So once again we have survived.

Child’s Play

tn_childsplayWe all know Chucky, the vulgar, red-haired, Jack-Nicholson-sounding killer doll. He’s almost as famous as Freddy or Jason, characters that you don’t have to watch horror movies to be aware of. But when I first saw CHILD’S PLAY in 1988 I honestly didn’t know it was gonna be a killer doll movie. The poster/newspaper ad only showed Chucky’s evil eyes hovering in the sky over little Andy’s babysitter plummeting from the window of their Chicago apartment. A TV ad showed a quick glimpse of him attacking, but I remember thinking of what I was looking at as some kind of crazy witch lady. Maybe a killer dwarf?

An exciting moment in my recent trip to Vegas was seeing a portrait of Chucky and his bride Tiffany posted in the tiny lobby of an Elvis chapel along with Rob and Sheri Moon Zombie, Jon Bon Jovi and somebody he married, Richard Belzer just by himself. There were plenty of horror movies in 1988, but I doubt they’d hang pictures of the killers from BLACK ROSES or HIDE AND GO SHRIEK or even MANIAC COP in there (although that would’ve been a thrill too). Chucky has lasted.

Like anyone I enjoy the pop culture phenomenon of Chucky, most of his sequels and the absurd places this series has gone, but CHILD’S PLAY is something different. It puts a serial killer into the doll in the opening, then puts the doll in the arms of a child and makes us dread what will happen – what is happening when we’re not looking – until near the end. We look accusingly at the doll sitting there limply. We know you’re in there, you asshole. Why won’t you show yourself? For most of the movie his conniving happens in whispers we can’t hear, in low-to-the-floor POV shots, his little hands reaching out, or in quick glimpses, a little thing running by in our peripheral vision. When we finally do get a good look at him in his living-doll form it feels like we caught a bigfoot, or walked in on that dude in the bear costume in THE SHINING. Something we’re not supposed to be seeing. (read the rest of this shit…)


tn_arrivalARRIVAL is a new one in that category of serious smart sci-fi where huge momentous things happen between the human race and alien life and/or outer space, yet it’s really about something very intimate and human (see also INTERSTELLAR, CONTACT, THE FOUNTAIN, GRAVITY). In this case it’s about twelve giant alien objects (they look like smooth flat stones you would find on a beach, balanced on the side) that come down and float in various locations around the world, yet also it’s about love and family and tragedy.

Director Denis Villeneuve (PRISONERS, SICARIO, ENEMY) is no chump, so the unfolding of the historic first contact is a powerful oh shit sequence. Perpetually calm language professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams, CRUEL INTENTIONS 2) ignores the commotion of students gathering around a TV, then the miniscule attendance of her lecture, but when everyone’s phones keep ringing the information finally gets to them. Sorry to interrupt – it’s just that the world has completely changed forever. (read the rest of this shit…)

We Are What We Are (American remake)

tn_wearewhatweareWE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2013), like THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, uses cannibalism as a stand-in for any unfortunate family traditions that are passed down through the generations long past their shelf date. In this case the Parker family continues a practice that should’ve expired immediately after their ancestors did it the first time in a Donner Party survival type situation. Now it’s gussied up as a religious act to be repeated yearly as “Lamb’s Day,” and the Parkers hold onto an ignorant belief that they’ll get sick if they don’t do it.

This is told mostly from the family’s perspective, and they’re not some weirdo Leatherfaces. To them it’s, like, a family doesn’t just stop celebrating Christmas one year. The Parkers are gonna eat a bowl of human chili on Lamb’s Day. It’s how they were raised. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Martial Arts Kid

tn_martialartskidTHE MARTIAL ARTS KID is about a young man who gets in trouble too much so he gets sent far away to live with his aunt and uncle. He meets a nice girl he likes, but she has an asshole sports car driving bully boyfriend who threatens him just for talking to her. And the boyfriend is part of a bad crowd and they end up in competition over the girl and in sports. And he has an older mentor that trains him.

Remind you of any other movie? Me too. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT. Or maybe you were thinking THE KARATE KID, but in that one he just moved because his mom moved, he wasn’t a troublemaker. Totally different. Also, that’s about a kid who specifically does karate. This is a kid who does martial arts in general. I don’t really see a comparison.

Okay, maybe I do. I just like to mention TOKYO DRIFT whenever I can. This is a weirdly transparent KARATE KID rehash, arguably closer to a straight up retelling than the official remake with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. There’s even a wax on/wax off reference like some remakes would want to do, and it plays with your expectations of him being given a nice car as a gift. Instead he gets a bike, which he rides around the suburbs, keeping him a Martial Arts Kid when he seems to be on the verge of Martial Arts Manhood. (read the rest of this shit…)

Babe: Pig in the City

tn_babe2“So, will this little pink lunchness fulfill his destiny, nourishmentally speaking?”
“We shall see.”

With BABE, writer-producer George Miller (and director Chris Noonan) created a warm little perfectly-told tale of a pig and a farmer finding happiness by violating social norms. (If that sounds gross to you, that’s not what I meant.) For the bigger, darker, weirder sequel, BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, Miller dropped the pure-hearted little pig into that world’s version of a noisy, chaotic metropolis, knowing he’d face the challenge with his head held high and make it out with his spirit intact, brightening lives along the way.

The Hoggett farm in BABE looks straight out of a storybook, but you figure that’s an anomaly. When the family comes over for Christmas, bringing modern attitude and technology, they seem to be visiting from the real world.

Maybe not, it turns out. Esme Hoggett (Magda Szubanski, who was only 37 at the time! Holy shit!) and “the wee pig” get stranded in a major city. They don’t say which one, but it’s whichever city that is where the skyline includes the Hollywood sign, the Sydney Opera House, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower, among others. (No Space Needle, I’m afraid.) Garish billboards hang above picturesque canals and cobblestone roads. Most of the hotels don’t accept pigs, but they find one secretly housing a bunch of dogs, cats, chimps and an orangutan. (read the rest of this shit…)

I wrote a thing for Punch To Kill #2

tn_p2kOver the years, I have given the impression to some that I look down on the comic strip books. In the interest of my new mission of spreading positivity throughout the universe, I have decided to make amends by providing an essay for the back of one of these picture pamphlets.

It’s called PUNCH TO KILL, it’s an independent comic by some Seattle guys, artist Marc Palm and writers Kevin Clarke and Wil Long. I wrote a page about women in b-action for the back of issue #2, but you should know about the thing anyway. So far it’s a gorey pop culture fever dream about a bunch of colorful characters having duels to the death and showcasing different fighting styles and finishing moves. I gave them a list of fighting tournament movies they should watch for research, but to me it seems to be influenced mainly by street fighting video games, GI Joe ninja stories, Lone Wolf and Cub and Shaw Brothers movies. My favorite thing about it is the sound effects:


Anyway, definitely check it out if you’re into this type of business. THIS IS WHERE YOU ORDER IT FROM.

Hey everybody

Thanks for checking in. Apologies for the lack of new reviews. I have many things in the works, some punching and more horror business and what not. But I really feel like my next review should be something very positive and constructive. I’m getting there.

In times like this I turn to Stevie, so in case you need an uplift too I have a song to share with you. This is a religious song, and I’m not a religious person. I mean, I’m a scoundrel, sometimes I’ll try praying when shit gets scary (lately) or when someone I care about dies (too often), figuring if Someone’s not out there to listen at least I’m putting my thoughts together or sending out good vibes or something.

But I kind of feel like listening to music is my version of spirituality. Going to a P-Funk show is the closest I get to those ladies fanning themselves and speaking in tongues in the revival tent. There are pieces of music I love so much they can take me to a higher mind state and make me feel better about life. I can go to church on a piece of music.  I got a weird habit of putting on headphones at 2:30 am and listening to some song intently and getting real emotional, even teary-eyed just thinking about the way the notes move my soul. Recent examples include “Purple Rain” and “Maggot Brain.”

But one time not long ago I put on this song and I just thought about how if you were someone like Stevie, you had sounds like this coming instinctively out of you, of course you would be a religious person. It must feel like some godly voice is speaking through you.

Whatever it is, his voice and attitude and rhythms always soothe me, so try this one out if you need it.

You know what? That’s beautiful and all, but that might’ve not been a strong enough choice, we might need some more funk for this funk. I think we are gonna need to have Stevie at prime 1970s funk levels. And we’re gonna need his band set up just on a street somewhere. In fact, we’re gonna specifically need them to be performing on Sesame Street.

Unfortunately there are no Muppets in this clip, but it still looks like the greatest block party ever. Check out the kid at 4:11 rockin out like he’s on the Peanuts Christmas special.

Cosmic Slop

tn_cosmicslopA year before TALES FROM THE HOOD was a black Tales From the Crypt, the Hudlin brothers’ HBO TV movie COSMIC SLOP was “a multi-cultural Twilight Zone.” Even if the VHS cover didn’t have a Chicago Tribune quote calling it that, you’d get the idea from the intro, when a trail of terrible 2D computer animated objects (basketball, rolling pin, chair, bust of Beethoven, electric guitar, bra, asterisk) float in under George Clinton’s familiar “free your mind and your ass will follow” narration and a re-recording of the 1973 Funkadelic song that the title comes from.

It’s even lower budget than TALES and much cheesier, with crude, video toaster style digital effects. It’s clearly a pilot for a show they decided not to make, but it’s another admirable attempt to bring a different perspective to the tradition of short genre stories that explore social issues.

Clinton’s disembodied head floats in, on fire, a blinking animatronic third eye on his forehead, and morphs between different hairstyles as he cryptically Rod Serlings a trio of stories with his cryptic afro-futurist catch phrases. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tales From the Hood

tn_tales“This ain’t a funeral home. It ain’t the Terrordome neither!”

Here’s a movie that’s very much of the ’90s. After BOYZ N THE HOOD, STRAIGHT OUT OF BROOKLYN, NEW JACK CITY, SOUTH CENTRAL, JUICE and MENACE II SOCIETY established the genre of the “hood movie,” FEAR OF A BLACK HAT director Rusty Cundieff decided to mix it with the format of the anthology horror movie. Like those other movies it’s a low budget indie movie trying to get across messages about issues facing the black community, but with Twilight Zone type ironic morals and some crazy special effects and stuff. Spike Lee (whose CLOCKERS came out the same year) acted as executive producer to help get it made.

The wraparound story takes place in Simms Funeral Parlor, where three young drug dealers meet with the crazy-eyed, puffy-haired, organ-playing weirdo (Clarence Williams III, PURPLE RAIN) who runs the place. He claims to have found a bunch of drugs in an alley, but before they can make a transaction he starts opening up coffins and telling them the stories of the occupants’ deaths. As you do. (read the rest of this shit…)

Vern Tells It Like It Is: Pretty please vote for Clinton

vtiliiI apologize for this political intrusion. I really don’t like writing about this stuff, which is why I don’t do it as much as I did back in the early 2000s when I started out. But sometimes you gotta get things off your chest, and sometimes you feel like an asshole if you don’t say something. I hope we won’t get into arguments about all this, but you can read it or not and consider it or not, and I promise we’ll be back to discussing Mario Van Peebles movies and shit in no time. Thank you.


Normally I don’t endorse candidates, but Trump recently got the endorsement of the official KKK newspaper. I’d like to think I have more readers than them (?) so maybe this balances it out.

Bottom line of this column: I implore you, if you are a registered U.S. voter, to vote for Hillary Clinton. I know there are many reasons why many people don’t want to. Let me bring up a couple of points I think are relevant. (read the rest of this shit…)