Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!


Happy Halloween!

This ends my first full month blogging here at my new home of Flag on the Moon, and tomorrow will see the release of the first issue of the 'Phobia Zine--AUTOMATONOPHOBIA, the Fear of Ventriloquist Dummies--so be sure to swing back around to download your copy.  At my previous blog, a Halloween Blogathon had become something of a tradition...unfortunately, I was too busy getting things set up around here to prepare such an endeavor (there's always next year!).

To the few of you who have been reading my posts, thank you so much.  If you know of anyone else who may be interested in the films that I cover, please send them the link.  I don't want to beg, but... I'm begging you!

Have a boo-tiful day!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Tales From The Crypt: The Ventriloquist's Dummy (1990)

Tales From The Crypt: The Ventriloquist's Dummy - Title Screen
Title Screen
Ever since he was a young boy, Billy Goldman has only wanted to be a ventriloquist. On the verge of making his first public appearance, Billy seeks out his hero Mr. Ingles, hoping that the elder ventriloquist will watch his show and offer up some career advice. Ingles is not quite the same man that he used to be, though. After losing his hand in a fire fifteen years ago (a fire that Billy himself witnessed), Ingalls has not been able to perform. He has become a morphine-addicted recluse, fiercely protective of his privacy...and of his dummy Morty.

After some cajoling, Billy convinces Ingles to attend the show, which Billy promptly bombs. Ingles tells him to give up on his dream and find another career path. Dejected, Billy leaves the club and stumbles upon a crime scene. A young woman has been murdered, her corpse doused in gasoline, but her killer was interrupted before he had the chance to set her on fire. Billy, remembering the fire from 15 years ago, somehow deduces that the culprit is none other than his childhood hero. Maybe Billy should have been pursuing a career in law enforcement. Anyway, he confronts Ingles about his crimes, but the ventriloquist insists that it wasn't was Morty. Morty hates women, he shouts, because he's never been able to have one.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Moon Memories: The Crush

THE CRUSH - Movie Poster
When THE CRUSH came out in 1993, I had a pretty big crush myself on that film's Lolita villainess, Alicia Silverstone. I had seen it numerous times between the theater and home video, and when I saw that it was going to be on a cable movie channel one summer while visiting my father, I talked the family into watching it with me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Horror Patents 3: Ventriloquist Dummies

To go along with this month's theme of AUTOMATONOPHOBIA (the fear of ventriloquist dummies, naturally), I thought we would take a look at the inside of these creepy bastards to find out what makes them tick.  As always, outsider art courtesy of Google Patents.
Automatonophobia - Ventriloquist Dummy - Patent Art
Ventriloquist's Doll, 1956

Monday, October 27, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Twilight Zone: Caesar and Me (1964)

Twilight Zone: Caesar and Me - Jonathan West, Ventriloquist Extraordinaire
Jonathan West, Ventriloquist Extraordinaire
Jonathan West is a down-on-his-luck ventriloquist, forced to pawn his personal belongings just to make ends meet. He's got a pretty good act with his dummy Caesar, but there just doesn't seem to be anybody willing to give him a chance. Which is unfortunate, really, because he is rapidly running out of belongings to sell.

Luckily for West, though, his partner in ventriloquism is also his partner in crime. Caesar is not only very much alive, but he's also something of a lowlife. "There's all kinds of ways to get money," Caesar tells him, resembling nothing so much as a Chicagoland thug. From his affected accent to his fedora, suit, and burning cigar, Caesar is pure puppet goodfella.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Iconography: Zombie Blood Nightmare

The Video Dead - Zombie Blood Nightmare

Today's iconography comes from 1987's THE VIDEO DEAD.  The plot revolves around a magical TV of sorts, and the zombies that crawl out from the screen to prey on the suburbs stem from this cheap-movie-within-a-cheap-movie...



Saturday, October 25, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Twilight Zone: The Dummy (1962)

Twilight Zone: The Dummy - Jerry & Willie
Jerry & Willie
Jerry Etherson and his dummy Willie are actually quite a talented duo, but their agent Frank is the first to admit that they are stuck performing in smoky nightclubs instead of living it up at the top of the world because of Jerry's demons. He drinks too much, he has been diagnosed by psychiatrists as schizophrenic, and he also believes that Willie is really alive. In Frank's words, Jerry is a "self-indulgent sot with an overactive imagination," and he gives him 24 hours to clean up his act and get his head on straight, or find himself another agent.

For his next performance, Jerry gives Willie the cold shoulder and tries things out with Goofy Goggles, whom Jerry is quick to point out is just a dummy. The performance goes well enough, and so Jerry decides to make a break for it. Willie, though, despite being locked in his trunk, is not going to allow himself to be replaced so easily.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Horror Patents 2: Ouija Boards

With the new OUIJA movie opening today, I thought we'd take a look at some of the real-life devices upon which the movie is based.  As stated in a previous post, the graphics which accompany patent paperwork can easily be viewed as outsider art, and genre fans would be happy to have any of these hanging in their nightmare gallery.  Click on the caption to be taken to the online paperwork, courtesy of Google Patents.

Toy or Game, 1891

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Poster Art of Saul Bass

For my money, two of the most striking movie posters have always been those for Otto Preminger's THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955) and ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959).  Both feature stark colors and a minimalist design that convey not only the basic plot of the film, but the very mood of it as well.  The first shows the perils of heroin addiction, while the second showcases a corpse (which has been cut into seven distinct sections).  Both have obvious similarities, but being for films from the same director within the same era, why wouldn't they?

Saul Bass - The Man with the Golden Arm - Poster Image

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Making Contact AKA Joey (1985)

Making Contact AKA Joey - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
After the death of his father, young Joey discovers the newfound ability of telekinesis, and furthermore, an unlikely means of communicating with his deceased daddy—via a glowing red toy telephone. A short time later, Joey discovers a creepy ventriloquist dummy in an abandoned house, but the dummy is no mere plaything. It is housing an evil entity with powers similar to, but superior to, Joey's own. Joey has to fend off the evil dummy's increasingly dark magic, as well as the bullying of his peers, in order to save himself, his family, and the entire neighborhood from destruction.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Short Film: Moving Takahashi (2011)

Moving Takahashi - Title Card

Craig, an unscrupulous employee of Takahashi Moving, is planning on taking the belongings from the wealthy family that hired him and selling it all on the black market for a pretty tidy sum.  Things take a turn when Juliana, the petulant daughter, tells him that she has swallowed every pill in the house and will be dead within twenty minutes.  Finding himself in an unexpected situation, Craig has to decide whether or not Juliana's impending demise is his problem.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Recommended Reading: Form-Shattering Fiction Edition

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - Cover Image

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Probably the most well-known novel to be found on this list, HOUSE OF LEAVES seems to exist in a love-it-or-hate-it universe--there is no middle ground. It's a post-modern haunted house tale with elements of Greek mythology tossed in for good measure. Presented as a scholarly discourse analyzing a documentary film which does not exist, complete with footnotes and endnotes added by multiple sources, comprehensive appendices, stacked narratives, various fonts and colors, and text that weaves itself creatively around the page, this is just as much an art project as anything else. There is so much happening both on and below the surface that I find something new to appreciate every time I read it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Unholy Grails: Shaun of the Dead Promotional Beanie

I distinctly remember in 2004 that a theater not far from home was playing SHAUN OF THE DEAD on opening night, and the newspaper advertisement declared that if you attended the showing dressed as a zombie, you would get a free promotional beanie.  It was black, with a target on the forehead and the slogan "Aim For The Head."  I desperately wanted to go, but all of my friends who should have been interested didn't think that the movie would be any good.

Flash forward to six months or so down the line after they had all seen the film on DVD, and they were proclaiming it the funniest thing that they had seen all year.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Short Film: The Ventriloquist (2012)

The Ventriloquist - Kevin Spacey Short Film 2012 - Frank & Mr. Higgins
Frank & Mr. Higgins
Frank and Mr. Higgins are a ventriloquist act, but they're not selling out theaters or performing in front of crowds. They are street performers, bantering back and forth on the corner in hopes of scoring a little pocket change from the pedestrians.

Nothing quite so unusual about that. Any downtown district is going to have its fair share of people performing for money. And maybe it's not quite so unusual when Mr. Higgins tries to score Frank a date with Stephanie, the cute coffee girl that he's been crushing on. Maybe Frank is trying to impress her with his skill, or thinks that she will find it endearing. (Never mind the fact that she tells Mr. Higgins that Frank is too old, and says maybe she would rather go out with the dummy instead).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Horror Patents 1

For whatever reason, I've been entranced with the illustrations over at Google Patents ever since I discovered it.  They're intended to be clinical and descriptive, however they hold a certain and unmistakable charm for me.  I think of them as unintentional pieces of outsider art in and of themselves--and some of them would make much better framed posters than they would actual products.  Below are five examples.  Click on the description to view the full patent.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

[Comic] Deadly Burlesque

To be honest, there's not a hell of a lot of story to this one-shot comic book from small publisher Freaktown Comics, but to a certain extent, that's okay.  The official synopsis will probably tell you everything you need to know:
"The Bowery, Lower Manhattan, 1980. The New York burlesque scene has faded away, replaced by strip joints, peep shows and porno palaces. One small club of indomitable performers – the Luxury Lounge - still holds out against the tide.
The art of burlesque is dying. For one person, it isn’t dying fast enough. As the bodies pile up, so do the suspects – could the killer be desperate club owner Mr Barnett? Cantankerous juggler The Amazing Ralph? Stale stand-up comic Martin Stevens?
A performer can die onstage a thousand times. Offstage, once is enough."
Deadly Burlesque - Freaktown Comics - Interior Page
Deadly Burlesque: Interior Page

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Short Film: The Dummy (1982)

The Dummy - 1982 Short Film
The Blood-Spattered Dummy

There's not a lot of story in this short film, and clocking in at only about 7.5 minutes, there's not much room for any, either. After arguing with her husband about an impending visit from her in-laws, a woman is left alone in the apartment with the creepy ventriloquist dummy that the man has owned since he was a kid. Upon getting out of the shower, she finds the dummy poised on the toilet, watching her. She is understandably unsettled for a moment, and then quickly laughs it off, assuming her husband is playing a practical joke on her. The laughter stops when the dummy continues to move around the apartment on its own and begins to terrorize her, going so far as to attack her with a knife.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Moon Memories: The Red Balloon

The Red Balloon - Cover Image
The Red Balloon - Cover Image
One of the films that scared me the most as a child wasn't even a horror movie. Ostensibly, it was a family-friendly fantasy... but it certainly didn't seem that way to me.

1956's RED BALLOON was a French import that, running just over 30 minutes, found a second life here in American schools. It was the perfect running time for young children with short attention spans, and because it was foreign, it could immediately pass as educational.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Horror Movie Survival Crate

I was recently contacted by Alexandra from Man Crates: Gifts for Men, challenging me to compile a list of supplies that I would want in my Man Crate if I were trapped in a horror movie.  I checked out the website, and their business seems like a pretty cool idea--and besides, it sounded like a fun idea for a post.  So here's what I would pack in my Horror Movie Survival Crate.

Man Crates Logo - Awesome Gifts For Men
Man Crates: Awesome Gifts For Men

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Driver of This Taxicab Has Seen ON THE BEACH!

On the Beach (1959) - advertisement

I've never actually seen 1959's ON THE BEACH from director Stanley Kramer.  I don't know why I haven't bothered to see it--it's a post-apocalyptic drama with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins.  It certainly seems like something I need to see, but that's neither here nor there.

I have always been fascinated with the above image, which I first saw in in the film's entry in one of Michael Weldon's PSYCHOTRONIC books.  I have been unable to find any relevant information on the image, which only intrigues me more.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Glass Eye (1957)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents - The Glass Eye
Title Screen
When Julia Lester passes away a lonely old spinster, she leaves all of her belongings to her cousins Dorothy and Jim Whitely. Amongst these items, they locate a most unusual curio, the only memento of the time that Julia very nearly found love. That item is the titular glass eye.

The story behind the glass eye is one that is, conveniently, unknown to Dorothy, and so Jim recounts it to her--and the audience as well.  Through Jim's narration, we learn that Dorothy, in her mid-thirties, was desperately lonely and had only the days in which she babysat a neighborhood boy to look forward to.  One day, she took the boy to the theater and she became enamored with a ventriloquist act, Max Collodi and his puppet George.  She laughs her way through the act, and then returns for the next show...and the next...and the next.  She begins to travel all over the city to watch Collodi, collecting his posters and playbills which she stares at before falling asleep in a presumably masturbatory glow.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Iconography: All Problems Solved

Today's iconography comes from the 2002 sequel HELLRAISER 6.  This mysterious business card is only one clue in a brain-melting mystery that Kirsty's husband has to unravel in order to pull his fat out of the fire.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Unholy Grails: Wicked, Wicked (1973)

Wicked Wicked - Movie Poster
Poster Image
I've been wanting to see this film ever since I first read about it, years ago, in Michael Weldon's irreplaceable Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film.  Here's what he wrote about it:
A comic psycho movie in "Duo-vision."  The entire feature employs the split-screen technique used in parts of SISTERS and WOODSTOCK.  As a handyman at a seacoast hotel Randolph Roberts wears a monster mask while he kills and dismembers women with blond hair.  From the ads: "See the hunter, see the hunted, both at the same time."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

[Book Review] Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting

Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls - Alissa Nutting - Cover Image
Cover Image
I had received this book in a discounted multi-pack of indie authors some years ago, and never got around to reading it until recently. It's a damn shame that I waited so long.

This collection of short fiction by Alissa Nutting runs the gamut from slice-of-life pieces to science fiction, but there is an emotional, almost-absurdist quality that runs beneath all of them. Occasionally morose, always darkly amusing, and full of hopeful nihilism, many of these tales made me feel as if I were reading the female counterpart of Chuck Palahniuk--and I mean that in the best possible way.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Alfred Hitchcock Presents: And So Died Riabouchinska (1956)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: And So Died Riabouchinska - Title Screen
Title Screen
Lieutenant Krovinch is called in to investigate the murder of a man named Luke Ockham at an old theater. Initially, not much is known about Ockham other than that he had come around numerous times, asking to speak to John Fabian, the theater's resident ventriloquist. Despite Fabian and his wife Alice denying that they knew the dead man, the deeper that Krovinch digs into Ockham's past, the more likely it seems that Fabian was in some way involved. Lucky for Krovinch, there is one witness who is willing to speak out: Riabouchinska, Fabian's dummy.

Monday, October 6, 2014

[Comic] Devil Doll? by Daniel Clowes

Devil Doll? - by Daniel Clowes - Eightball #1
Title Panel

At one time or another, most all of us have been given or stumbled upon one of those "Chick Tracts"--pocket sized comic books that rally against the evils of the world and invite you to accept a Jesus Christ into your heart as the one true savior. Hell, I remember getting them in my Trick 'R' Treat bags on Halloween as a kid. They are woefully out of touch with today's world, even by modern religious standards, but they can be appreciated by both the angels and the demons of society--one seriously and one ironically.

One of my favorite pieces by indie comic icon Daniel Clowes is the story "Devil Doll?" from EIGHTBALL #1 (and subsequently reprinted in 20th CENTURY EIGHTBALL). Clowes deftly captures the style and tone of the Chick Tract while gleefully turning it into a grotesque mockery of what it is intended to be.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Headlines: Open House Serial Killer Claims Fourth Victim

OPEN HOUSE - Serial Killer Claims Fourth Victim

Today's headline comes from the 1988 real estate-based slasher flick OPEN HOUSE.  The headline pretty much sums up everything you need to know about the movie...except for the fact that Adrienne Barbeau shows up in S&M garb and offers up a nipple to the camera.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Dead of Night: The Ventriloquist's Dummy (1945)

DEAD OF NIGHT is a very well-respected British horror anthology film from 1945, notable for being among the first of its kind and setting the template for those that would follow. A group of guests at a country home recount their brushes with the supernatural, and although any one of their tales would be suitable for a write-up, for our purposes here, we are concerned only with the final segment of the film..."The Ventriloquist's Dummy".

Dead of Night - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster

Ventriloquist Maxwell Frere and his dummy Hugo are quite a popular duo. During their performances, they are not tied to the stage, but rather they move freely throughout the room, engaging with the audience and conversing with them as they enjoy their two-drink-minimum cocktails. During the performance that we are privy to, the duo spots Sylvester Kee, another ventriloquist, among the patrons. Hugo leaps into action and attempts to recruit Kee as his new partner. The audience finds it all quite amusing until Hugo calls Maxwell a "cheap ham", and Maxwell slaps his dummy with resounding aplomb. There are perhaps a few nervous chuckles around the room, but more than anything, this seems like a genuine falling out between performers, right in the public eye.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Five Horror Television Adaptations I'd Like To See

Things may seem dire in the theaters some days, but we are living in a Horror Heyday of television. AMERICAN HORROR STORY and SUPERNATURAL are both original ratings giants, but look at the adaptations that are bringing in viewers: BATES MOTEL, HANNIBAL, THE WALKING DEAD, TRUE BLOOD, HEMLOCK GROVE, and many others. It seems that with the proper source material and a solid creative team behind it, genre television is a force that cannot be stopped. That's why I have put together this list of five television adaptations that I would love to see.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Horror in the Heartland: Going Deep into Stephen King’s “1922”

FULL DARK, NO STARS - Stephen King - Cover Image
Cover Image

1922 is the opening novella in Stephen King’s 2010 collection FULL DARK, NO STARS, and it takes the form of a written murder confession by farmer Wilfred Leland James, scrawled in a motel room in 1930, eight years after the crime.

Wilf’s wife, a bit of a harpy named Arlette, has inherited one hundred acres of farmland from her father, and refuses to give into her husband’s wishes of folding that property into his existing acreage.  Instead, she wants to sell it to a large corporation and move to the city, where she dreams of opening up a little dress shop of her own.  Wilf, who usually gives into Arlette’s demands, steadfastly refuses to sell.  But as this property is in Arlette’s name, there is really nothing that he can do.

Or is there?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

[Automatonophobia] The Great Gabbo (1929)

The Great Gabbo - Theatrical Poster
The Great Gabbo Poster
This elderly piece of cinema follows the romantic and professional misadventures of ventriloquist Gabbo and his amazing dummy Otto. Gabbo (Erich Von Stroheim) is rather renowned for his skill in the ventriloquial arts, and that unfortunately has gone to his head. He is cruel, egocentric, and obsessed with the dummy. One might even go so far as to say that he is a little bit mad.

Gabbo's beautiful assistant-slash-girlfriend Mary (Betty Compson) has had to put up with his nonsense for far too long, and so she walks out on him. Being abandoned by Mary pushes him further over the edge, and in no time at all, Gabbo is treating Otto as if he were a real live boy.

This is demonstrated most prominently in the scene which takes place some two years later, where Gabbo and Otto go out for dinner at an expensive restaurant. Otto is given his own seat and orders his own meal. Other patrons speculate that this is perhaps some wild publicity stunt, but the truth is not quite so simple.