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Krampus (2015) – Raw Review

Now that Halloween is in the rear-view mirror, the number of legitimate horror films traditionally take a nose-dive in favor of holiday blockbusters of various genres. Thanksgiving and Christmas films have generally favored heartwarming family fare, or PG-13 action-driven adventures. And although holiday  horror lovers have occasionally been thrown a bone or two (pun intended) in the form of killer turkeys (Thankskilling, 2009) or holiday-themed slashers (Black Christmas, twice, 1974 and 2006; Silent Night, Deadly Night, 1984; Slayride, 2016), the fables and mythologies behind our end-of-year celebration has received little attention, particularly from the standpoint of budgetary consideration.

Until this year.

This Christmas season viewers have been… er, treated… to not one but two newly-released films centering on a very old, primarily European mythology that has several variants but targets Krampus, an evil counterpart to Santa Claus who punishes naughty children during the Christmas season.  Depending on your source of information, the origin of Krampus dates back long before Christ was attached to “mas.” Some experts on European fables cite Norse legends; others say this child-stealer comes from Teutonic folklore, and indeed, parades honoring Krampus are a big deal in Austria. Search YouTube for the Krampus celebration in Graz, Austria, and find the current celebration full of terrifying costumes that are very consistent and similar in their depiction. Other stories handed down through generations reveal Krampus to be the brother of Saint Nicholas, sometimes known as Black Peter in Denmark, who came into being when the dualism of the Catholic Church took hold in both Eastern and Western orthodoxies.

Very few films have dealt with this wealth of background information. In 2010, Netherlands director Dick Maas brought Sint (Saint) to the US, a mashup of mythological characterizations in which Saint Nicholas manifests on Krampus Day (December 5) if there is a full moon, to punish, steal, and/or kill children who haven’t been nice. Saint is a reasonably entertaining horror film, full of action, blood, and guts, although it is muddled in the telling. By far the best European import of this type to date is Rare Exports (Finland, 2010), wherein a small group of families on the Russian border, find the actual Santa Claus (buried? sleeping?) in the Korvatunturi  mountains, and this version of Santa doesn’t toast them with a grin and a bottle of Coca-Cola. The Finns capture him/it, put him/it in a cage in a misguided attempt to make money for the struggling local economy, and then suffer his/its wrath when a multitude of Black Peter acolytes attack the people in a rather harrowing rescue attempt. A fine, exciting genre film with a child’s sense of wonder, Rare Exports is yet another story that plays a bit fast and loose with the traditional dichotomy of Krampus and Saint Nicholas.

Writer/Director Michael Dougherty, seemingly joined at the hip with director Bryan Singer (X-Men 2, 2003; Superman Returns, 2006; the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, 2016) established himself as an excellent purveyor of holiday horror with the now-cult classic Trick ‘r Treat (2007), a set of connected Halloween tales that introduced Sam Hain, a creepy child-like figure wearing a gunny-sack over his head.

 ** WARNING!  Possible spoilers from this point! **

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In Dougherty’s new production, the incarnation of Krampus follows a mix of original traditions including a very strong fairy tale vibe. Krampus arrives on the scene after young Max (Emjay Anthony) tears up his Christmas letter to Santa Clause in a fit of rage and frustration brought about from bickering and lack of holiday spirit in his parents (Adam Scott and Toni Collette). When equally-dysfunctional familial relations descend on the already-troubled family, the stage is set for both black comedy and eventual horror. Although Dougherty’s opening fifteen minutes conjures up strong similarities to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (including Conchata Ferrell in the role of sour, sarcastic Aunt Dorothy while channeling Berta from Two and a Half Men), he invests each character with a compassionate, loving core that shines through now and then. When Krampus finally arrives, the peril encompasses not only children but adults as well, and their argumentative and contentious natures are supplanted by strong emotional bonding. Viewers come to root for the families. This is not a film that follows a linear slasher, one death after another, story format.


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Production design and set decoration by veterans Jules Cook and Daniel Birt, respectively, is absolutely stunning. From the arrival of a massive blizzard that takes out neighborhood power, to the appearance of twisted, nasty-looking snowmen that multiply in front of the protagonist’s home, viewers are taken into an entirely different dimension. Krampus himself is doled out sparingly, with shadowy images of something jumping across neighborhood rooftops, to gigantic cloven hooves stomping through the snow-covered streets. It’s an intense, highly suspenseful tactic. Viewers looking for standard plotting tropes will be pleasantly surprised to find very few. Dougherty inserts a few twists that keep the action and mystery running at top speed. Special effects are numerous, mixing very good CGI where necessary with some excellent practical puppetry. Every effect from creature design to matte painting and more is supplied by a group of New Zealand-based companies headed by the well-known Weta Digital. There is a decent budget for this film, and it shows.

The most recent issue of Rue Morgue Magazine (December, #162) features cover art, production snapshots, and an interview with Dougherty in which he discusses his motivation and rationale for this film. Most of us already know that Michael Dougherty can write and direct appealing horror films – and for this reason, I am willing to forgive him for Superman Returns – but with Krampus, he’s set a higher bar for himself. Trick ‘r Treat 2 has been announced, which is indeed good news. But I would like to see Dougherty continue with solid one-offs. He has a talent and imagination that should not be confined to franchise film production.

Serahim Song, horror, book, ebook, news, pandie, monster, raw books

Horror icon Pandie Suicide releases debut novel, fantasy/paranormal Seraphim Song!

Seraphim Song is the debut novel from Pandie James it’s currently available on Amazon Kindle (with paperback edition to follow shortly) for only $2.99
Synopsis : An angel with a musical gift from the gods falls for a mortal woman. Left in limbo on earth, Will A. Is half angel and all rockstar. Doomed to walk alone each night after performing as the lead singer in the biggest rock band in the world, until he meets a young mortal woman that speaks to his soul. Is she the one that just might change everything?

Seraphim Song is the debut novel from New Zealand-born writer, actress and filmmaker, Pandie James. Written when she was a teenager, this lost novel was rediscovered on an old hard drive in 2015. Pandie James also models and acts under the stage name ‘Pandie Suicide.’ She is the writer, producer and plays the lead role of Marianne in the award-winning short slasher film Massacre, directed by Erik Boccio and starring Billy Morrison, London May, Jeff Hilliard, Katy Foley, Jeordie White and Rob Patterson.
The Girl From the Well, horror, books, book review, amazon, Japanese horror, oldmanster, thriller, scary

The Girl From The Well – Rin Chupeco

Followers of Japanese horror, aka J-Horror, in both literary and film media are well-versed in the genre trope more-or-less made famous by Koji Suzuki’s novel, The Ring. Many sequels, spin-offs, and copycats have been generated in both Japan and the US. The ghostly, and deadly Samara, with her long, black hair and dirty white nightgown, has become a horror icon. Similarly, the Japanese manga created by Tsugumi Ohba, Death Note, has spawned an anime TV series, two live-action films to date, and numerous imitators. It’s therefore forgivable to brush off Rin Chupeco’s 2014 debut novel, The Girl from the Well, as just another in a long line of followers seeking to cash in on the popularity of the above-mentioned classics. But that would be an error in judgment.

Make no mistake – there is definitely a strong resonance to both benchmark creations. However, Chupeco offers a fresh interpretation that incorporates revenge from the grave, spiritual possession, and cultural history into the lives of a very well-drawn set of characters. The result is a story that is absolutely chilling in some scenes, very violent in others, but always stressing the loneliness and isolation of the outsider along with deep, familial love.

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Purchase from Amazon

Okiku, the girl from the well, was murdered 300 years ago. She is the most dangerous and horrific of ghosts: the mobile one, capable of moving across the world, reaching into our reality to exact a specific form of revenge associated with her death. She manifests in hideous ways – hanging from the ceiling, standing silently in a corner – and some special people, mainly children and young adults, can see her. One special child is fifteen-year-old Tarquin, covered in tattoos from his institutionalized Japanese mother at a very early age, and subject to attempted control by a very evil spirit. Tarquin, along with his older cousin, Callie, make the acquaintance of Okiku when Tarquin is abducted by a murderous pedophile. To say more would spoil the many genre pleasures found in this book.

The novel is not perfect by any means. The pace of the story is uneven, beginning fast and furiously, then slowing down through a process of info dump through lengthy dialog in the final third, before erupting once again in a nicely-realized and vicious battle. The story seems written for an eventual film franchise, with a sequel, The Suffering, released in August of this year. Regardless of motivation, the author’s prose is assured, precise and quite descriptive. Characterizations, including Okiku, are well-structured. While the book appears to be targeted for the YA market, it is a treat for adults as well. Emulation of classic tropes doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Rate it four out of five stars. Chupeco is an author to watch.

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Condemned (2015) – Official Trailer

Written and directed by Eli Morgan Gesner and staring Johnny Messner (Tears of the Sun, G.I. Joe Renegades), Michael Gill (House of Cards, Mr. Robot) and John Abrahams (Scary Movie, They), Condemned looks like it might prove to be the non-handcam version of Rec/Quarentine we’ve been wanting to see.


Synopsis: Fed up with her parents’ bickering, poor-little-rich-girl Maya (Dylan Penn) moves in with her boyfriend who is squatting in an old, condemned building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. With neighbors that are meth heads, junkies and degenerates, this depraved hell hole is even more toxic than it appears: After a virus born from their combined noxious waste and garbage infects the building’s residents, one by one, they succumb to a terrifying pathogen that turns them into bloodthirsty, rampaging killers and transforms their building into a savage slaughterhouse.

Everlasting, thriller, romance, drama, mystery, movie, movie review, raw review, serial killer, high school, youth,


Anthony Stabley’s Everlasting will have its World Premiere in London at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival on Nov. 11. The romance-thriller follows a HS Student (Adam David) as he journeys from Colorado to L.A. in order to find the truth behind the murder of his girlfriend (Valentina de Angelis).

Everlasting features a stellar cast, which includes SAG Award Winner Elisabeth Rohm (American Hustle), Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills), Michael Massee (Seven), Robert LaSardo (Nip / Tuck) and Bai Ling (The Crow).

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Songs by Crystal Castles, Cold Cave and L.A. Vampires accent a strong original score composed by Scott Gordon, David Levita of Criminal Minds fame.

Jerry Smith (Icons of Fright) praised Everlasting as… “An honest and heartfelt look at young love, and the darkness that engulfs people at time. It’s a film that stays with you long after it’s over.”

Writer-Director Anthony Stabley, an Art Director for many years, initiated the project in 2011 with the help of Indie Producer / Casting Director Shannon Makhanian and long time collaborator Candi Guterres. “It’s been a long journey, but we are quite thrilled to be premiering in London. For our wonderful cast and the entire Everlasting team here in Los Angeles, this is greatly appreciated,” expressed Stabley.

Jessy Williams (Scream Magazine UK) applauded Everlasting and remarked… “Films like this are far and few between, and it’s refreshing to watch something so genuinely poignant and effective.”

The Crystal Palace International Film Festival, known as the UK’s Coolest film event, runs from Nov. 6 – 28th. For more info visit.. CPIFF



  • Cast: Valentina de Angelis, Adam David, Elisabeth Rohm, Michael Massee, Robert LaSardo, Bai Ling, Molly Tarlov, Guinevere Turner, Yareli Arizmendi, Shayla Beesley, Cortney Palm, Kristina Ellery, Bernardo Pena, Mark Sherman.
  • Writer-Director: Anthony StableyProducers: Shannon Makhanian, Anthony Stabley, Super Grande Films
  • Executive Producers: Penny and David Drucker, Steven Schalk, Barbara and Scott Gordon, Candi Guterres
    Associate Producer: Debra Trevino
  • Cinematographer: Jon Bickford
    Production Design: Candi Guterres
    Editors: Bryan Colvin, Brad McLaughlin
    Costumes: Alycia Belle
  • Sound Mixer: Dana Ferguson
    Composers: Scott Gordon, David Levita

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Everlasting – Raw Review

Crystal Palace International Film Festival.

Icons of Fright

Scream Horror Magazine

Everlasting Main Site, Reviews, etc.




Hans Crippleton, horror, comedy, horror comedy, horror movie, zombie, zombies, zombie movie, zombie horror, movie trailer, DVD

Horror-comedy Hans Crippleton : Talk to the Hans heads home for Thanksgiving

A backwoods family of hillbillies, plagued with a mysterious zombie curse, are about to become stars thanks to Barnaby Hunt, the host of Horror Hunts in this “funny take on the zombie apocalypse” (Legless Corpse).

2001 Maniacs meets Tucker and Dale Vs Evil in Jimmy Lee Combs’s “wonderfully offensive showcase of grotesquely kooky characters and inventive low-budget effects” (Rue Morgue).

Official Synopsis :  A disturbing mystery lurks on an old backwoods farm brought to new light when a traveling camera team arrives… seeking the one and only Hans Crippleton.

Scripted by Kevon Ward. Starring Andy Hankins, Lyle DeRose (the upcoming The Magnificent Seven) and Emma Moody.

Available November 17 everywhere from Uncork’d Entertainment.

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The Hallow (Official Trailer)

A family who move into a remote millhouse in Ireland find themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.


Sounds like a cross between The New Daughter and The Decent. Either way this one looks like it’s going to be good and if you weren’t aware… writer/director Corin Hardy has been signed on to bring us the reboot of The Crow.

The Hallow is currently available on Amazon Instant Video. Click the Lobby Card below for more info.

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Stung, horror, monster, critter, horror movie, monster movie, movie review, raw review, Old Manster, indie horror, comedy, horror comedy, Lance Hendrickson, Netflix

Stung (2015) – Raw Review

There is an understandable reluctance to give much print space to low-budget genre films, mainly due to the similarity of subject matter that inundates various forms of visual media. Zombies, vampires, slasher/torture porn, and found footage evil are themes that dominate the market, and act to dull viewer sensibilities to the point where new titles are generally avoided rather than sampled. The category dealing with large monsters/critters is particularly susceptible to cut-and-paste storylines using bad CGI (examples abound, but for the sake of verisimilitude, see any title involving a sharktopus, or a whalewolf, or a megapirahna). It takes a bit of skill, but mostly just dumb luck, to find a film of this type that makes even a token attempt to present a decent screenplay, good acting, competent directing, and professional production values. Fortunately, a new German-US film, Stung, which just popped up on Netflix streaming along with DVD and Blu-ray release, meets most of those criteria.

Stung grabbed this viewer immediately with a nicely-shot pre-credit scene that follows a bumblebee as it meanders lazily over a beautiful, bucolic countryside. Ho-hum, you say, another killer bee film. Nope. Following the bee is a sinister black insect that attacks its prey in mid-air, driving both to the ground, where a nasty, retractable stinger dispatches the peaceful bumble. We are talking killer wasps here. But it gets even better. There are BIG killer wasps in the immediate future.

Stung, horror, monster, critter, horror movie, monster movie, movie review, raw review, Old Manster, indie horror, comedy, horror comedy, Lance Hendrickson, Netflix

The single setting for the film is an isolated summer mansion where the wealthy owners are throwing an outdoor celebration of… something or other. This kind of detail is really unimportant in an extremely simple story. Our protagonists are Julia and Paul, two young entrepreneurs who are struggling to keep her catering business afloat. Julia, in a fine, emotive performance by Jessica Cook in her first feature film, is a focused, frightened young woman who wants to make a good impression on her customers, and is oblivious to her mumbling, moon-struck helper/bartender Paul, played by veteran actor Matt O’Leary (Frailty, 2001; Brick, 2005). They arrive at the mansion, begin the outdoor setup, and a horde of wasps erupt from an underground nest. Chaos ensues. But the extra added attraction is that the wasps lay eggs in their hosts that grow into gigantic flying monsters complete with host characteristics. Thus, human wasps, dog wasps, and even bovine wasps. The beasties are presented in quite competent CGI forms, mostly when flying, and in excellent practical animatronics when on the ground. And that is the entire 82-minute (plus credits) film. It ain’t major award material by any means, but neither is it remotely akin to a sharktopus.


What is most interesting to this reviewer, however, is that Stung is the offspring of rookies. Adam Aresty’s script is his first screen credit; while the story is linear and simplistic, the dialog is sharp, occasionally funny, and surprisingly emotional. Director Benni Diez does a very competent job in his first feature film. The fine photography and scene composition by Stephen Burchardt is the sophomore effort after a TV movie (sf/thriller Killing All the Flies, 2013). Acting is confined to four major characters, all of whom are fine to acceptable. And it appeared to this reviewer that the director allowed some ad-libbing by O’Leary and supporting cast member Lance Henriksen (genre credits too numerous to mention).

As a complete package, Stung turned out to be a very entertaining little genre film, never pretending to be something it’s not. The effort by all of the creative people listed above is greatly appreciated by those of us who fondly remember the low-budget, black-and-white Big Bug films of yesteryear. There is still some life in this old trope.

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