “To the living, let now the dead come alive”, makes the sexual “boomstick” innuendo, and an animated music video was released. 

“And in the glow of the pale moonlight

She goes for a spin on my haunted hayride

Tried out the living but I don’t believe the hype

‘Cause if she’s got a pulse, then she’s not my type”

The follow-up was “Not My Type: Dead As Fuck 2” on their 2017 album, Graveyard Shift. Both songs had shirts with creepy gore-tastic lyrics from their respective titles released for them. 

“Early Sunsets Over Monroeville” My Chemical Romance 

“Up and down escalators

Pennies and colder fountains

Elevators and half price sales

Trapped in by all these mountains

Running away and hiding with you

I never thought they’d get me here

Not knowing you’d change from just one bite

I fought them all off just to hold you close and tight”

Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas have become known as the “Zombie Capital Of The World” thanks to George Romero and his series of zombie movies. His second zombie, Dawn Of The Dead, was filmed mostly at the Monroeville Mall. “Early Sunsets Over Monroeville” appeared on My Chemical Romance’s debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, an album that also features vampires and other undead characters. Lead singer Gerard Way has described the song as “a sweet song about Dawn of the Dead“, with lyrics that paint it more as a romantic tragedy within a horror movie.

The 13th Anniversary Of Whitechapel’s The Somatic Defilement

We have a birthday in the house! A beast of an album is a teenager now!

Deathcore pioneers Whitechapel released their debut album The Somatic Defilement on July 31, 2007. 

The original artwork for The Somatic Defilement in 2007

The band from Tennessee take their name from the East London district of Whitechapel, where eleven vicious unsolved murders took place between 1888-1891, “the Whitechapel murders”, where some to all of the murders have been credited to the infamous Jack the Ripper. 

There were five canonical Ripper victims- Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. Other noted murder victims during the time of the Whitechapel Muders were Emma Elizabeth Smith, Martha Tabram, Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, and Frances Coles. A unidentifiable woman’s torso was found completely dismembered and she is just simply known as the Pinchin Street torso. Investigators did not believe this woman was a victim of the Ripper, perhaps another victim of the “Thames Torso Murders” but given that we have never learned the identity of Jack the Ripper nor the Torso Killer, it was possible that the two were one in the same. 

Metal bands referencing serial killers and gore and horror movies goes together like chips and salsa, going back to Death’s 1987 debut album Scream Bloody Gore, with songs like “Regurgitated Guts” and “Evil Dead”, and most of the Cannibal Corpse and Macabre catalogs. Cradle Of Filth’s 1998 album Cruelty And The Beast concept album about the “blood countess” Elizabeth Bathory. Even 80’s pop duo Hall & Oates mention Charles Manson and “Son Of Sam” David Berkowitz in their song “Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear The Voices)”. Don’t think we forgot Kesha name-dropping Jeffrey Dahmer in her song “Cannibal”, helping to prove that the idea is not limited to the metal-genre. 

Whitechapel’s line up on The Somatic Defilement was lead vocalist Phil Bozeman, Gabe Crisp on bass, Kevin Lane on drums, and three guitarists- Ben Savage, Brandon Cagle, and Alex Wade. 

So the album is 90% related to Jack to Ripper, with lyrics written in first-person either as the Ripper or a more generic killer who shares similar sadistic sexual motivations of the Ripper. “Festering Fiesta” is about Jeffrey Dahmer and opening track, “Necrotizing”, feature excerpts from an interview that Dahmer did with TV reporter Stone Phillips.  

“Fairy Fay” took its title from the nickname given to an unidentified woman whose body was found in a doorway on December 26, 1887 (before the spree “officially” began), but she was never one of the canonical Ripper victims. 

And the song entitled “Ear To Ear” speaks for itself. 

In the nearly 135 years since the Ripper’s reign, there have been countless theories into the killer’s identity (or identities), investigations, interviews, books, television specials, and tours taking people through the streets and corners of the murders. There is now a tour focusing on the lives of the five canonical victims, rather than the Ripper themselves- The Feminist Jack The Ripper Tour. There are more and more works being published bringing the truths of the lives of women in the late 1800s rather than having blanket statements that “the Ripper just killed sex workers”. Thanks to Gracie and Abbey of Good Mourning, Nancy Podcast for bringing these articles to my attention in their episode on 2001’s From Hell (I cannot recommend their podcast enough).   

The Somatic Defilement was re-issued on April 16, 2013 with updated mixes and artwork. 

Re-release artwork from 2013

The band has released six more albums since, including a live album recorded in 2015. Whitechapel’s latest release is an acoustic version of “Hickory Creek” from their 2019 release The Valley (talk about sound evolution and it’s really fucking good). 

Music To Be Murdered By

American Psycho

American Psycho is probably one of the first movies that comes to mind when you think of music in horror movies and rightfully so. I’ll be the first to admit that I still dance like Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) whenever Huey Lewis & The News “Hip To Be Square” comes on. 

I think their undisputed masterpiece is ‘Hip to be Square’, a song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it’s also a personal statement about the band itself.”

The Final Girls

So the needle drops during a kill scene in a horror movie can bring some levity to the moment, maybe some dark humor. 

The Final Girls isn’t one of those movies.

The Final Girls uses “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes as a cue that we’re about to see Malin Akerman die on screen, either as Max’s mom, Amanda, or as the girl with a clipboard and a guitar in an 80’s camp slasher, Nancy. 

And it hurts. 

Rob Zombie’s Firefly Family Trilogy 

Of course the guy who fronts a metal band would pick great songs to use in his movies. 

Starting with House OF 1,000 Corpses, Bill (Rainn Wilson) gets strung up and tortured and transformed into Fish Boy while Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) turns on the radio and dances around to “Brick House” by The Commodores. The finale of The Devil’s Rejects sees the trio doing their best impersonations of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid while Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” plays ever so epically. Following the three miraculously surviving the barrage of bullets, their story continues as Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby, and Foxy (Richard Brake) flee to Mexico. With a bounty on their heads, they’re forced to fight for their lives as the sound of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly swells up to play over a slow-motion fight scene.

Rest In Peace Sid Haig, our Captain. 

Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U

Happy Death Day has become a surprise Blumhouse fan-favorite. In the first movie, Tree (Jessica Rothe) tries to narrow down the list of her possible killers as she’s stuck in a time loop where at the end of each day she gets stabbed…or held under water until she drowns…or blown up. As she makes her way down the list of suspects, while also chopping her hair and dying it pink and walking across the school’s courtyard naked, Demi Lovato’s “Confident” plays.

In Happy Death Day 2U, as Tree has to buy more time for her friends to figure out the correct algorithms to close the time loop in the correct dimension, it’s suggested that she kills herself before at the end of the day rather than waiting for her killer to get to her. Feeding into the dark, almost ironic humor that the Happy Death Day movies have developed, Paramore’s “Hard Times” plays over Tree’s suicide montage.

With hopes a third movie is still coming, now we can wonder what the murder/suicide montage song could be.

Pet Sematary

Stephen King is known to be a huge fan of punk pioneers The Ramones so he approached them to write the title song for the 1989 adaption of his novel Pet Sematary. King gave a copy of the book to bassist Dee Dee Ramone and then he came up with lyrics. The movie cuts to black as reanimated Rachel (Denise Crosby) picks up a knife to stab her grieving husband, Louis (Dale Midkiff), then as we hear him scream in terror over a black screen Johnny Ramone’s guitar riff kicks in. 

The 2019 remake still uses the song “Pet Sematary” in the beginning of their credits sequence as a cover performed by Starcrawler. 

At least that movie still used the song somehow. 


Hearing about this kill scene is what made me want to watch Ma and it was well-worth it. 

Driving her pickup truck, Sue Ann (a brilliant Octavia Spencer) plows down Mercedes (Missi Pyle) while she’s on her jog, leaves her in a twisted and bloody mess, tosses in calling her a “cunt” for good measure, then turns on the radio and “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire comes on. 

Quite the celebratory kill song. 

Shaun Of The Dead

“It’s on random.”

The jukebox at the Winchester Pub seems to personally attack Shaun (Simon Pegg) twice. First after he’s dumped by his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), and “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago begins to play. Secondly, as zombies are swarming the pub and backing all of them into a corner, “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen comes on and Shaun, Ed (Nick Frost), and Liz all grab pool cues and begin hitting the now zombiefied bartender to the beat of the song. 

“David, kill the Queen! The jukebox!” 

Return Of The Living Dead

“Do you wanna paaartaaay? It’s party time!”

“Party Time” by goth punk rockers 45 Grave has become like the theme song to 1985’s Return Of The Living Dead. The song plays twice in the movie and the second round is when the toxic rain begins to pour and dead bodies begin to rise from the dirt and, to quote the tagline on the poster, “They’re back from the grave and ready to party!”

Reservoir Dogs

Ok so it’s not a horror movie but it’s too good to not include on the list. 

After the fuck up that was them trying to pull off a jewelry heist, the four remaining strangers return to their fallback spot (an empty warehouse) and they have brought back cop as a hostage. As tension rises amongst the group, suspecting one of their own is either a cop or is an informant, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) decides to torture the cop, partially for fun and partially to try and get answers. “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Strealers Wheel plays on the radio as Mr. Blonde cuts off the cop’s ear, taps it like a microphone, and asks, “Is this thing on?” 

Diary Of The Dead- “There Will Always Be People Like You”

Content warnings: true crime, shock websites, animal cruelty, police brutality

George Romero has said of his zombie movies that they are, “just sort of snapshots of the time they were made.” His fifth zombie movie, Diary Of The Dead was released in the United States on February 22, 2008, and we’re still living in that snapshot. 

Welcome to it. 

As I was writing on Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead, and Day Of The Dead, it felt more like I was writing about history with parts of the present-day peppered in there. Land Of The Dead was feeling closer to home, as the movies crossed over into the new millenium. Diary Of The Dead is today. If I put off writing this another day or even another hour I’m sure I could add more examples and more comparisons but there’s no time like the present, I suppose. 

The World Wide Web was opened to the public in 1991, and it has been a blessing and a curse ever since. YouTube was launched in 2005 with its first video posted by co-founder Jawed Karim entitled “Me at the zoo”. Now, YouTube has over 2 billion users and over 5 billion videos now with an estimated 1 billion hours of videos being watched daily. Facebook launched in 2004 and in 2020 there’s an estimated 2.45 billion accounts with 1.69 billion people using it on a daily basis. 

If you were trying to be extra edgy in the early 2000s then you knew about the subculture that was “shock sites”. Most were some sort of forum with videos exhibiting some sort of violence and gore or something on the extreme end of sexual and sometimes sexual crimes. The online shock gallery Rotten launched in 1996 and ran with the tagline, “An archive of disturbing illustration” Rotten was active up until 2012 and in 2017 the site was taken down. 

Possibly the most popular shock site, Best Gore, is still active today with an estimated 10-15 million visits each month. The site was created by Mark Marek in 2008, the site showcases videos and images of surgeries, the aftermath of accidents, torture, and suicides and murders.

Enter offender Luka (fuckface) Magnotta- a sociopathic prick who became famous on the internet after posting animal cruelty videos in starting in 2010 with “1 Boy, 2 Kittens” (a play on the classic shock video from 2007  “2 Girls, 1 Cup”). In 2012, his crimes escalated and he filmed himself murdering Lin Jun and desecrating his corpse and titled the video “1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick” and posted it to the Best Gore website. The video stayed up for about eight days, until Magnotta was named as a suspect in the act. Magnotta was arrested, tried, and convicted for the murder in 2014. A Netflix documentary about the case, Don’t Fuck With Cats, was released in December 2019 and it showed us the power and integrity of internet sleuths can be used for the greater good and I’d like to give a personal salute to the people of Don’t Fuck With Cats. 

Mark Marek was charged in 2013 in Canada with one count of corrupting morals for allowing the murder and desacration video of Jun to be posted to Best Gore, a charge that could bring up to two years in prison. After being released on bail then being arrested again for violating the terms of his release, Marek pleaded guilty again in 2016 and was given a sentence of three months house arrest and three months of community service. 

What gets into our heads when we see something horrible? A horrible accident on the highway. Something keeps us from just driving on. Something holds us. But we don’t stop to help. We stop to look.

Debra in Diary Of The Dead

Using “shock” to get attention isn’t limited to the digital media and it’s not limited to the “new millenium”. The morning after Orson Welles’ The War Of The Worlds broadcast in 1938, news papers used buzzwords and dramatic phrases fueled the lore about the aftermath of the show, from suicide attempts to people running for the hills. And how many times have the bold letters on the cover of The National Enquirer caught your eye at the check out lines in the grocery store? Weekly World News told us about the Bat Boy, aliens talking to politicians and getting into fist fights, humans having affairs with cryptids, and more. 

In February 2020, Ingrid Escamilla was murdered by her boyfriend in Mexico City. A newspaper, Pasala, was able to get a hold of photos of her boyfriend covered in her blood after he had stabbed her as well as a photo of her body after he had begun to skin her, in an attempt to cover up his crime. The photo of her mutilated body appeared on the front page with the caption “It Was Cupid’s Fault”. The tasteless publication of her post-mortem photo sparked protests calling for cases of violence against women to be taken more seriously. Femicide (killing a woman on the basis of their gender) in Mexico accounted for over 1,000 deaths in women in 2019, but women’s rights groups have argued that the number is actually higher because more cases need to be classified as femicide. 

Diary Of The Dead is a found footage movie that coincides with Night Of The Living Dead at the start of the zombie apocalypse, only the story has been modernized 40 years. The story follows film students from the University Of Pittsburgh who begin to hear news of apparent “mass rioting” and “mass murder” as they’re in the woods filming a horror movie. The audience sees the story unfold through the camera of student director Jason (Joshua Close), along with his girlfriend, Debra (Michelle Morgan), their student advisor Andrew Maxwell (Scott Wentworth), and their classmates (Shawn Roberts, Chris Violette, Amy Lalonde, Joe Dinicol, Philip Riccio, and Megan Park). Debra acts as our narrator periodically throughout the movie. 

Romero used his script to poke fun at the current state of the horror genre, in particular the zombie subgenre that he had helped create. Tony comments that they’re just making a “stupid fucking mummy movie,” to which Andrew corrects him, “with an underlying threat of social satire.” Tracy, despising her role of the damsel-in-distress, “Can somebody please explain to me why girls in scary movies always have to, like, fall down and lose their shoes and shit? It’s totally lame. And why do we always have to get our dresses torn off?” Slashers, zombie movies, most any subgenre has played this card with at least one of their female characters. 

And, going for the throat of the modern zombie movie trends, Romero has Jason, the director of the mummy movie-within-the-movie, chastises Ridley, who is playing the mummy, after he full-blown runs and tells him, “How many times have I told you? Dead things don’t move fast. You’re a corpse, for Christ’s sakes. If you run that fast, your ankles are gonna snap off.”

Those are the fun sides of the commentaries.

Let’s get to the commentary on the realities of it all. 

There are videos circulating on the internet today that were filmed by people who didn’t set out to be “provocative” or “shocking”, they just happened to pull out their cell phones and begin filming. Videos being seen by the public are no longer limited to what news cameras catch and edit for television. Virtually everyone has a video camera in their pocket with their cell phones and they are free to post what they see to social media sites. 

In Diary, when Francine is being pursued by a zombie in the woods, Jason doesn’t attempt to fight off the zombie or help her in any way but rather he films her as she’s screaming in terror and it’s much more believable than her “acting” in the beginning of the movie. He finally got the shot he was looking for despite his classmate almost getting mauled for it. Jason is separating himself from the severity of the situation through a camera lense. 

In New York City in December 2019, Juan Fresnada was a victim of an attempted robbery just outside of a McDonald’s, where he was beaten by his attackers who only ended up getting away with $1. Surveillance video shows passer-bys, cars, and even an MTA bus passing Fresnada while he lay motionless after the beating but no one stops to aid him. 60-year-old Fresnada ended up dying from his injuries later in the hospital. 

This is a diary of cruelty. And in wartime, when the enemy can be marked as this son of a bitch or that son of a bitch, then cruelty…becomes justified.

Andrew in Diary Of The Dead

Facebook added their Live video feed feature in 2016. Sure, the feature has been used for fun things, like answering the question of “how many rubber bands does it take to break a watermelon in half?” but it was also used by Diamond Reynolds to show the aftermath of her fiance, Philando Castile, being shot by police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop, while Reynolds’ four-year-old daughter was in the back seat. The incident sparked protests in Minnesota and across the United States. Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter but was acquitted. 

Will Smith summed it up perfectly- “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was surrounded by officers, one of whom knelt on his neck while three others stood around, and the whole ordeal was filmed by onlookers, including a Facebook Live stream, as Floyd died at the scene. The protests demanding the officers be brought to justice started in Minneapolis and quickly spread across large and small cities in the United States and reached as far as New Zealand. The demonstrations have all been peaceful until officers show up and begin to instigate by physically harassing demonstrators and using tear gas. To date, only one of the four officers has been fired and none have been arrested, much less taken to trial. 

Even as I’m typing this, news and videos are circulating about a peaceful demonstrator in my home town in Michigan being tased and others were threatened with being arrested as they had signs saying “Queers for Black Rights” and they were advocating in memory of George Floyd. 

Just because major news outlets have slowed down or stopped reporting on the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t mean that it’s over.  

In closing- Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter. Trans Women Are Women. Trans Men Are Men. Non-binary people are whoever the fuck they want to be.

Peace out.

Black Lives Matter resources https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

National Center For Transgender Equality https://transequality.org/additional-help

National Domestic Violence Hotline https://www.thehotline.org/

The Dwellings Of Horror Fans In Horror Movies

More than most other genres, science-fiction and horror have the power of merchandising on their side. Posters, shirts, costumes, toys and action figures, pins, flamethrowers (the kids love that one). Conventions and websites have allowed fans to discover companies and artists and collectors items to add to personal collections. Maybe you have a shelf set aside to show off your collection or an entire room or they’re just scattered all over. These are some of the genre fans in horror movies that found spots to display bits of their collections.

Carter’s dorm room in Happy Death Day/Happy Death Day 2U

    Dorms might not offer too much space but those who have lived in them knew how to make it work when it comes to customization. I was able to put up my Paramore poster, Frankenstein and Rocky Horror Picture Show magnets on my mini-fridge, and had a spot for my dvd collection of The Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. Tree wakes up in the dorm room shared by Carter and Ryan on multiple Monday the 18ths so we get to visit his room fairly often and we get to see that has up posters for They Live, Repo Man (The Criterion Collection art poster, no less), and Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

Chainsaw’s room in Summer School

The name’s Chainsaw, as in “Texas Massacre”. 

Chainsaw’s room is left to right, floor to ceiling, packed to the gills with horror posters, masks, and other props, including an animatronic severed hand alarm clock. Plus, he’s an Iron Maiden fan and so many times horror and metal go hand-in-hand.

Tommy Jarvis’ room in Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter

Maybe they don’t live close to bigger cities and shopping malls but Tommy is still able to fill his room with all sorts of special effects make up tools. He builds his own masks and alters store-bought ones. He even takes some of his creative prowess to shave his head and make a “costume” to trick, and kill, Jason.

Bill’s room in IT

As Bill helps Georgie build his ill-fated paper boat, we get a tour of Bill’s room where he has up posters for Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, and Gremlins posters- all staples in PG-horror. 

In Chapter 2, Ben builds an underground clubhouse for The Losers Club. Maybe The Lost Boys  poster in their underground fort was Bill’s contribution to decorations.

Kirby’s house in Scream 4

Maybe Kirby’s movie shelf isn’t the biggest on the block, but she has some deeper cuts with Suspiria and Don’t Look Now. The only time we see Kirby’s room is when Sidney and Jill are running from the killer but it’s enough for us to see Rear Window, Nosfertau, and Tremors posters. 

At Woodsboro High, The Cinema Club room is decked out in posters.  With Charlie as club president (and Robbie as the VP), do we expect any less. The movies-within-the-movies Stab franchise, Rob Zombie’s H2, Deathproof, Army Of Darkness, Wolf Creek, Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead, Carpenter’s The Thing, and two other Wes Craven (RIP) movies The Hills Have Eyes and The People Under The Stairs. We never see Charlie or Robbie’s houses in the movies but we can rest assured that their rooms are covered in horror posters, as well, and probably an action figure or two.

Shout out to some cool horror sites and artists

House Of Mysterious Secrets http://houseofmysterioussecrets.com/

Cavity Colors https://cavitycolors.com/

Terror Threads https://terrorthreads.com/

Jad Is Rad https://jadisrad.com/

London 1888 https://london-1888.myshopify.com/

Kneehigh Horror https://kneehighhorror.com/?olsPage=products

Laptop LaSane Customs https://www.instagram.com/iwantcustomshoes/

Gutter Shakes https://guttershakes.bigcartel.com/

Rucking Fotten https://ruckingfotten.com/

Pentagram Peter Pan https://www.pentagrampeterpan.com/

Gutter Garbs https://guttergarbs.com/

Frights Rags https://www.fright-rags.com/

Loudmouth Threads https://loudmouththreads.bigcartel.com/

Studiohouse Designs https://studiohousedesigns.com/

Demonic Pinfestation https://demonicpinfestation.bigcartel.com/

Studio Katoween https://www.storenvy.com/stores/879006-studio-katoween

Monster Posse https://www.etsy.com/shop/MonsterPosse

Future Monsters https://www.futuremonsters.com/

Raz Christ http://razchrist.storenvy.com/

Plug Uglie https://www.etsy.com/shop/PlugUglie

Rock The Dead https://www.rockthedead.co/

Pixel Elixir https://www.etsy.com/shop/PixelElixirShop?ref=usf_2020

Scream For Me Inc https://www.screamformeinc.com/

Cody Schibi http://codyschibi.bigcartel.com/

Horror That Hits You Where It Hurts

The movie watching experience is a very subjective one. What one person finds terrifying might not faze someone else and what upsets someone might not affect someone else as severely.

When I took to Twitter the question of “What horror movies, if any, have made you cry?” these were some of the titles that came up.

Happy Death Day (2017) and Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Whenever I hear people talking about their experience the first time they saw Happy Death Day to you, the phrase “pleasantly surprised” comes up fairly often. I was one of those people. The idea for this list stemmed from me admitting that I cried when I saw Happy Death Day 2U in a theater and people were popping up saying, “same.” 

Tree (Jessica Rothe) starts off as a “mean girl in a slasher movie” but as the story progresses you begin to root for her. All of that anger and sarcasm was a defense mechanism after her mother’s death, made even tougher by the fact that they shared a birthday. In Happy Death Day 2U, when Tree wakes up in the alternate Monday the 18th in another dimension where, not only is she surprised to see that her love-interest, Carter, is dating her suddenly nice sorority sister, Danielle, but her mother is alive. Tree is forced to consider all of the possibilities for her future, in multiple dimensions, and makes her decision after a heart-to-heart in a hotel room with her mother (as Creature From The Black Lagoon plays on the television).

The Final Girls (2015)

“Her hair is Harlow gold. Her lips are sweet surprise. Her hands are never cold. She’s got Bette Davis eyes.”

The movie opens with Max (Taissa Farmiga) watching a movie trailer on her phone of an ultimate-80’s-camp-slasher movie Camp Bloodbath that stars her mother, Amanda (Malin Akerman). Trying to stay positive about their stressful financial situation after an awkward audition, Amanda cranks up “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes on the car radio as she and Max sing with the windows down. Boom. They get broadsided in an accident, killing Amanda. When Max and friends are at a special showing of Camp Bloodbath at their local theater, a fire sends them running for an exit and they end up the movie itself. They come face to face with the campy characters and Max comes face to face with her mother again as her movie character (aptly named Nancy). Max feels such guilt and instinct to protect her mother’s character in the movie and to prevent her from dying next to her again. Ultimately, Nancy sacrifices herself to make Max “the final girl”.

Train To Busan (2016)

Train To fucking Busan 

I started off feeling like I was just watching any other zombie movie then part way through I’m shouting at my television for Sang-hwa to shout out a baby name to his pregnant wife before he gets mauled by a hoard of zombies. The story focuses on Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) and his young daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim) and the audience quickly gets an attachment to them and all of the characters surrounding them in an emotional and face-paced fight for survival. Seok-woo makes the ultimate sacrifice and stays behind after he’s bitten and Soo-an is screaming and crying but she’s safe on a departing train.

Was anyone else ready to throw something at their tv if that military guy pulled the trigger and shot them both at the end?

A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Dream Warriors brought back our Top-Tier Final Girl Nancy (Heather Langenkamp)…made us feel her compassion and badassery again as she protects and relates to Kristen (Patricia Arquette) and all of the kids at the hospital…then Freddy finally got to kill the one who had outsmarted him so fantastically. Patricia Arquette’s performance during this scene makes it all the more emotional as she sobs, “I’ll dream you into a beautiful dream.”

Fans would get the return of Heather Langenkamp as she returned to play Nancy one last time in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

Hereditary (2018)

Give. Toni. Collette. Her. Damn. Oscar. 

And give Alex Wolff one, too, while you’re at it. 

The death of a grandmother is what strikes me personally so I was feeling Hereditary’s effects as soon as the movie started. The opening of the movie is really the most “tame” part of the entire movie. Charlie’s shocking death…the infamous dinner scene…the piano wire…

If you’ve ever been in the room or in the next room when someone gets news of a death and you just hear the wailing, then you know exactly what I’m getting at. 

Hail Paimon.

A Quiet Place (2018)

Let me apologize to you right off the bat if your theater experience with this was anything but a mostly quiet theater. My theater was silent minus the occasional sounds of an older woman in the row behind me munching on popcorn. 

Directed and starring John Krasinski as patriarch Lee, the movie opens with the family returning from a trip into the city as they do their best to silently step through the wilderness. When the youngest son drops a toy rocket that he had taken from the store, he’s viciously snatched up by the sound-sensitive monsters in a jaw-dropping moment. During the climax of the movie, the monsters have their two kids pinned in a truck, and Lee has one final option. As soon as Lee begins to sign “I love you. I have always loved you” to his deaf daughter, you start getting punched in the gut because you know he’s about to start screaming at the top of his lungs.

That was unexpected and the tears were also unexpected. 

Late Phases: Night Of The Wolf (2014)

“When the creature then kills his seeing eye dog, McKinley’s thirst for justice turns into a one-man vendetta against the monster that’s terrorizing his neighborhood.”

So it tells you right in the synopsis on the back of the DVD case that the dog dies but it doesn’t prepare you for it. Ambrose (Nick Damici) is holding his bloodied dog as he’s slowing dying, begging for someone to help him, and it fucking hurts. People always poke and prod at horror fans with things like, “You can watch Saw and be fine but feel sad when the ASPCA commercial comes on?” Fuck. Yes.

Honorable Mention

The Exorcist television series (2016-2018)

Possibly the most underrated horror television show in recent memory.

Season one brought the intensity and season two brought out the emotion. Foster parent Andy (John Cho) has to process his wife’s suicide along with the five foster kids that they had taken in. After the demon attacks everyone’s most vulnerable emotions, it makes its way to Andy, who sacrifices himself with a bullet to the head, delivered by Marcus (Ben Daniels), to put an end to the vicious cycle. Before dying, Andy is able to give a message to Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) to relay to each kid individually about how much he cares about them and what he loves about them each personally and, damn, the tears were streaming.

Ready Or Not- The Cruel Disposition Of The Le Domas Kids

Content warnings: emotional abuse, toxic relationships.

Ready Or Not didn’t need to say much to make me want to see it. The previews showed us New Age Scream Queen Samara Weaving in a lacy wedding dress and yellow Converse high-tops wielding a huge shotgun as she was forced into a deadly game of hide and seek on her wedding night. The film’s wide-release came on August 21, 2019. That weekend, I was already seeing horror fans on social media screaming to the tune of, “Do not wait to see this movie. Go see it in a theater.” I went to a midday showing the following week in a fairly empty theater. Even though I was by myself in the theater, I knew I was among a number of horror fans who cheered when Grace let loose a slew of juvenile obscenities followed by a, “fucking rich people,” and when she punched a rich kid in the face. Ending on such a satisfying note where the mansion goes up in flames while Stereo Jane’s cover of “Love Me Tender” plays. Once the credits started rolling, I was ready to turn around and buy a ticket to the next showing and buy some yellow Converse. 

The film was put together by Radio Silence Productions, a trio consisting of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, and Chad Villella (V/H/S segment 10/31/98, Southbound, and the upcoming Scream film). It was quickly “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and received generally positive reviews from critics and fans alike, with David Sims of The Atlantic writing, “The real fun in Ready Or Not comes from the ways it subverts its time-tested story, balancing wry commentary and straightforward horror in its portrait of fumbling arrogance and curdled privilege.”

Ready Or Not does not hesitate and grabs the audience by the throat as soon as the curtains go up. We see a running man in a bloodied tux with arrows sticking out of his torso and two scared young boys in matching PJs, unsure of who is chasing whom. The older boy, Daniel, hides his younger brother, Alex, into a cabinet armoire, before shouting, “He’s in here,” alerting the rest of his family to where the groom has run off to. A swarm of people in masks and robes enter and shoot him with another arrow. A sobbing bride is held back, and we later learn she is stern and pointed Aunt Helene. 

And then we jump to 30 years later. 

The anxious bride, Grace (Samara Weaving), is rehearsing her wedding vows, she shifts and lights a cigarette and continues, “And even though your family is richer than god and intimidates the hell out of me, your dad definitely hates me and your alcoholic brother keeps hitting on me, honestly can’t wait to be a part of your moderately fucked up family.”

In her wedding vows, Grace mentions that she was brought up in foster homes. While her foster parents did what they could to provide, she never felt a sense of “permanence” in her life or with her family. Having dysfunctional or disorderly family members probably seemed normal to her through whatever television or movies she watched. Even The Brady Bunch would have some sort of problem that the family would resolve within a half hour. 

Part of the brilliance of Ready Or Not is the dialogue. The characters don’t need to present epic, emotional monologues for us to learn who they are and how they experience and process events. As the family is taking photos before the wedding ceremony, we get a series of awkward photos and dark humorous commentary, particularly from the eldest Le Domas son, Daniel (Adam Brody). Daniel is painfully aware of how his family unit runs and how “the rich really are different”. He advises Grace to let the glares from the family roll off of her shoulders and when his wife, Charity (Elyse Levesque), remarks on how Grace may never be a real part of the family he responds with, “Of course not, dear- she has a soul.” Subtle, right?

One of the most subtle yet strategic bits of writing comes while the family is counting down and arming up to play the game. Fitch and Emilie’s sons, Georgie and Gabe, are being put to bed and one of the maids is reading them a bedtime story. But she’s not reading them Berenstain Bears or Goosebumps- she’s reading them John Milton’s epic poem from 1667, Paradise Lost. The audience comes in as she’s reading this passage-

“Here we may reign secure; and in my choice To reign is worth ambition, though in hell: Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”

John Milton

The Le Domas family at their core is guilty of the sins of wrath, greed, and pride, and choosing this book as a bedtime story further proves that the family’s obsession with power is passing down from generation to generation.

While we never learn the full backstory of Daniel and Charity’s relationship, we know it bears some similarities to Alex and Grace’s relationship. Daniel was the rich boy and Charity (fitting name) came from somewhere one could call “less fortunate”. The biggest difference being how open they are about how fucked up their lives are and their situations have been. That doesn’t mean they’re in a healthy relationship because they’re incredibly together. 

Daniel: “Alex may have been in the wrong to keep Grace in the dark, but do you remember how you reacted when I told you about this? You didn’t fucking blink. I mean, you couldn’t wait to sign your soul away.” 

Charity: “You know where I came from and what my life was like before. I’d rather be dead than lose all of this.” 

Lucky for them, Charity just pulled the chess card on their wedding night. 

And, luckily(?) for Charity, after she shoots her husband in the neck as she fears she may lose her rich-status, she does end up dying instead of losing everything. 

Meanwhile, on Alex and Grace’s wedding night, after the game begins, and Grace pulls the one bad card, Alex’s true colors begin to show even more. Grace is in hysterics over her new in-laws trying to kill her and Alex hits her with the- 

Alex:You wanted to get married?”

Grace: “So it’s my fucking fault?! Are you fucking serious?!” 

Not only does this fall under a common gaslighting technique (deflecting due blame), it falls under the same umbrella as referring to your wife as “the ol’ ball and chain”. If Alex hadn’t already referred to Grace as “the old lady” then he was going to sooner or later. Remember how much we hated Glenn in The Wedding Singer? It’s the same shit. Maybe he didn’t want to get married but rather than admit they were unhappy or uncomfortable, like a jealous child with a toy, they tighten their grip. He’s also trying to deflect the blame from himself. Saying they were content with their 18-month long “bone fest” before the topic of marriage came up. 

It’s a long told tale of affluent kids- the Le Domas kids have never been told “no”. 

Whether it’s something good or bad, they’ll get what they want. Emilie has a hefty drug habit and a husband who is more than happy to indulge in private jets and a variety of said drugs. Daniel has alcohol at his disposal. 

And Alex has Grace. 

As Grace confronts him about his family’s so-called tradition,

Grace: “You didn’t even fucking talk to me, you could have told me…”

Alex: “If i told you, you would’ve left. If i didn’t propose you would’ve left.”

It’s a less- drastic version of saying, “if you leave me, i’ll kill myself”. He’s trying to garner sympathy for himself and make himself seem like more of a victim. He’s a victim of circumstance but that’s about it. He grew up within a family that was ready to sacrifice goats (literal and figurative) to keep their status. Something that would seem outlandish to some but was it fed to them as a normal thing. It’s a reason but not an excuse. 

And as the events of the night unfold and the sun is about to come up, Alex comes to think he may lose Grace anyways as she’ll reject him. He bemoans, “You won’t be with me after this, will you?” Grace is bloodied and beaten and just bashed her mother-in-law’s head in. Without a word, Alex places his hands on Grace’s cheeks, seemingly in last-ditch affection, until we see Grace is in pain at the hands of her husband. If he can’t have her, then she’s just another sacrifice. 

And it boils down to this- men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them. 

It. Fucking. Happens.

Women have said “no” to giving a man their phone number or no to going to a high school dance with them and then been savagely killed by the men they turned down. 

Short of getting down on his knees to add more theatricality to his begging, Alex cries out a slew of affectionate words to Grace, “Honey I’m really sorry, I’m not like them…I get a do-over sweetie, and that’s because of you.” After almost stabbing her to death as part of a satanic ritual, he’s ready to smother her with affection to save his own ass and smooth over the situation- a very tall and impossible order at this point in the game. 

And then Alex blows up with the rest of his family after Grace throws the ring at him and says, “I want a divorce.”

National Domestic Violence Hotline, which also includes LGBTQ+ relationship resources

1-800-799-7233 or text “LOVEIS” to 1-866-331-9474

website: http://www.thehotline.org/